Campaigning in poetry, governing in prose? The development of post-war Conservative Party immigration policy in government and in opposition

Wednesday, June 26, 2013
2.13 (Binnengasthuis)
Rebecca Partos , Politics, University of Sussex
This paper outlines and explains research that is currently underway on the development of UK Conservative Party immigration policy in the post-war years. The project considers what drives the Party’s immigration policy-making, with an emphasis on how policy is influenced by periods in government and periods in opposition. Generally, the response of the Conservative Party to the ‘waves’ of immigration has been to call for, and legislate for, restrictions on the means of entry that permitted that particular type of immigration. Britain’s immigration policy has moved towards the more restrictive, yet it has become increasingly open to the free movement of goods, services and capital. The paper will propose three working hypotheses to attempt to explain this transition, as well as to consider the extent to which influences within and outside the Party have impacted on the development of policy. First, in power, the Conservative Party’s policies have restricted levels of immigration and asylum to a lesser extent than it has promised when in opposition. Second, the Party’s immigration policies are dependent on a) the Party’s fear of electoral defeat; b) the different leaders of the Party; c) the different factions leading the Party. Third, there is a tension between elites and the general public on the issue of immigration. The hypotheses draw on the project’s hybrid theoretical framework which is based on models from within the political parties and migration studies literature and which operates within a constructivist conceptual structure. The paper will give preliminary findings of the research.