More and More Restrictive-But Not Always Populist: Explaining Variation in the British Conservative Party's Stance on Immigration and Asylum
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Journal of Contemporary European Studies
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Centre-right parties are commonly inclined towards appeals and policies on immigration that are both restrictive in nature and populist in tone-in part because this is what they believe in, in part because it affords them an electoral advantage over their rivals on the centre-left. One would expect, however, that the extent to which they focus on immigration and asylum will vary according to public opinion, according to who leads them, and according to whether they are in government or in opposition. This would appear to be the case for the British Conservative Party, but the relationship is not an entirely consistent one. Moreover, while the Party has, for half a century, pursued ever more restrictive policies, the extent to which it has couched its approach in populist rhetoric varies considerably over time-and not always in line with the severity of its stance on immigration. The reason for this lies partly in the social and economic liberalism of some of its leaders (and in their related concern to act 'responsibly' on race and immigration) but also in their anxiety not to alienate key sections of the middle classes who must be persuaded to support the Party if it is to win elections. These considerations are likely to weigh heavily with other centre-right parties, too. © 2013 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.