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Robert Halfon: unlikely champion of blue-collar conservatism (credit: Michael Daley)

"We're all in this together." The Tories may have thought back in 2009 that this was a clever message, but it has surely become one of the most counterproductive and damaging political slogans of recent times. It has done the exact opposite of what it was intended to do — with every repetition it reinforces the idea that David Cameron and his millionaire Etonian chums inhabit a privileged world insulated from the concerns and fears of the broad mass of hard-working voters.

The criticism is unfair. Cameron's government is the least patrician, least wealthy and least public-school-educated — indeed the least Etonian-Conservative-led government ever. Fewer of the current crop of Tory MPs were born into wealth and privilege than ever before. But what matters is that Tory toffishness now seems permanently ingrained on the popular psyche.

Robert Halfon, Conservative MP for Harlow since 2010, may be part of the solution to this predicament. Halfon has extolled and practised a blue-collar Conservatism which champions the concerns of the aspirational working class. He has campaigned with notable success for a freeze on fuel taxes, lower energy bills, an increase in the tax threshold, a rise in the minimum wage, and most recently, a cut in bingo duty. Last month George Osborne paid tribute to him in his Budet Speech. Indeed, in Downing Street there is supposedly a "Halfon-meter" calculating the cost of these campaigns to the government. He has argued, in a 2012 pamphlet for the think-tank Demos, that the Tories should embrace trade unionism; he has himself joined the union Prospect. More recently — and perhaps less seriously — he has suggested in the Sun that the Conservative party rename itself the Workers' Party.

Halfon also takes a strong stand on foreign policy issues. A former political director of Conservative Friends of Israel, he is now the most outspoken defender in the House of that country and its security concerns. Halfon's Zionism is part of his wider support for a robust, interventionist foreign policy. He is a vocal supporter of self-determination for Iraq's Kurds and was a vehement advocate of Western intervention in Syria and before that in Libya — his grandfather was an Italian Jew from Tripoli. Though a strong Eurosceptic, Halfon believes that too many of his parliamentary colleagues from the 2010 intake are obsessed with Europe to the exclusion of all other international concerns.
Where do these values come from? Halfon was born with a physical disability which meant that he had to undergo many painful operations in his youth and he still has to walk with sticks. While he has never made political capital out of this, it means that he understands the fears and insecurities of much of the electorate better than many of his colleagues.
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