Turning the tide in Thurrock

John Page - 26 05 17

During the 2015 General Election there were a number of key battleground constituencies where we feared UKIP might make a breakthrough. One of the highest on the list was Thurrock.

Thurrock is in some ways a typical post-industrial town. Where 40 years ago, there were plenty of well paid industrial jobs (in the quarries and chalk pits, at Fords car plant, and on the docks), today most of those jobs have gone, and have been replaced largely by retail work (typically with low wages, job insecurity, including zero hours wages).

On the old council estates, properties were are run down, and people feel that the best days of the area were long gone. The BNP had previously built an organisation here, and UKIP were subsequently a serious threat.

Given that 72% of people in the area voted for Brexit, and the UKIP candidate in 2015 obtained 37% of the vote  (coming third but just over a 1,000 votes behind the winning candidate) you would have thought that Thurrock was a serious threat.

But something has happened in Thurrock over the last couple of years. Many of the old chalk pits have been used to build new housing, and the good transport links (a legacy of the once thriving docks) means that it is a convenient place to commute to London. With house prices in London unaffordable for all but the very fortunate, young professionals have been moving into Thurrock and as they do so they have begun to change the nature of the area.

It is now increasingly ethnically diverse. There is even a renewed growth in confidence in the area and support for UKIP has dropped dramatically. It seems that the narrative of ‘leave’ (now won through the referendum) may have inspired voters, but UKIP as a party does not.

In the run up to June 8th, we have had a twin track approach, based on detailed research and using sophisticated targeting of messages to different audiences.

We wanted to ensure that people disadvantaged by the changes in voter registration got back on the register. So we spent time a lot of time in ‘at risk’ areas, promoting voter registration.

We also spent time in the run down estates, where people feel that none of the mainstream parties offer their communities much hope. Here we talked about Thurrock’s proud history, the unions on the docks and in the car plants, that ensured that people stood together to find common solutions to their challenges. Jessie Fenn (daughter of legendary dock leader Micky Fenn) to wrote an appeal to voters in these areas under the heading: ‘lets not forget our history’.

We have been out in the area regularly, speaking to trade unionists, college students and the voluntary sector. There is clearly a change taking place in Thurrock, and we are now focussing in on those wards where UKIP have traditionally done well. We don’t just want to defeat them, we want to break their influence in these wards.

But we are also very clear, that the fears and insecurities that UKIP have exploited have not gone away. In some parts of Thurrock people’s lives are tough, and their opportunities are limited. These are working class communities who feel abandoned by a political establishment that no longer fears them and has never valued them.

These communities have flirted in the past with the BNP and more recently with UKIP. Their anger will not be going away, until someone takes seriously the fact that they feel cheated that the old jobs have gone and that there are no routes into new high value jobs for their children.

After the election we will be looking to work with these communities to demand investment and training for the jobs of the future.

Get involved with our election campaign here


Stay informed

Sign up for emails from HOPE not hate to make sure you stay up to date with the latest news, and to receive simple actions you can take to help spread HOPE.


We couldn't do it without our supporters

Fund research, counter hate and support and grow inclusive communities by donating to HOPE not hate today

I am looking for...


Useful links

Close Search X
Donate to HOPE not hate