Conservative Party and the UK Immigration Policy: Evidencing and Explaining the Change

Anna McKeever

The paper explains how UK immigration policy has become number-driven, restrictive and has been reframed through social welfare lens and what role did the Conservative Party play in this process under the Coalition. Whilst there is now a vast literature on the radical right and immigration (Carter, 2005; Schain, 2006; Van Spanje, 2010; Tjitske, 2012), there has been less attention paid to the role of mainstream right wing parties, despite their much greater policy importance (Bale, 2008). Cultural and social questions have arisen as a response to the widening of the European community, linking immigration with anxiety about social security and welfare (Delanty, 2008). Recent events like 2015 Refugee crisis highlighted the difficulties that European governments face and the anxieties of people considering the changing pace of immigration. The novelty of the paper is that it aims to integrate Meguid's theory of party competition (Meguid, 2008) and the theory of political opportunity structures and framing (McAdam, Tarrow, Tilly, 2001) to explain the changing immigration stance and policies of the Conservatives. Based on elite interviews (with Conservative politicians, civil servants and high rank officials), the paper explains how party competition on the right, the change in public opinion, EU enlargements, Europeanisation and the Home Office's authority led to the change in immigration policy. This paper is a contribution to the British politics and party politics literature, highlighting the role of mainstream right parties in immigration policy change.

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