The issue of immigration (and related matters of race and ethnicity)1 has been a contentious and highly emotive one in British politics for half a century. For the Labour Party, it has always been an Achilles heel. Labour has lagged well behind in voter ratings of its ability to tackle immigration, with research showing that its liberal approach was a major factor in its loss of working-class voters.
In recent years, the accelerating pace of immigration, combined with waves of asylum-seekers seeking succour in the West, has propelled the issue to the forefront of political debate. Sensing an opportunity to exploit Labour’s weakness, the Conservatives pledged in their 2010 election manifesto to make drastic cuts in immigration levels – with some effect. Lack of confidence in Labour’s capacity to tackle what was now seen as the major “problem of immigration” was a significant factor explaining defections from the party.2
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