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Katherine Shonfield

It may have escaped your attention but last week Tory strategists unearthed a phenomenon to rival the original discoveries of cave dwellers and of Stone Age man.

In the UK, there is a lower middle-class voter in 170 marginal constituencies who can be identified by his dwelling place. He is Pebbledash Man.

Exhaustive press discussion has assumed that pebbledash equals home ownership, suburbia, falseness, and naffness. A combined overview of Just William and Osbert Lancaster books will confirm that it is degraded, wannabe Arts and Crafts - 'rows of quaint and whimsy little cottages justified by the presence of two sunflowers . . . in being Garden Cities'. But does his pebbledash really mean the same as my pebbledash?

For Hermann Muthesius, the German commentator on the English house of 100 years ago, pebbledash signifies - in Voysey's work at any rate - the total abandonment of historical tradition. Josef Hoffmann seems almost morbidly fond of it.

Seen in this context, pebbledash is the precursor of the homogenous white coating that continues to be the badge of honour which signifies the Modernist and the ahistorical.

Perverse though it seems, this may be the true connection between house style and Hagueist ideology. Don't forget, this is the man who has explicitly stated that he would wish to be known as 'educated' but never 'cultured': that is, to exist in a state of historical limbo. The concept of Pebbledash Man explicitly unites Modernist ahistoricism with another tendency: utilitarian philistinism. The outback pebbledasher who, rejecting government subsidies, wilfully smears over his listed brickwork, pleading individual rights and economy over communal aesthetic pleasure. And then, of course, a bit like Hague's head, pebbledash successfully covers all manner of dubious things.

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