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Rebordering Britain & Britons after Brexit

Walking the Tightrope: Private and Public Interests in Conservative Immigration Policy

Abstract

The Conservatives have long been ideologically split on immigration between the business right and identity right of the party. Appealing to the social right of its voter base, since 2010 immigration policy has been doggedly restrictive. Yet, lobbying channelled through bureaucratic politics has led to subtle, but important, concessions to appease business interests. The Conservative administrations have legitimised these concessions by making distinctions between 'good' and 'bad' migrants. In the 2010s, lobbying strategies, while shifting according to the political climate, predominantly consisted of insider lobbying. Yet, with significant labour market shortages induced by the new immigration system and heightened by the pandemic, employers are 'going public' with their opposition, placing significant pressure on the Conservatives to perform a policy reversal. Meanwhile, public opinion on immigration has softened and its saliency has dwindled. Politicising immigration may not be an electoral winner anymore; business interests may override the identity wing of the party.

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Journal

POLITICAL QUARTERLY

Author

Erica Consterdine (United Kingdom)

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