Commonwealth Immigration, Policymaking, and the Labour party, c. 1960-1980

    Research areas

  • PhD, School of History, Philosophy, and Social Sciences


This thesis is a study of post-war British political parties and policymaking, primarily examining the Labour party’s combined policy on immigration, integration and race relations between 1960 and 1980. Limited research has been published on post-war parties and policymaking, and what has often neglects the role of the political party within the process. Existing studies of Labour’s engagement with immigration or race relations focus only on Harold Wilson’s 1964-1970 Governments. Labour were a party of Government in this period, returned as the largest or majority party in four of seven electoral contests between 1959 and 1979. Being in power for almost eleven of the twenty years, it is possible to analyse how the party reacted to a divisive political issue, in power and opposition and, therefore, the relationship between party policymaking, electoral politics and governance. To comprehend these interactive and complicated issues, this thesis engages with approaches traditionally utilised political history, in combination with others gleaned from political studies.
Historical scholarship has long demonstrated that analysis of longer periods permit greater appreciation of change over time. Recent uptake of similar methodologies within political science have likewise accepted their effectiveness for analysing the actions of historic political actors. Blending innovative new interpretative approaches, alongside traditional intellectual examinations of politics informed by the history of ideas, has proved fruitful. Using Peter F. Clarke’s concept of the ‘purchase of ideas’, this thesis attempts to trace the intellectual origins of policy. By further accepting Duncan Tanner’s contention that policy is a complex process, and following his suggested delineation between institutional and electoral purchase of ideas within a political institution, it recognises historic agents’ capacity to shape, redirect and repackage policy to elicit popular appeal. To do this effectively, the study scrutinises the structure and processes of policymaking within the Labour party.
Concentrating on Labour’s political dynamics, the thesis examines the degree to which policy development at the party’s London headquarters reflected the opinions of local parties and voters in constituencies. It surveys Labour’s early engagement with immigration issues before examining its definitive approach under Hugh Gaitskell’s leadership. Afterwards, it considers the role of immigration controls’ local appeal through scrutinising the political cleavage existent between pro-immigration local parties, and pro-control electorates. Enoch Powell’s April 1968 speech reaffirmed existing assumptions and the influence of the National Front and racially charged Powellite politics in the 1970s is analysed through a multi-level study of the party’s responses, to establish the significance of various local, national and international influences and constrictions on the policymaking process. This thesis posits that policymaking is both deliberative and contemporaneous, being a transient manifestation of political priorities and ideas deemed (by the party leadership) to possess institutional and electoral purchase at its time of prospective implementation.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date11 Dec 2018

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