After World War II, there was considerable social change in south east England. White working class families were encouraged to leave the war-damaged and slum conditions in inner London and move to newly built council-owned properties in the suburbs and in the "new towns" such as Basildon and Harlow in Essex; with a similar effect occurring in all the home counties.
With the decline of manufacture and skilled manual work in the 1980s, this group increasingly looked to middle class professions for employment or became self employed. Their children enjoyed housing, education and employment opportunities far removed from the experience of their parents.
Margaret Thatcher's policies from 1979 to 1990 included lower taxation, control of inflation and sale of council housing stock at subsidised rates. It is this combination of policies, in particular the right to buy scheme that is thought to have caused a significant swathe of the electorate who had traditionally voted Labour to change their allegiance during the 1979, 1983 and 1987 elections.
The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) lists the earliest reference to the Essex man as one from 7 October 1990 in the conservative Sunday Telegraph although this unmistakable reference is found months earlier in the 26 January 1990 issue of Campaign, "Representative [David Amess] of new Essex man, working-class, father electrician, right-wing, keen hanger, noisily rambunctious, no subtlety." Portraits of Essex man include Harry Enfield's Loadsamoney. Alternative names included - based on car ownerships — Mondeo man.