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The caricature wasn’t exactly new: Ian Dury’s 1977 song Billericay Dickie had told the story of a self-starting lothario from Essex’s cockney diaspora who was “doing very well”. Over time, the names of its lead characters, Sharon and Tracey, came to represent sexually promiscuous and somewhat dim women from the south of the county. Look how Basildon has changed.”. Essex is not part of the metropolitan bubble … People have got their feet on the ground.”. But before Essex was a punchline, it was a dream. “He is unencumbered by any ‘may the best man win’ philosophy,” Heffer wrote. ‘Everyone loves a good Essex girl story, don’t they?’ … Tracy Playle in 2001. asildon, once a beacon of Labour’s postwar consensus politics, voted for Thatcher in every election she fought – until the name of the town itself came to somehow represent the societal shift that had taken place from socialist-influenced policymaking to I’m-all-right-Jack Thatcherism. In the late 80s, when Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran came up with the idea for Birds of a Feather, a sitcom about two sisters who end up living a life of luxury after their husbands are sent to jail for bank robbery, they decided to set it in Chigwell, a Conservative-voting south-west Essex town that “represented new money, unabashed,” said Gran. After Thatcher made him secretary of state for employment in 1981, Tebbit changed the law to require shop-floor workers to vote in a ballot, effectively leaving the unions unable to force industrial action. Amazingly, there are 56 recognised accents in the UK. Essex was voted the sexiest accent / Channel 4. After the second world war, Clement Attlee’s Labour government proposed the creation of a number of new towns, mainly built in the countryside around London, to answer Britain’s housing shortage. Essex people were damned if they did and damned if they didn’t. What it offered instead was an illusory promise. In a 2002 article marking the play’s 25th anniversary, the writer Simon Fanshawe expressed what had, by then, become a familiar view among liberals of the new Essex voters who had helped sweep Thatcher to power. There is no such thing as the "Essex accent", only that of a southern accent and that also depends on how well you were taught to speak. People who had grown up in pokey London flats were saving for first homes outside London, in return for a bit more space, a garden and somewhere to park the car. "Most people think an Essex accent is the typical estuary accent. For it allows Jenkin – the Cambridge-educated son of a lord – to confidently proclaim that he knows the desires of the “common man”, merely by the mention of this most misunderstood of counties. “There wasn’t that thing of Essex girls, yet,” Steadman told me on the phone recently. If Essex man has ever inhabited a physical form, it is surely Mark Francois, the arch-Brexiter MP for Rayleigh and Wickford, who grew up in Basildon and worked in the City before entering politics. (He was lovingly described as “every bit an Essex man” by Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail in 2009.) (Not that these new developments were created without a fight. Essex Archives Publications Officer Deborah Peers gave some examples of the traditional Essex dialect. With industrialisation, east London swelled with a new breed of hustler who, if they couldn’t find a job in a factory or on the docks, might take a chance hawking wares down the market or collecting rubbish from the street, hoping to sell it on. The show helped propel Essex to global fame – in 2014, the Oscar-winning American actor Jennifer Lawrence declared herself addicted – and refined the Essex caricature into an extravagantly vapid parody of itself. Now it was surrounded by hundreds of houses. The Essex shore is home to more than 40 islands – although no one can quite agree on exactly how many – with grimly exotic names such as Lower Horse, Cindery and Foulness. “They buy their houses, they purchase their shares.” For Basildon, and by extension Essex, and maybe even the country itself, there seemed to be no coming back. The old plural in en also occurs, as housen for houses. old as owd and th-fronting (a feature now widespread in England, was found throughout Essex in the 1950s Survey of English Dialect)[27] in Essex and yod-coalescence in Kent. A grammar-school boy, Tebbit preached the gospel of self-improvement from the beginning of his political career; he was already advocating a free-market agenda when first agitating to become an MP in the 1960s. In the press, confident pronouncements about “what the working class wants” – a rhetorical style that the writer Joe Kennedy calls “authentocracy” – invariably fixate on flags and foreigners rather than a living wage and local services. A move away from traditional RP accents is almost universal among middle-class young people. “But I’m sure you are not like that.”. Her family moved from a flat above a shop in Hackney to the new town after the firm her father worked for relocated there. The persistent rhetorical power of this invented Essex – as a land of a million Marks Francois, ready to die for No Deal – requires that we continue to overlook the reality of the actual place. Contrary to popular belief, Brits really don't all sound like the Queen or Hollywood villains and according to Big 7 Travel, there are no less than 56 accents recognised within our tiny corner of the world (though there are likely a lot more). They are viewed as the nation’s id, its rawest and truest essence, but also its deepest shame at being a bit too much. No one seemed any richer, just further apart. Home ownership passed 50% in 1970 – not under the Conservatives, but under Labour, the party that built the welfare state. The rise of Francois is testament to the ultimate success of “Essex man” as a template for the barbaric, tell-it-like-it-is tone of the rightwing press – and, increasingly, the hard-man posturing of today’s insurgent reactionaries. Among these nuances we find some of my favourite Essex dialect words, such as these examples: Instead, although not a perfect replica, a modern-day Essex accent is notably a descendent of cockney. By the 70s, the constant destruction of weatherboarded cottages and the concreting of country lanes was causing consternation among some commentators. “Is Diana now an Essex Girl?” the Daily Mail fretted in 1994 while reporting on an editorial in the society magazine Tatler, which begged: “Will the real Diana please sit down, turn off Birds of a Feather, forget the Queen Vic [the pub from East Enders] and dress like a princess.” In the Mail the following day, the writer Anne de Courcy recoiled at the “Sharonisation of Diana”. This accent is very widely used, especially among people under 60 years old, as people of all social classes mix together much more than they used to. One day in 1990, Heffer caught the train from Essex to London to attend the funeral of Claudie Baynham, the wife of his editor at the Sunday Telegraph, Peregrine Worsthorne. “Heard a chap on the radio this morning talking with a Cockney accent,” the old Etonian Tory PM Harold Macmillan said after hearing Tebbit’s voice for the first time. “People who came from council estates who had that instinct for making money – this was their opportunity.” East Enders who had swapped London flats for a house on the other side of the green belt were now commuting back and forth, and doing very well for themselves. Their pitch was based on the promise of prosperity and home ownership, rather than the Labour party’s old appeals to class solidarity. That affectation of the accent is sometimes derisively referred to as "Mockney". It was set in Romford, an old market-turned-commuter town that was subsumed by London’s boundary changes in 1965, but which many still regard as “culturally Essex”. Britain was in perpetual economic turmoil in the 1970s, yet the economy of the south-east flourished in comparison to other regions, in particular the northern towns. As London industrialised, it expanded eastwards, attracting migrants from across the country who were looking for employment. The pronunciation of /iː/ as [ɪ] in words like been or seen was also once a feature of both counties. The “how” – British accent vs American accent. To some observers, it seemed as if a new kind of English person was taking over – and his rapid ascent, bypassing the traditional requirements of public school education and deference to hierarchy, seemed to threaten the very fabric of the establishment. Love it or hate it, TOWIE put Essex on the map with the famous accent and cast members like Gemma Collins now being recognised worldwide. One speaker thinks that media only portrays girls as having modern Essex accent. My wife, Hayley, grew up in South Woodham and went to the same primary school as Heffer (although a couple of decades later). Head to London to take a day trip to Essex and discover the accent. Towie, the 24th series of which started this year, follows a rolling cast of tanned and toned twentysomethings as they act out relationship breakups and holiday romances on screen. Just as not everyone north of Manchester is a cloth-cap-wearing leave voter and most people in Islington don’t eat quinoa for breakfast, it’s not hard to discover that most people in Essex aren’t much like those seen on Towie. Shaaht aahp! “I believe we may well produce a new type of citizen,” Lewis Silkin, Labour’s minister for new towns, told the House of Commons in May 1948. Scouse accent: Maria talks about her husband’s involvement in the Torside industrial dispute of 1995; Burnley accent: Bernadette and Keelie discuss the difficulties associated with being single mothers; Nottingham accent: 80-year-old Frances describes St. Ann's in the early part of the 20th century; Shropshire accent: Darren describes his home The arrival of Ford Dagenham in 1931, a huge car manufacturing plant, provided thousands of jobs. It is considered to be a working-class accent, although often used by the lower middle classes too. Essex has since become a place simultaneously embraced as home to the real, authentic England and scorned as the crudest, stupidest symbol of Englishness. As east London became increasingly overcrowded, the Cockney’s stamping ground moved eastwards, over the river Lea and into the open plains of Essex. Ad hoc settlements also appeared. At a time when English identity – and the will of the “real people” – is at the centre of our politics, the usefulness of these myths becomes clearer than ever. “There is a lot of snobbery involved, and it can be liberal metropolitan snobbery as much as home counties conservative snobbery,” Gran told me. I would call Cockney a dialect and Essex sloppy. 1 in 4 people prefer the Irish accent above all other The editorial was published just before the prime minister’s final Conservative party conference and seemed to rubber-stamp her legacy. A new wealthy sector emerged during the industrial revolution. Mr Essex: TOWIE star Mark Wright (Picture: Getty) A controversial new poll is set to be the talk of Essex after naming the county’s accent as the least attractive in the English language. Essex Voices Past. “He was putting money on a horse,” said Heffer incredulously. If you were to draw a diagonal line from the south-west of the county to the north-east, it would measure 55 miles in length, although the creeks and inlets on its eastern side make the Essex coastline at least 400 miles. “Is the myth, then, a search for the New Classless Britain,” he wrote, “or an extraordinary example, by its own action in erecting the stereotype, of exactly the reverse?”. Essex has one of the most distinct representations in the country-but also one of the worst. The Essex accent is revealed to be the worst in Britain as women admit to swooning over a soft Irish twang. “They tell me he is one of Her Majesty’s ministers.” This aspirational trajectory became Tebbit’s brand: he even called his memoirs Upwardly Mobile. My baffling text was finally solved. When the compulsory purchase orders were put in to obtain the land to build the new towns, plotlanders and farmers protested against what one placard called “legalised robbery”. The people who “made it” and moved to a big house in South Woodham Ferrers or Chigwell were never going to be taken seriously in the upper echelons of British society. [37] The Essex accent is regarded as a milder form of the London accent, but this part of the country has also developed its own set of interesting words and phrases that people elsewhere in the country might not understand. The invention of Essex: how a county became a caricature – podcast, Canvey Island, 2011. [15], Foulkes & Docherty (1999) state "All of its [EE's] features can be located on a sociolinguistic and geographical continuum between RP and Cockney, and are spreading not because Estuary English is a coherent and identifiable influence, but because the features represent neither the standard nor the extreme non-standard poles of the continuum". u/PROBABLY_POOPING_RN. 6. “They had a serious work ethic,” he said. Though only a few miles away from London, rural Essex folk have often been seen as backward by their neighbours in the capital – poor, poorly educated, clinging to superstitions long discarded by their urban counterparts. The piece was accompanied by an illustration of a small-foreheaded bloke in an expensive yet ill-fitting suit, drinking a can of lager in front of his shiny new motor and an ex-council house (presumably acquired thanks to Thatcher’s right-to-buy reforms), resplendent with satellite dish to pick up Rupert Murdoch’s new Sky television service, which was launched in the UK in 1989. The names listed above may be abbreviated: Some authors[8] use different names for EE closer to Cockney (Popular London) and EE closer to Received Pronunciation (London Regional Standard or South-Eastern Regional Standard). In developing the character, the Liverpudlian actor Alison Steadman drew upon her experiences at acting school in Essex in the late 60s. In 1980, when the new Conservative government gave council tenants the right to buy their homes, the policy was launched with a photo opportunity in the kitchen of a terraced house at 39 Amersham Road in Harold Hill, the large estate in Romford built in the 50s by London county council, which had been sold to its council tenants, the Patterson family, for just over £8,000. “I said: ‘Yes, he’s Essex man!’” recalled Heffer, “and Frank said: ‘It’s brilliant! “[The] organised working class is disappearing as people have more individualistic aims, more privatised aims,” Basildon’s Conservative MP, David Amess, told Channel 4 News with an air of triumph in 1992, despite his slim majority in that election. “[The] organised working class is disappearing as people have more individualistic aims, more privatised aims,” Basildon’s Conservative MP, David Amess, told Channel 4 News with an air of triumph in 1992, despite his slim majority in that election. The 37-year old gave fans a glimpse of her luxurious pad that features a vint… “It was Liverpool, the start of the Beatles and all that, but there was no sense of being ‘upwardly mobile’.” Whereas Liverpool and other northern towns had their own industries, traditions and rituals that set them apart from London, Essex had become a place to escape family memories of poverty in the city. “They tell me he is one of Her Majesty’s ministers.” This aspirational trajectory became Tebbit’s brand: he even called his memoirs Upwardly Mobile. The play’s most enduring creation was Beverly, a monstrous, power-dressing proponent of bettering oneself through consumer choice. For many observers, it was a warning about where this new assertive individualism would lead. “They buy their houses, they purchase their shares.” For Basildon, and by extension Essex, and maybe even the country itself, there seemed to be no coming back. By . Thousands of kilometres from Essex, the border guard had not only heard of this county in south-east England, but even knew what it had come to signify: a land of crass consumerism, populated by perma-tanned chancers and loose women with more front than Clacton-on-Sea. It is embraced by politicians who celebrate it as the home of no-nonsense, “real” people – David Cameron hired the ex-Basildon Echo reporter Andy Coulson as his head of comms – but also mocked for these same qualities, often by the very same political classes who praise its authenticity. In 2009, after Francois had become an MP, David Cameron promoted him to the shadow cabinet as a sop to the Eurosceptic wing of the Conservative party. “Dr Griffiths said: ‘Being from Essex you won’t know what these funny squiggles are.’” Playle left the interview in tears. [12][13] Several writers have argued that Estuary English is not a discrete accent distinct from the accents of the London area. “But the policies were so damaging if you look at unemployment, you look at the industry. Essex is depicted as wholly white and extremely Tory, but the reality is obviously more complex than the myth. Two of the first wave of new towns, built in the late 1940s and the 50s, were located in Essex: Basildon on the Thames estuary and Harlow near Epping Forest. The development that so perturbed the schoolboy Heffer was merely a prelude. It was a shorthand for the way the whole country seemed to be changing, for the emergence of a brash and crass new individualism – and soon, it would become a shorthand for the discomfort with those changes, for a fear about what Essex man and his pushy girlfriend threatened to reveal about the true nature of Englishness. 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