Tories must target "Workington man" to win election, says think tank

With Britain heading for an election that the Prime Minister hopes will push his Brexit deal through, the key to a possible Tory victory is the so-called "Workington man", according to a right-of-centre think tank.

Political researchers say the only way he can do this is to target traditional Labour voters from rugby league towns, like Workington and Whitehaven.

Right-of-centre think tank Onward has coined today's swing voter as the 'Workington Man' - a typically older, white, non-graduate male voter living in rugby league heartland areas in the North like Warrington, Halifax, Wigan and west Cumbria.

The research says the Prime Minister can only win his vote if he embraces a "new brand of conservatism that is rooted more in giving people security and belonging and less in freedom and tax cuts."

James O'Shaughnessy, Conservative Peer and former No10 Director of Policy, said: "The upcoming general election requires a leap of faith by people who have never voted Tory before."

Since the west Cumbrian constituency, which voted leave in 2016, was created in 1918, the Conservatives have never won the seat in a general election. It's currently held by Labour's Sue Hayman.

Derwent Park, Workington Credit: PA

Mr O'Shaughnessy says the Tories need to overcome their "Thatcherite" instincts: "These voters are not nostalgic; they don't believe there was a golden age we need to return to. They're looking for change, but change that delivers greater security in their lives not more exposure to the harsh winds of globalisation.

"To get these voters onside the Tories need to overcome their Thatcherite instincts and prioritise investment in public services over tax cuts. They must focus on delivering a higher minimum wage, a national commitment to high quality technical education, and promoting those institutions in society - the family, neighbourhood and community - that give people a sense of belonging."

  • Workington men have their say about the "Workington man."

With the influx of reporters flocking to the west Cumbrian town the local rugby club has declined to comment on the issue, Tweeting a statement which reads: "We've had many approaches this morning to comment on 'Workington man'. As a club we apolitical and respect democracy. We cater for a broad church of backgrounds, ages and gender and always have done.

"We are fiercely proud of our sporting heritage in the global sport of rugby league. We aim to have a positive impact in our community. Particularly on health and well-being through inclusive sport. #OurSport."

The pre-Christmas election will be the third in three years, and the first to be held in December since 1923.