The area is one of diverse extremes, home to some of the most deprived communities in the country alongside pockets of wealth. The proportion of ethnic minorities in the borough as a whole is much lower than the national average. However, Aveley and Chafford Hundred have a much higher proportion of ethnic minority groups. Aveley is very deprived whilst, in contrast, the new settlement of Chafford Hundred is the most wealthy area, an enclave surrounded by areas of severe deprivation.
Only 2.2% of the population have degrees, which is partially due to the availability of low-skilled jobs in the area. However, education levels are on the rise.
“I think Essex Man will vote for a Conservative Government.”
Margaret Thatcher, April 1982
“Essex Man” became a national stereotype used to characterise the target Tory voter during the Thatcher years. Originally a working-class individualist, Essex Man worked his way into the lower middle classes and from left–to-right-wing politics through his belief in hard work, small enterprise, entrepreneurship, and lower taxes.
Thurrock, in contrast to the rest of Essex, has firmly voted Labour in every election except one since 1945, perhaps as a result of its industrial past and proximity to London. In keeping with national trends the more rural areas still vote Conservative whereas a left-wing majority strongly prevails in the urbanised areas.
However, tensions between the older and increasingly deprived white communities and immigrants resulted in the ward of Grays Riverside electing a far-right British National Party (BNP) Councillor in September 2003. The ward does not in fact have a high proportion of ethnic minorities (8%, close to the national average of 8.6%).
Issues also exist around ‘travelling’ communities (Thurrock has the most authorised travellers sites in Essex).