Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Ed Balls brings a touch of Essex Man to the Labour Leadership Contest

In the Newsnight focus group on the Labour leadership contest a few nights ago, one member of the group said that Ed Balls looked like the type of bloke who could be found behind a kebab counter. Which made everyone laugh because there is a touch of Essex man about him (he actually comes from Norfolk, but for our purposes lets use "Essex" as a shorthand for the culture of those regions east of London).

We've never had Essex bloke contest the Labour leadership before. Blair was smooth barrister man, Prescott was northern working class man. Brown was grumpy dour Scotsman while John Smith was bank-manager Scotsman. Kinnock was a Welshman and Michael Foot was other-worldly academic man. David Miliband is geeky wonkman. The brash hustler that is Essex man has never had a look in - till now.

It was Essex man of course who put Thatcher into Downing Street, Labour has never really had deep roots in the Eastern region. In the 2010 election, the only seats in the east we won were the two in Luton. But we need to regain seats there if we are to win the next general election.

So I'm glad Ed Balls is standing, he brings something of the culture of eastern England into the contest (though ideally I would have preferred his wife as a candidate).

One of the benefits of the long leadership contest is that the public will get to really know these candidates - at present, they are only really well known by activists and politicos. We know how they play in the blogosphere, but not really how they play in Middle Britain. Lets hope something happens to make one of them resonate with the voters. Will they want to sip wine with a Miliband over erudite conversation or watch the World Cup over a few beers and a kebab with the Essex bloke? It will be fascinating to find out!

1 comment:

Julian Ware-Lane said...

As someone who is Essex born myself, I would like to think that this is a positive attribute!

The East of England, Essex especially, is an electoral sea of blue at the moment. Those of us who toil away hope for change, and need a leader able to resonate. However, it is not just about the leader - we also need a discussion on policy.

Many in Essex have East End ancestry. They also have ancestral Labour roots. Something happens when they move out west, they morph into Tories. Understanding the reasons behind this is a first step in winning these people over.