What is the 'Stevenage Woman' stereotype? The voters who could be key for Labour

What is the Stevenage Woman? Sophie Wiggins was in Stevenage to find out if she exists

First came the Essex Man archetype, the working class, suburban man used to explain the success of Margaret Thatcher's Conservative Party in the 1980s.

Then came the closely related Mondeo Man, the supposedly typical voter seen as being the key to Labour to return to power in 1997.

For the 2020s, the voter who holds that power in her hands is Stevenage Woman - at least, according to one think-tank close to the Labour leadership.

But what does she represent, why does she matter so much to Labour and - crucially - does she even exist?

What is the Stevenage Woman?

Stevenage Woman is a term coined by Labour Together, a think-tank close to the party's top team, to describe the type of voter it sees as crucial to general election success in the next 18 months.

In short, she's seen as a disillusioned suburban mother.

Josh Simons, from Labour Together, said: "Stevenage Woman is a mum, in her early 40s. She's got two kids, she works hard, she plays by the rules and she pays the bills.

"She mostly doesn't follow Westminster politics because she thinks the politicians are full of nonsense but she's fed up of politicians, above all, who overpromise and under-deliver."

The Red Shift report goes further, saying she's “a mother, in full-time work, struggling with stagnant wages and rising costs”.

"She’s not seeking radical or dramatic change, but she is worried about her life today, the state of public services, and life in her town," it adds.

"She did vote Conservative in 2019, but she’s leaning towards Labour now. But for her, as for so many others, the question she is asking is: what difference will it make to her family and her town?”

At the same time, the think-tank is also suggesting that another popular voter archetype is prepared to ditch Rishi Sunak’s party for Labour – the “Workington Man” is described as a northern middle-aged man without a university degree who previously supported Labour but voted for Brexit.

Does Stevenage Woman even exist?

Kate Ironside, a political expert at the University of Northampton, doesn't think so.

She told ITV News Anglia: "It's a lovely thought that the women of Stevenage hold the key to the next general election, and what a great bunch of people to decide it.

"But this is pollsters' nitty-gritty analysis. Actually, it's all big trend stuff. Much will decide on the economy."

Views were mixed when ITV News Anglia asked the women of Stevenage what they thought of Labour.

One woman says the party does not win her over, but another says she'd rather vote Labour than Tory. One woman says she's refusing to vote and another says she doesn't follow politics but she might, if she had more insight.

Why does she live in Stevenage?

Stevenage is often described as a bellwether seat - as it has backed the party of government ever since the constituency came into being in 1983.

It was Conservative-held from then until 1997, when it swung to Labour in a landslide national result.

That majority dwindled in the following two elections, and the seat reverted to the Conservatives in 2010. Since then, the constituency has been held by the MP Stephen McPartland MP.

Stevenage Borough Council currently has a Labour majority.

Keir Starmer during a visit to Stevenage in 2020 to see a regeneration project in the town centre. Credit: PA

The importance of Stevenage to the Labour Party was highlighted when Sir Keir Starmer made the town his first visit after becoming leader.

But now, he says it's about targeting everybody: "I want to be the prime minister for the whole of the United Kingdom, and therefore, every single vote matters to me, right across the United Kingdom."

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