Philip Begley
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During the 1970s the Conservatives argued strongly and consistently that levels of immigration needed to be reduced. The debate was about by how much it should be reduced and by what means. However, at the same time the party could not, and generally did not wish to do this by following any extreme policies which might undermine its electoral support, damage race relations or lead it to renege on assurances that had been given in the past. For example, the Conservatives considered tougher policies like repatriation and did give some thought to withdrawing the right of entry to Britain from some groups that they had previously expected would keep it, before eventually rejecting such policies and sticking to a firm but pragmatic approach. Here, rhetoric sometimes became important. Margaret Thatcher’s famous intervention in January 1978 provides an example of the ways in which it could act as a substitute where policy change was not possible. Immigration therefore provides another example of a policy area in which there is something of a gap between the tone of the period and the policy reality.

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The making of Thatcherism

The Conservative Party in opposition, 1974–79


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