In the depths of the Westminster bubble, there is a feeling that “up there” – in the dreaded North – Labour’s heartlands are slipping away from them, amid a tide of anti-Europe, anti-immigration and anti-Corbyn feeling. “What would ‘Doncaster man’ think of X?”, continues the rather patronising analogy.
Step forward Brian Whitmore – in many ways, the living, breathing embodiment of Labour’s core vote deserting them.
A 68-year-old white, working class man living in Doncaster, who used to vote Labour, Mr Whitmore is a straight talker – something that’s central to his campaign for the mayoralty.
Sitting in his Mexborough bungalow, the UKIP candidate churns out charming stories about his time in the aquatics industry, working in pubs, being a plumber, bus conductor, market trader and coach driver: he undoubtedly has the life experience many politicians are criticised for lacking. Clearly well known in the area, Mr Whitmore says he will “get out there” and talk to local people about what can be done to improve the area – a strategy he seems to be pinning a lot of hope on.
“He’s got that same fire as what Nigel Farage had”, his wife announces proudly, having made us a proper British cuppa. Mr Whitmore sits in quiet agreement, before adding: “I’ve not got a magic wand, just give me time.”
A father of two who says he has lived in Doncaster and South Yorkshire for 50 years, Mr Whitmore is passionate about creating better parking facilities in the city. He also wants to abolish fines for taking children out of school during term time, though whether that’s within a mayor’s power seems open to question.
But what made him join UKIP? “What it was, it was me knee”, he says, referring to one of numerous testing experiences in local hospitals, which has made him prioritise health in Doncaster.
“I was going to join UKIP in 2014 but with my knee, I was just getting worried on it. And it was with a phone call with the English Democrats that I joined them (instead).”
But Mr Whitmore says he became disillusioned with the ED when he realised some members were “just in it for themselves” and promptly left for UKIP, who are also defending one seat in the Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council election.
“They listen to the people and they’re not whipped by a leader like Labour or the Conservatives”, Mr Whitmore says of his party.
Clearly, though, he is unimpressed by UKIP’s leadership in the post Farage-era.
“To me, Paul (Nuttall), he’s got a big mouth, he can be heard at the back of the room without a microphone, but at the end of the day I don’t think he’s as fast in his political nose as what (Nigel) Farage was”, he sighs.
“Paul’s alright but I just don’t think he’s got that fire in him to lead the UKIP party. I think there will be a change…
“I must say he’s the wrong bloke to be leader.”
Not the first time, his wife interjects to agree, making the pair seem like a small-town power couple, even if they may never win any real power.
In terms of leadership in Doncaster, some in UKIP and Labour privately believe they are facing off in a two horse race for the mayoral election. If he wins, Mr Whitmore has an ambitious list of policies he would like to implement and has hinted that he would be willing to shake up the council and even cut councillors’ wages.
“I’d like to make a change,” the retired neighbourhood watch co-ordinator says, listing his main priorities as: “Listening to what people say and talking to the community; anti-social behaviour – the druggies, that’s a big thing; care in the community for the sick and elderly.”