Getting the balance right: conflicting ideological ‘pulls’ and party competition on immigration in Britain and Sweden

Wednesday, June 26, 2013
2.13 (Binnengasthuis)
Pontus Odmalm , Politics and International Relations, University of Edinburgh
While the changing nature of the party-political environment, and especially whether competition takes place along single, dual or multiple dimensions, have come to characterise much of the political science debate comparatively less attention is paid to how any multi-dimensionality may impact on party competition. If one accepts the existence of multiple dimensions and if parties adopt positions on more than one, which they often do, a set of conflicting ideological ‘pulls’ are likely emerge since competition along multiple cleavages may result in contradictory stances. Questions relating to immigration can be particularly troublesome for the political mainstream to engage with due to immigration’s multifaceted nature and how it tends to sprawl across both ‘old’ and ‘new’ dimensions. As such, immigration can prove difficult to internalise since there may be intra-party disagreements regarding dimensional fit and societal impact. Therefore, immigration risks crystallising these ideological tensions and bring them to the fore. Based on a manifesto analysis of the political space in Belgium; the Netherlands, United Kingdom and Sweden, and qualitative data collected from MPs, the article examines which party families that are more likely to experience these ‘pulls’; the extent to which parties have managed to negotiate these strains and what these ‘pulls’ tell us about the relative decline of ‘ideology’ in contemporary party politics.