University of Sussex
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‘Campaigning in poetry, governing in prose?’ The development of Conservative Party immigration policy in government and in opposition since 1945

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posted on 2023-06-09, 06:51 authored by Rebecca Partos
This thesis seeks to explain the development of the British Conservative Party’s immigration policy from 1945 to 2015. It draws on Gamble’s contrasting of the ‘politics of power’ versus the ‘politics of support’ to consider the extent to which Conservative immigration policy is influenced by periods in government and periods in opposition. Harmel and Janda’s three ‘drivers’ of party change – electoral motivations, the leadership of the party, and factions within the party – are built upon to explain changes to the Conservatives’ immigration policy. An interpretivist approach is conducive to the making of an empirically-rich ‘thick descriptive’ account of the Conservative Party’s immigration policy-making. The account is based on interviews with key actors – including current and former politicians and senior civil servants – combined with analysis of archive material and contemporary media sources and memoirs. This thesis concludes that periods in government and periods in opposition do influence the making of immigration policy in different ways. During the 70-year period, what was implemented by the Conservatives in office was less far-reaching – and less restrictionist – than what had been proposed in opposition. Within this key contextual difference, a modified version of Harmel and Janda’s three drivers of change is useful in explaining the development of Conservative immigration policy – with some exceptions. Through tracking changes to the Conservative Party’s immigration policy over many parliaments, this thesis provides three main contributions. First, it emphasises the significance of political parties to the development of immigration policy. Second, in focusing on periods in opposition – which are often overlooked – as well as periods in government, this work offers a basis for reconceptualising policy-making. Third, in bringing together existing theories into a synthesis framework of party policy-making, this thesis offers a new approach to the theoretical literature, which could be modified and tested in other contexts.


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  • doctoral

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  • eng


University of Sussex

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