From behind closed doors to the campaign trail

From behind closed doors to the campaign trail

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From behind closed doors to the campaign trail race and immigration in British party politics, 1945-1965
Chiarodo, Nicole M
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[Tampa, Fla]
University of South Florida
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Subjects / Keywords:
Great Britain
Race relations
Dissertations, Academic -- History -- Masters -- USF ( lcsh )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


ABSTRACT: Colored immigration from the New Commonwealth became a highly discussed issue in British party politics immediately following the Second World War, but in an effort to sustain Great Britain's imperial status, to portray the nation as a new enlightened force, and in reaction to the race issues taking hold in the American South, political elites moved to keep their debates concealed from the public. In this thesis, I investigate the positions of Labour and Conservative governments and the circumstances surrounding the emergence of race and immigration into the public sphere. Moreover, I examine the effects of its arrival. While the introduction of the British Nationality Act in 1948 by the Labour government might suggest a progressive and tolerant party focused on equality between all British subjects, and the restrictive legislation of 1962 indicates a Conservative party focused on restrictive, racist policies, thorough examination of the debates between the political elite and a clear understanding of the current state of affairs offers a different story. Immediate postwar policies were formed in the interest of shoring up empire, but as Britain began to move closer to Europe, realizing great power status might be beyond its capabilities, the importance of empire waned. Resultant discussions of restricting entry into Britain and increased racial tensions moved the debates from behind closed doors and into the public gaze. Party positions on the immigration became evident in the 1964 general election. The issue once relegated to private discussions between the political elite could now win or lose an election.
Thesis (M.A.)--University of South Florida, 2008.
Includes bibliographical references.
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by Nicole M. Chiarodo.

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From behind closed doors to the campaign trail :
b race and immigration in British party politics, 1945-1965
h [electronic resource] /
by Nicole M. Chiarodo.
[Tampa, Fla] :
University of South Florida,
Title from PDF of title page.
Document formatted into pages; contains 66 pages.
Thesis (M.A.)--University of South Florida, 2008.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format.
3 520
ABSTRACT: Colored immigration from the New Commonwealth became a highly discussed issue in British party politics immediately following the Second World War, but in an effort to sustain Great Britain's imperial status, to portray the nation as a new enlightened force, and in reaction to the race issues taking hold in the American South, political elites moved to keep their debates concealed from the public. In this thesis, I investigate the positions of Labour and Conservative governments and the circumstances surrounding the emergence of race and immigration into the public sphere. Moreover, I examine the effects of its arrival. While the introduction of the British Nationality Act in 1948 by the Labour government might suggest a progressive and tolerant party focused on equality between all British subjects, and the restrictive legislation of 1962 indicates a Conservative party focused on restrictive, racist policies, thorough examination of the debates between the political elite and a clear understanding of the current state of affairs offers a different story. Immediate postwar policies were formed in the interest of shoring up empire, but as Britain began to move closer to Europe, realizing great power status might be beyond its capabilities, the importance of empire waned. Resultant discussions of restricting entry into Britain and increased racial tensions moved the debates from behind closed doors and into the public gaze. Party positions on the immigration became evident in the 1964 general election. The issue once relegated to private discussions between the political elite could now win or lose an election.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
System requirements: World Wide Web browser and PDF reader.
Co-advisor: Graydon Tunstall, Ph.D.
Co-advisor: Kathleen Paul, Ph.D.
Co-advisor: Fraser Ottanelli, Ph.D.
Great Britain
Race relations
Dissertations, Academic
x History
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.
4 856


From Behind Closed Door s to the Campaign Trail: Race and Immigration in British Party Politics, 1945-1965 By Nicole M. Chiarodo A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts Department of History College of Arts and Sciences University of South Florida Major Professor: Gray don Tunstall, Ph.D. Co-Major Professor: Kathleen Paul, Ph.D. Co-Major Professor: Fraser Ottanelli, Ph.D. Date of Approval: November 14, 2008 Keywords: great britain, race relatio ns, citizenship, conservative, labour Copyright 2008, Nicole M. Chiarodo


TABLE OF CONTENTS Abstract i Introduction 1 In the Afterm ath of War 9 The 1950s Conservative Government 21 Towards Restriction and Into the Public Gaze 34 Smethwick and After 46 Conclusion 59 Works Cited 64 i


From Behind Closed Door s to the Campaign Trail: Race and Immigration in British Party Politics, 1945-1965 Nicole M. Chiarodo ABSTRACT Colored immigration from the New Commonwealth became a highly discussed issue in British party politics immediately following the Second World War, but in an effort to sustain Great Britains imperial stat us, to portray the nati on as a new enlightened force, and in reaction to the race issues taking hold in the American South, political elites moved to keep their debates concealed from th e public. In this thesis, I investigate the positions of Labour and Conservative govern ments and the circumstances surrounding the emergence of race and immigration into the public sphere. Moreover, I examine the effects of its arrival. While the introducti on of the British Nationality Act in 1948 by the Labour government might suggest a progressive and tolerant party focused on equality between all British subjects, and the restrictive legislation of 1962 indicates a Conservative party focused on restrictive, racist policies, thorough examination of the debates between the political elite and a clear understanding of the curr ent state of affairs offers a different story. Immediate postwar policies were formed in the interest of shoring up empire, but as Britain began to m ove closer to Europe, realizing great power status might be beyond its capabilities, th e importance of empire waned. Resultant discussions of restricting en try into Britain and increased racial tensions moved the ii


iii debates from behind closed doors and into the public gaze. Pa rty positions on the immigration became evident in the 1964 gene ral election. The issu e once relegated to private discussions between the political el ite could now win or lose an election.


INTRODUCTION In the 1964 General Election in the sm a ll West Midlands town of Smethwick, Shadow Foreign Secretary Patrick Gordon Walker was unseated by a young Conservative school teacher by the name of Peter Griffiths. The fact that the Labour MP of almost twenty years had been defeated in a year when national elections swung towards Labour was only part of the story; it was the openly racist campaign led by Gr iffiths that grasped the attention of party leaders and constituents alike. The issue was not the Conservative school teachers position on immigration, but ra ther that it was used as his election platform, thus discussed openly and, for the fi rst time, made a prominent part of a general election. Politicians had been debating colored im migration since the end of the Second World War, but in a bipartisan effort to sust ain Great Britains imperi al status, to portray the nation as a new enlightened force, and in reaction to the race issues taking hold in the American South, political elites moved to keep their debates concealed from the public. With the British electorate becoming more aware of incidents abroad and increased racial tensions at home, the issue had slowly been boiling over into the public gaze, but with Griffiths win against the incumbent it b ecame suddenly clear that taking a stance on immigration could be a vote getteror loser. 1


Race had lo ng been an issue in the British Empire. Fueled by commerce and justified by Christianity and a civilizing mission, at its height British rule spread across a quarter of the globe, presiding over one fifth of its diverse population. The nature of such rule was adapted to local conditions; posse ssions were governed differently based on their perceived capability for self-rule. Wh ere the majority population was white, or where the minority of white inhabitants were economically dominant, policies favored progress towards self-government. For instance, the Gold Coast of Africa was under authoritarian rule by British o fficials while Canada exercised the right to self-government in all but foreign policy.1 As the duke of Newcastle not ed, responsible government was only applicable to coloni sts of the English race.2 Deemed uncivilized, colored people were determined unprepared or even incapable of self-government and in need of British guidance. With little to no regard for native culture and customs, Christian missionaries believed it their humanitarian duty to spread European civilization and modernization to those considered to be lesser peoples. The racial attitudes that dictated rule ab road were duplicated back home. Britain has always been a multi-cultural society, albeit the nineteenth-century cultures were predicated mainly on class. With great disp arity in British society, members of different classes found little common ground. Gentleme n and manufactures, stockholders and factory hands had little to not contact with one another. But as different as Britains classes were, they did share a common unde rstanding of the superiority of British 1 Bernard Porter, The Lions Share: A Short History of British Imperialism, 1850-1970 (New York: Times Books, 1978), 20. 2 Parliamentary Debates 3rd series, 151 (1858) in Porter, The Lions Share 29. 2


civiliza tion.3 Bernard Porter argued that the arro gant belief that all peoples should advance and be measured according to the British yardstick is based not on their prejudices against these peoples, but rather on their understanding of their own nations evolution.4 British history dictated progress from savagery to civilization which the middle classes applied to other cultures in order to explain their differences.5 This shared understanding of cultural supremacy was used to bind British society, as racial identity served as a common denominator amongst Br itish elites and wo rking class alike, providing a connection without need for reordering society. Their identity as AngloSaxons constructed to differentiate the English from the rest of Europe was now used to separate them from the colonial Other.6 Thus, the idea that the British white man was superior to the colored colonial bound British society together. The agricultural worker may be inferior to the international banke r, but he ranked above the native simply by virtue of his Anglo-Saxon heri tage, or Britishness. Linda Colley suggests that British nationa l identity was an invention forged mainly by war. In repeated conflict with France from 1689 to 1815, Britons were forced to confront an obviously hostil e Other agains t which they formed a collective identity.7 As Peter Sahlins wrote, national identity lik e ethnic or communal identity, is contingent and relational: it is defined by the social or territorial boundaries drawn to distinguish the collective self and to im plicit negation, the other.8 In short, we define ourselves by whom or what we are not. First defining them selves as Protestants struggling for survival 3 Bernard Porter, The Absent-Minded Imperialists, Empire, Society, and Culture in Britain (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 22. 4 Ibid., 79. 5 Ibid., 113. 6 Ibid., 207. 7 Linda Colley, Britons: Forging the Nation, 1707-1837 (London: Pimlico, 2003), 6. 8 Peter Sahlins, Boundaries: The Making of France an d Spain in the Pyrenees (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1989): 271 in Colley, Britons 7. 3


against a Catholic power, Britons later define d th emselves in contrast to the colonial peoples they conquered, people who were manifes tly alien in terms of culture, religion or color.9 As the threat of militant Catholicism diminished, the Other took shape in the forms of a hostile Continental Eu rope and exotic overseas empire.10 With the threat of danger gone after the Second World War and in face of imperial decline, Britain wa s looking for a something new against which it could define itself. The focus moved away from an imperi al identity; the option of developing a new identity within a multiracial Commonwealth was being rejected in favor of more traditional modes of belonging, root ed in myths of little England.11 Thus, Britons looked within their own shores in search of a new identity, and, consequently to find a new Other. With colored immigration into the United Kingdom on the rise, it was to the black immigrant that Britons turned. The notion of what it meant, in a worldpolitical sense, to be British had to readjust and in that painful readjustment there developed a much more exclusive concept of citizenship a nd a narrower vision of the kind of society Britain could become. Th e narrowing of vision took many forms and it is hardly surprising in a societ y with a long colonial history that a redrawing of the emotional boundaries and images of nationhood would for many people take distinctly racist forms.12 By the Second World War there were an estimated 7,000 non-white residents, mainly colonial seaman from the First Worl d War, permanently settled in the port towns of Liverpool and Cardiff, and in Manchester and Londons East End.13 With the outbreak 9 Colley, Britons 6. 10 Ibid., 7. 11 A colonial correspondent, African Attitudes, Twentieth Century 151 (1952): 19-25 cited in Chris Waters, Dark Strangers in Our Midst: Discourses of Race and Nation in Britain 1947-1963. The Journal of British Studies (1997): 214. 12 Bill Williamson, Memories, Vision and Hope: Themes in an Historical Sociology of Britain since the Second World War, Journal of Historical Sociology 1 (1998): 170. 13 Figure taken from I. Spencer, World War Tw o and the Making of Multiracial Britain, in War Culture: Social Change and Changing Experience in World War Two Britain ed. P. Kirkham and D. Thomas 4


of war in 1939 the situation changed. Britain found herself in need of labor in the munitions factories and services. Turning to her colonies, the governm ent facilitated migration to the United Kingdom. Over 10,000 West Indians were recruited to serve as ground crew members in the Royal Air Force in Britain; thousands of colonial seamen joined the merchant navy and a significant num ber of West Indians, Asians and Africans served with the Allied forces.14 But the British government never desired nor expected the n on-white colonials who came to Britain to support the war effort to stay. The Colonial Office anticipated they would return to their place of origin as good-will ambassadors, strengthening ties between the mother country and her imperial su bjects. However, working in Britain or serving abroad with the Allied forces broadened the horizons of those devoting themselves to the Allied cause. They saw opportunity in the United Kingdom. The work they had done during the war wa s with great purpose; they we re part of the national war effort and well received by the British public. Colonial laborers were not faced with the racial prejudice and discri mination in housing and employ ment experienced by colored people settled in Britain before the war. Ho wever, though welcome to work and reside in the United Kingdom in order to help the cau se, it was never assumed that colored individuals would set up perman ent residence. Furthermore, British tolerance ended when it came to relations between black men and white women. Any potential darkening of (1995), 209 cited in Sonya O. Rose, Race, Empire and British wartime National Identity, 1939-45 Historical Research (2001): 222. 14 Zig Layton-Henry, The Politics of Immigration: Immigration, Race, and Race Relations in Post-War Britain (Cambridge: Blackwell Publishers, 1992): 11. 5


the res idents of the metropole was seen as repugnant. Being British in Britain still meant being white.15 By 1945 the colored population in Br itain was estimated between 10,000 and 30,000.16 Unemployment was high in colonies such as Jamaica, averaging between 20 to 35 percent, thus colonials headed to Br itain in search of a decent paying job.17 But as Kathleen Paul noted, the deci sion of West Indians to migrate to the United Kingdom was based on more than just economics. Having o ccupied the region for centuries, the British encouraged colonials to think of Great Britain as the center of their empire, thus their identity was very much tied to a sense of Britishness. With a good grasp of the English language and the nations history, colonials c onsidered themselves British, therefore, migrating to the mother country wa s somewhat of a homeward journey.18 But those awaiting their arrival did not share this sentim ent. As Paul explains, competing notions of Britishness existed. The formal nationality policy, to which colonial subjects subscribed, regarded all residents of the Empi re as equal and was constructed to maintain and justify imperial control. The informal po licy, also devised as a means of imperial justification in that it deemed European race s and cultures superior to others, was based on a racialized understanding of the world. Thi s informal identity restricted Britishness to white residents of the United Kingdom.19 15 Rose, Race, Empire and British wartime National Identity, 226. 16 Kathleen Paul, Whitewashing Britain: Race and Citizenship in the Postwar Era (New York: Cornell University Press, 1997): 113. 17 Ceri Peach, West Indian Migration to Britain: A Social Geography (London: Oxford University Press, 1969): 2, 23-5 in Paul, Whitewashing Britain 114. 18 Paul, Whitewashing Britain 114. 19 Kathleen Paul, British Subjects and British Stock: Labours Postwar Imperialism The Journal of British Studies (1995): 239. 6


As W est Indian immigrants continued to arrive in Great Britain, concern and hostility amongst the political a nd social elite increased. Th ose arriving post war were no longer seen as valuable additi ons to the wartime work force or armed services, nor were they brought in by the Colonial Office; rather they remained beyond its public control. Black migrants were deemed likely to provoke p roblems, to incite racial conflict. They were labeled as quarrelsome, l azy, unskilled and unenterprising.20 While it is difficult to ascertain overall public opinion, it is likely that Britons of all social classes were influenced by the nations colonial and impe rial past and those ideas that legitimized Britains superior role throughout the world. Bu t the political elite remained resolute in portraying Britain as a tolerant nation, one that was more tolerant than white Americans and certainly less racist than the Nazi regime they had served to defeat. The government was determined to present a national image that reflected an open-minded, liberal Britain that welcomed colonial peopl es as equal citizens of th e empire/ commonwealth and would be granted independence once they were ready. But that independence was always seen as involving a commonwealth of na tionsthat is retaini ng a political tie to Britain.21 The continued flow of colored immigr ants to the United Kingdom after the Second World War ushered in a new era in Br itish immigration polic y and with it came new challenges to Britains political elite. It was clear to both the Conservative and Labour parties that Britain coul d not afford to have her reput ation as a beneficent colonial power diminished by the issue of race and exis tence of color bars, thus debates regarding the status and restric tion of colored immigrants were ke pt behind closed doors. But as 20 Layton-Henry, The Politics of Immigration 35-36. 21 Rose, Race, Empire, and British Wa rtime National Identity, 226. 7


8 Britains desire for great power status diminish ed, so did the need to placate those abroad. A nation for so long defined by its imperial role turned its focus inwardimperial identity waned and the notion of Britishness defined solely by those living within the United Kingdom flourished. There was no place within this new model for the colored immigrant, as being British in Britain still meant being white. Opposed to any notion of a multi-cultural society, the government began di scussions of restrictive legislation. Coupled with a perceived increase in racial violence, these debates heightened public awareness, thus the immigra tion issue began its move to wards the public arena. The young school teacher in Smethwick cap italized on the new found importance of race and immigration and Griffiths ove rwhelming win made it clear that the restriction of colored immigrants into th e United Kingdom was a critical issue amongst the British electorate. The bipartisan effort to keep immigration out of public politics was being challenged. Making it clear that ea ch party would have to take a position, the 1964 election marked a brief hiatus from any bipartisan efforts to conceal the race and immigration issue. No longer concerned with imperial status or a workforce to rebuild Britain, the Conservative and Labour parties we re able to support restrictive legislation. But while both parties quickly realized that while taking a firm stance against colored immigration could certainly produce votes, th ey also discovered it could alienate a significant part of the electorate, thus the bipa rtisan effort to con ceal the issue resurfaced.


CHAP TER ONE IN THE AFTERMATH OF WAR The Labour governments position towards Commonwealth immigration immediately following the Second World War wa s in part determined by the acute labor shortage Britain faced in the agricultural, co al mining and textile industries. In order to spearhead the reconstruction of the nation, it was vital th e Atlee government find the means by which to rebuild Britains workforce. In search of a short term solution, the administration formed a Foreign Labour Co mmittee to take into consideration the increased importation of foreign labour. By the end of 1946 the Cabinet Manpower Working Party reported an estimated labour shortage of 1,346,000.1 The Atlee government contemplated several means by which to reduce the deficit including appeals to older workers and women to remain or return to the workforce; initially it was determined that the importation of foreign labour would pose a problem.2 The issue of race and the biological impli cations of immigration were part of Parliamentary debates surrounding migration from the start. The Cabinet Foreign Labour Committee determined, The question of utilising foreign labour obviously raises many 1 Cabinet Man-Power Working Party Memo, 30 November 1945, CAB 134/510 in Shirley Joshi and Bob Carter The role of Labour in the creation of a racist Britain Race & Class (1984): 56. 2 Joshi, The role of Labour in the creation of a racist Britain, 56. 9


delicate so cial and political issues and thes e would have to be considered carefully.3 Ministers were wary of the long-term consequences of recruiting alien labor, advising that any material increase in the foreign popul ation of this country be considered very carefully due to the dem ographic issues involved.4 By 1947 there was bipartisan support for increased migration based on the argument that immigration was necessary to resolve the labour shortage.5 But Parliamentary debates on migration were not solely concerned w ith economics. It was argued that immigration on a large scale into a fully established society like ours could only be welcomed without rese rve if the immigrants were of good human stock and were not prevented by their religion or race from intermarrying with the host population and becoming merged in it.6 Home Secretary Chuter Ede rema rked that the intake could be limited to entrants from the Western countries whose traditions a nd social backgrounds were more nearly equal to our own.7 With a strong preference for European workers, the government favored the importation of Polish and Yugoslavian laborers under the pretext that white Europeans could be easily assimilated. It was argued that they were made of the spirit and stuff of which we can make Britons,8 and they could be assimilated into the British people, to become acquainted wit h, and to follow, the British way of life.9 During the debate on displaced persons, one Conservative MP claimed that there are the 3 Cabinet Foreign Labour Committee Minutes (CFLC), CAB 134/301 in Joshi, The role of Labour in the creation of a racist Britain, 56. 4 LAB 13/ 1005 Notes on an Interdepartmental Conferen ce on the Welfare of EVWs, 18 November 1948 in Kathleen Paul, Whitewashing Britain: Race and Citizenship in the Postwar Era (New York: Cornell University Press, 1997): 79. 5 Mr. Paget, 433, House of Commons Debates, col. 75 6 (14 February 1947) in Robert Miles Nationality, Citizenship, and Migration to Britain, 1944-1951 Journal of Law and Society (1989): 432. 6 Report of the Royal Commission on Population op. cit., n. 49, p. 124 in Miles Nationality, Citizenship and Migration to Britain, 434. 7 CAB 134/301 FLC (46), 1st meeting, 14 March 1946 in Paul, Whitewashing Britain 83. 8 Parliamentary Debates (Commons), 5th ser., [1947], v. 433, c. 386-87 in Paul, Whitewashing Britain 85. 9 Ibid., [1947], v. 433, c. 386-87. 10


strongest possible ethnographical reasons for having an infusion of vigorous new blood from overseas at the present time, noting that we have very greatly benefited from other foreign blood at different times in the course of our history.10 References were made to stock and race claiming the biol ogical advantages and suggesting that the British government act quickly [and] get the best of the pick.11 By instituting racialized criteria to determine which workers were considered the best stock, the source of supply was limited to Europe (with the exception of Ireland). In search of cheap labor, the Atlee g overnment turned towards Polish soldiers who had fought under British command during th e war and were still in military camps throughout Europe. Such troops remained the fina ncial responsibility of the British, thus the government moved to solve two problems at once by offering Poles work in construction, agriculture and mining. In Ma y 1946 the government established the Polish Resettlement Corps to facilitate their entry in to British society; officers from the Ministry of Labour served to guide Po les into civilian employment.12 But shortages continued forcing the Atlee government to look elsewher e for free labor. Citing the success of the Polish workers, the administra tion advocated the importation of ex-prisoners of war and forced labor and Jews from Nazi concentra tion camps in West Germany and Austria. In September 1945, approximately 1.8 million displaced persons (DPs) were scattered 10 Martin Lindsay, House of Commons Debates, col. 758 (14 February 1947) in Miles Nationality, Citizenship and Migration to Britain, 433. 11 Sir Arthur Salter, House of Commons Debates, col. 758 (14 February 1947) in Miles Nationality, Citizenship and Migration to Britain, 433. 12 Paul, Whitewashing Britain 68. 11


across Europe.13 Employing aggressive campaign tactics to lure labor, the British government issued work permits to fore ign labor at a rate of 35,000 per year.14 Upon arrival, refugees were required to sign contracts accepting work assigned by the Minister of Labour. They were direct ed to employment in agriculture, textile production, coal mining and domestic service. Initi ally restricted in the work they could accept, after three years of residence, such restrictions were lifted.15 Due to the success of alien recruitment and a continued labor s hortage, by Spring 1947 government officials began offering foreign laborers permanent se ttlement within the United Kingdom. This offer was extended based on the idea that Poles and other Europeans could become British. With a clear preference for importing white labor from the start, it was suggested that white workers were considered more suitable for the industries where labor was needed, but it was also assumed that they coul d easily assimilate in to British society. Regardless of differences in culture, language and politics, the Britis h elite believed these laborers could become British solely based on their common genetic makeup.16 While European migrant workers may have been required to accept only specific jobs in designated industries and offered substandard government housing, they received better treatment than the British subjects who arrived from the colonies and Commonwealth. These migrants represented an other source of labor, albeit one that was ignored presumably because they were not considered of good human stock.17 In fact, 13 Mark Wyman, DP: Europes Displaced Persons, 1945-1951 (Philadelphia: Balch Institute Press, 1989) in Paul, Whitewashing Britain 71. 14 LAB 13/ 1098 Employment of Foreign Women in Domestic Employment in the United Kingdom, Preliminary Conference on Migration, 8 April 1950 in Paul, Whitewashing Britain 75. 15 Tannahill, op cit., n. 35, pp. 81, 133; E. Stadulis The Resettlement of Disp laced Persons in the United Kingdom Population Studies (1951/2): 213 in Miles Nationality, Citizenship and Migration to Britain, 431. 16 Paul, Whitewashing Britain 85. 17 Miles Nationality, Citizenship and Migration to Britain, 434. 12


in 1948, when Geoffrey Isaacs, the Minister of Labour was inform ed that a ship carrying some hundreds of West Indians, many of them ex-service men skilled in various trades and in search of work was on its way to Brit ain, the Minister replie d that the men would be sent to local employment exchanges, but that he could give no assurance that they could be found suitable work and that he hoped no encouragement would be given to others to follow their example.18 When asked if the government would make arrangements for these British citizens in a strange land, he rejected the notion stating that, If they suffer any inconvenience, the blame will be on those that sent them not on those who receive them.19 The British government essentially extended the benefits of membership to aliens deemed acceptable for assimilation based on their racial makeup while denying such rights to their own citizens. Political decisions were clearly based on ideological assumptions, as the Labour Govern ment chose to recruit alien labor from the Continent while failing to extend the same po licies to British subjects of color. The government moved to distance itself from any racial pr ejudice and the issue of colored immigration claiming there was no colour pr ejudice at all with regard to [West Indian] employment. But debate en sued behind closed doors. A correspondence between Sir Harold Wiles and M.M. Bevan on 8 March 1948 indicates that consideration was given to the idea of using surplus col onial manpower to meet the labour shortage. Wiles suggested that: Unlike ex-prisoners of war or other aliens, I assume there could be no authority for deporting coloured British su bjects if they felt they wished to stay here and take their chance. If there were any assurance these people 18 Hansard, 8 June 1948, (451) 1851-3 in Joshi, The role of Labour in the creation of a racist Britain, 57. 19 Ibid. 13


could in fact be sent away when they had served their purpose, this proposition m ight be less unacceptable.20 Furthermore, he argued that he did not thi nk any scheme for the im portation of coloured colonials for permanent settlement should be embarked upon without full understanding that this means that a coloured element w ill be brought in for permanent absorption into our own population.21 However determined the Labour government was to curb the flow of colored migration from the colonies, as Arthur Creech-Jones, MP pointed out when asked if the government intended on establishing a system by which West Indian migrants could be vetted out and it ascertained beforehand whethe r they were suitable for employment in Britain, British leaders could not interfere with the movement of British subjects.22 While centuries of colonialism and an inform al national policy deemed colonial subjects inferior and unworthy of certain British rights, British law stated otherwiselaw that was introduced by the same Labour government. The Atlee administrations proposal for le gislation defining the status of British subjects was not based on a new found philosop hy of equality, but rather in an effort to shore up Empire at the close of the Second World War. By 1945 Britain's position as a world power had been diminished. Most of its manufacturing infrastructure was destroyed, its export economy severely cr ippled, and its war debts totaled over .7 billion. Economically exhausted, its overseas assets had been li quidated, leaving its ability to influence international affairs severe ly hampered. Determined to preserve its role alongside the U.S. and Soviet powers, the empire took on new significance in the 20 Letter from M.A. Wiles to M.M. Bevan, 8 March 1948 in Joshi, The role of La bour in the creation of a racist Britain, 59. 21 Ibid. 22 Hansard, 15 June 1948, (452) 421-2 in Joshi, The role of Labour in the creation of a racist Britain, 58. 14


postwar era.23 Representing the imperial popul ation of Great Britain and the Commonwealth verses just t hose that inhabited the Unite d Kingdom secured Britain a seat at the international tabl e. Thus, when the Canadian government proposed legislation defining independent Canadian citizenship, th e Labour government was forced to counter with legislation of its own. Prior to 1945, the United Kingdom had pe rmitted territories to create local citizenships intended to carry weight only in the area of or igin. In keeping with the notion of a single nationality throughout the Em pire, Her Majestys Government held that residents of the Empire were first and foremost British subjects. Proposed Canadian legislation attempted to challenge the status quo, placing exclusive Canadian citizenship above the status of British subject. Feari ng that any attempt to forestall the scheme would divide the Commonwealth and in due co urse imperial unity as a whole, British policy makers determined it wise to placate Ca nadian officials. Thus deliberations began to devise a British nationality law inte nding to appease Dominion governments while ultimately solidifying loyalty to the British crown. While policy makers were able to agree in terms of granting the dominions equal status, determining the position of colonials was met with difficulty. An Interdepartmental Working Party was assembled to establish the best strategy for colonial status. Countering the position of the Home and Foreign Offices that each colony should be granted a separate citizenship, the Coloni al Office argued that in order to ensure colonials continued to regard themselves as British they must share a single, common nationality with the United Kingdom. Best owing a separate citi zenship assigned them secondary status. 23 Dane Kennedy, Britain and Empire, 1880-1955 (Harlow: Pearson Education Limited, 2002), 87. 15


Intent on securing im perial unity and pres erving Britain's position at the center of the empire, the Atlee government put forth the 1948 British Nationality Act, creating a common citizenship for residents of the Un ited Kingdom and its colonies. Dominions were able to legislate their own citizenship laws, but these would remain secondary to those of the Great Britain. Allowing Dominion governments th e right to establish local citizenships appeased national governments wh ile at the same time reaffirming their citizens' common status as British subject. This overarching status as citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies (UKC) remained predominant on the international stage and thus secured Britain's position as a world power. Although Conservative MPs were rather ambiguous towards the Bill, it did not pass without resistance. The main point of contention between the two parties lay in extending the status of Britis h subject to citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies. The opposition argued that citizens of the colonies and Commonwealth were already British subjects, as imperial nationality was a right granted to all those born within the Empire. Such legislation serv ed to weaken imperial links. Conservatives objected to the proposed UKC citizenship on the pretext that creating a single citizenship for such a diverse collection of peoples was unsuitable. David Maxwell-Fyfe, the Conservative spokesman on home affairs, suggested that citizenship should be assigned based on a shared sense of community and status rather than parliamentary sovereignty.24 Labour was willing to look past the inform al policy in order to maintain the Empire and Britains international standing, wh ile the Tories continued to cling to the 24 Parliamentary Debates (Commons), 5th ser., vol. 453 (1948), cols. 401, 410, 1027-28 in Paul, British Subjects British Stock, 248. 16


f amilial British community of the old dominions.25 Labours goal was solely to ward off colonial independence and believed the Bill was a means by which they could give colonials a feeling that we recognize them as fellow citizens. But Labours objective of raising colonials to such a position of education, of trai ning, and of experience that they too shall be able to share the grant of full self-government which this House has so generously given in the last few years to other places offered the same notion of superiority and inequality as the Conservative position that colonials should not share a common citizenship with t hose in the United Kingdom.26 While Labours paternalistic view may seem more palatable, the fact remains that both parties, regardless of intentions, held a racialized view of the Empire and the world. The Labour government suggested colonials needed the British to educate and advance them, while Conservatives argued against the consideration of equal status. Regardless of any formal policy, members of both parties had a clear defin ition of Britishness and it did not include colored residents of Britains overseas possessions. Nonetheless, both parties remained cognizan t that Britain must present itself as a tolerant, progressive society. In the parlia mentary debates Conservative Maxwell Fyfe stated, We are proud that we impose no col our bar restrictions making it difficult for them when they come here we must ma intain our great metr opolitan tradition of hospitality to everyone from every part of our Empire.27 According to the Conservative policy of the next year, there must be freedom of movement amongst its members 25 Paul, British Subjects, British Stock, 248. 26 Parliamentary Debates (Commons), 5th ser., vol. 453 (1948), cols. 394-98; (Lords) 5th ser., vol. 155 (1984), col. 757 in Paul, British Subjects, British Stock, 249. 27 Parliamentary Debates (Commons), vol. 453, col. 405, 7 July 1948 in Zig Layton-Henry, The Politics of Immigration: Immigration, race, and Race Relations in Post-War Britain (Cambridge: Blackwell Publishers, 1992): 10. 17


within the British Em pire and Commonw ealth. New opportuniti es will present themselves not only in the countries overseas but in the Mother Country, and must be open to all citizens.28 Committed to the right of free movement, Conservatives were concerned about the rights of those residing in the indepe ndent Commonwealth countries of Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, but were aware that such rights would apply equally to the inhabitants in the Caribbean, Africa and Asia. However, it was assumed the majority of migration woul d be movement from Britain to the Empire and that the source of any inward flow would be the Old Dominions. By 1953 an estimated 40,000 non-white of immigrants had arrived in Great Britain. The influx of West Indian and Sout h Asian migration was characterized by chain migrationindividuals migrat ed, friends and relatives followed, who in turn sent for additional friends and relatives. The first wave of immigrants took accommodations in the industrial towns in which they found jobs ; they were later jo ined by relatives, allowing settlements of individuals from th e same family or village to become concentrated in a single neighborhood. The settlement pattern of colored migrants created ethnic pockets thr oughout Britain. For instance, th e majority of Pakistanis, especially those from the Mirpur district of Azad Kashmir, settled in the north, while Bangladeshis resided in East London and Guja rati Indians spread across the Midlands.29 As the concentration in Englands major ci ties became evident, hostility towards new settlers from their white wo rking-class neighbors became evident. The British working class had accepted the notion of common citizenship under the assumption it would 28 Conservative Central Office, The Right Road for Britain 1949 in Layton-Henry, The Politics of Immigration, 10. 29 Steven Vertovec, Islamophobia and Muslim Recognition in Britain, in Muslims in the West: From Sojourners to Citizens, ed. Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad (Oxford: University Press, 2002), 20. 18


rem ain theoretical, but when it seemed that co lored migrants were to be treated as their equals, or rather that their own position of superiority in relation to blacks was no longer recognized, the white working-class became seriously concerned.30 Black immigrants had been regarded with suspicion as early as 1919 when many colored men chose to remain in Britain after being discharged from His Majestys Forces and the Merchant Navy at the close of the First World War. The numbers were rather infinitesimal, but regardless of size, the co lored population was nonetheless regarded as alien. The black population was viewed as a pot ential threat to security, especially in terms of employment, thus it is no surprise that disturbances erupt ed between whites and colored migrants. Public opinion strongly fa voured the repatriation of Negroes to the Colonies and many in fact were persuaded to return and attempts were make to prevent further Negro immigration and to encourag e the replacement of coloured firemen by white on British ships. 31 Thus the combined sense of superiority engrained in Britons through centuries of imperialism coupled with perceived competiti on in employment and services posed by the arrival of black migrants produced tensions throughout England defined solely by race. Notions of colored im migrants as lazy, unsk illed individuals of low social status and bad hygiene began to spread. As more West Indian and South Asian migrants arrived in Englands industria l towns, tensions grew. Sporadic outbreaks of violence against blacks erupted in Deptford, Notting Hill and Nottingham, lending credence to any notion that colored immigra tion posed a problem in Britain. British politicians found themselves facing new problems as the 1950s progressed. While the 30 John Rex and Sally Tomlinson, Colonial Immigrants in a British City: A class analysis (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979): 49. 31 Anthony H. Richmond, Colour Prejudice in Britain: A Study of West Indian Workers in Liverpool, 19411951 (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1954): 20. 19


20 d th at: postwar Labour Governm ent had moved to strengthen imperial ties and rebuild Britains workforce, the Conservative government of the next decade faced a new set of challenges. The years immediat ely following the war have b een described as somewhat halcyon times, since politicians were able to take a relaxed attitude free of the pressures that haunted their successors in the next decade.32 Home Secretary Roy Jenkins asserte In the early fifties it was easy to be enlightened about immigration easy both for the progressive middle class who have always judged immigration policy with the objective vi ew that comes from rarely seeing a black face and never living next to a black neighbour, and for the industrial workers of Bradford and Birmingham.33 Jenkins argued that immigration was not a large issue until the latter half of the 1950s, as it was at this point that the Eden governme nt began to discuss the implementation of restrictive legislation. 32 D.W. Dean Conservative Governments and the Restriction of Commonwealth Immigration in the 1950s: The Problems of Constraint The Historical Journal (1992): 172. 33 Ibid.


CHAP TER TWO THE 1950s CONSERVATIVE GOVERNMENT There is a danger that may be faced with the need for urgent action when it is too late. The ideal time for legislation cannot be defined by reference to any precise criteria and the prudent cour se would be to legislate without delay.1 The arrival of colored immigrants to the United Kingdom posed a problem to fundamental liberal and conservative ideologies. The rise and fall of Nazi Germany and its doctrine of racial supremacy challenged previous beliefs in that imperial justification on the basis of racial superi ority was no longer acceptable. Thus, by the inter-war period a new set of doctrines had been introduced in the form of the white mans burden and the dual mandate, employing the notion of universal human rights, a belief shared by both political ideologies. But Conservative poli ticians held that while all men should be afforded the same rights under the law, this did not necessarily translate into equal opportunity or equality of life chances. The fundamentals of conservative political discussions were shaped by the idea that all men shared basic legal rights, but kept with the view that colonial natives should keep to their place. Liberal ideology held that state 1 Cabinet committee on possible legislation to control immigration from the Commonwealth (Kilmuir Committee), 22 June 1956, London, Public Record Office (PRO), CAB 129/81 CP 125 in D.W. Dean, Conservative Governments and the Restriction of Commonwealth Immigration in the 1950s: The Problems of Constraint Historical Journal (1992): 172. 21


intervention was necessary to ensure free dom and equal opportunity, but the notion of universal human rights throughout the Empire forced liberalism to change its nature. Some Liberals answered with ardent an ti-imperialism, while others chose to compartmentalize their ideology, suggesting it pertained only to the domestic metropolis. Thus, the migration of colonial natives to Britain presented a seri ous challenge to both conservative and liberal beliefs.2 Members within the Labour and Conservati ve parties held different positions in terms of immigration. Some Conservative s favored immigration on economic grounds, understanding the dire need fo r labor within Britain. Former colonials often defended immigration in an effort to speak of for thos e they formerly governed. But there was also a faction of the Conservativ e party that opposed immigration all along. These members generally remained backbenchers until given a voice by the 1958 riots and 1964 election in Smethwick. Labour radicals fa vored immigration on the same grounds as those Conservatives who had the economic de velopment of Britain in mind; idealists favored immigration in order to keep the Co mmonwealth in tact. In the minority before 1963, Labours Conservative Right opposed non-white immigration purely on racial grounds, believing that regardless of the econom ic benefits colored migration presented, non-whites could not be assimilated or absorbed into British culture. Overall, the Labour party showed concern with immigration from the start. In May 1950, the Secretary of State for the Col onies issued a memorandum requested by the Cabinet addressing the immigration of col oured people to the United Kingdom. The report suggested that coloured immigration was posing problems in the areas of housing, 2 John Rex and Sally Tomlinson, Colonial Immigrants in a British City: A class analysis (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979): 37. 22


em ployment, and law and order and proposed discouraging coloured colonials from migrating as a potential solution; however, in ascertaining that the number of coloured migrants was still relatively small, the Labour government determined it unnecessary to take immediate action.3 The point is that the admini stration was considering it and it should be noted that there was serious concern amongst Labour politicians over the immigration of a few thousand black people. The Cabinet revisited the issue one month later to review the possible measures for cont rol and potential ramifi cations of restrictive legislation,4 but it was determined again that the coloured population in Britain was so small that taking any controversial action shou ld be avoided, and though not justifiable at the time, any future increase may warrant control.5 The fact that the Labour government ente red discussions about curbing colonial immigration while still in the midst of a labor shortage substantiates the claim that racial prejudice was a clear factor in the Labour governments discouraging mindset. While the attitude of trade unions and fear that the reconstruction effort would be short-lived played a part, had all imported labor been of pure Eu ropean descent, restrictive measures would hardly have been discussed, as they were welcomed as a positive asset, while black workers were seen as provoking racial prejudi ce and causing public disturbances. Thus illegitimate reasons were invented by some civ il servants in an attempt to justify control.6 Sharing Labours concerns and recogn izing that a potenti al problem may be brewing, after taking power in 1951 the C onservative government began discussing 3 Zig Layton-Henry, The Politics of Immigration: Immigration, Race, and Race Relations in Post-War Britain (Cambridge: Blackwell Publishers, 1992), 20. 4 Cabinet Papers, Coloured people from the British colonial territories memorandum by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, (50) 113, 18 May 1950, Public Record Office in Layton-Henry, The Politics of Immigration 30. 5 Ibid. 6 Layton-Henry, The Politics of Immigration, 31. 23


restrictive legislation, albeit behind closed doors. Such legislation was not presented in the 1950s for several reasons centering on the desire to keep Brita in in good standing with the Co mmonwealth and maintain her pos ition as a world power; furthermore the Tories wanted to prove that they could re solve the economic problems resulting from the war and regain and solidify their position as the natural rulers of Britain. Issues abroad were beginning to pose probl ems, mainly the nationalist regime in Britains dominion of South Af rica and its open segregationi st policies. World opinion held that the United Nations should interced e, a notion that the Conservative government did not support on the basis th at stepping in may drive th e nationalists further into isolation. Nonetheless, worried about the international repercussions, British officials knew they needed to present themselves as hos tile to the racist pol icies developing in the area and were aware that any sense of a race relations issue brewing in Britain would call their position into question. As Lord Salisbur y stated, We have a reputation to maintain as champion of liberal western civilisation. We must maintain this reputation not only in the UN but also before our public opinion and what is more important with our colonies.7 The Churchill administration wanted to present an enlightened view of conservatism to the world, thus whenever sugge stions of restriction were voiced in the Cabinet protests were raised in fear of a blanket policy which may prohibit the entry of Commonwealth citizens. Lord Hume stated, we do not wish to keep out immigration is a 7 Lord Salisbury, 24 September 1952, CAB 129/55 CP 122 in D.W. Dean Conservative Governments and the Restriction of Commonwealth Immigration in the 1950s: The Problems of Constraint The Historical Journal (1992), 175. 24


policy to which we have always subscribed,8 his predecessor Lord Swinton suggesting that If we legislate on immigr ation, though we draft in non-discriminatory terms, we cannot conceal the obvious fact that the object is to keep out coloured peoples. Unless there is really a strong case for this, it woul d surely be an unwise moment to raise the issue when we are preaching and trying to pr actise partnership in the abolution of the Colour Bar.9 Events in the southern United States highlighted racial tensions in the international arena, presenting an opportunity for British leadership to present the multiracial Commonwealth as a symbol of tolerance and newly enlightened force.10 Concerned about the oppositions reaction to proposed restrictions, Conservative leaders hesitated to put forth any legislation that may prove controversial; any changes to immigration policy needed to be free of partisan politics. In order to prevent giving the Labour government an opportunity to take the moral high ground and avoid the embarrassment of having the opposition and half the Commonwealth against them, the Churchill administration deemed it necessa ry to gauge Labour opinion and possible reaction. The Conservative government held deliberation over possible restrictive legislation in 1954 at which time Lord Sw inton urged Cabinet Members to establish contact with members of the Labour party.11 There was cause to believe that the Labour party would adamantly oppose restrictions, as pressure against disc rimination was always presented by Labour politicians, many of which pressed for legisla tion that would ensure equal treatment in 8 Lord Home, 2 September 1955, CAB 129/77 CP 113 in Dean, Conservative Governments and the Restriction of Commonwealth Immigration in the 1950s, 174. 9 Lord Swinton to Lord Salisbury, 14 March 1954, CAB 124/1191 in Dean, Conservative Governments and the Restriction of Commonwealth Immigration in the 1950s, 175. 10 Dean, Conservative Governments and the Restriction of Commonwealth Immigration in the 1950s, 174. 11 Ibid., 186. 25


em ployment and housing. As Labour repres entative Kenneth Robinson stated, he doubted if the government would introduce legi slation to limit immigration because they know the opposition they would meet.12 While it may have been a risk to adopt a position that may prove unpopular amongst the wh ite, working class, Labour leaders did not think race would become an issue. At the time, most discussions were held within confined political circles; they believed they had little to lose politically and perhaps more to gain by taking the mora l high ground and opposing restriction. Race may not have become an issue had the rate of immigration remained as it was at the beginning of the 1950s; however, th e rate did increasewithin twenty years there were 1.6 million colored people living in Britain.13 The changing demographic served to benefit the position of backbenchers such as Cyril Osborn, Normal Pannell, Harold Gurden, and Martin Lindsay who, oppos ing immigration, cited inflated figures and warned against the possible ramifications of mass immigration such as overcrowded hospitals, the resurfac ing of diseases such as tuberc ulosis, and increased criminal activity.14 While racist ideas in Parliament remained the minority, the constituency for which they spoke began to increase steadily as the 1950s progressed. In 1954 The Times published an article titled First Signs of a British Colour Problem and several years later the BBC presented a special program on the subject. Public concern began to grow, centered on issues such as hous ing, particularly in the indus trial areas and the suggestion 12 Kenneth Robinson at the conference of the Movement of Colonial Freedom, January 1955, Labour party archives GS/RAC/176 in Dean, Conservative Governments and the Restriction of Commonwealth Immigration in the 1950s, 186. 13 Hansard, 594.(29 October 1958): 196 in Fred R. van Ha rtesveldt, Race and Politi cal Parties in Britain, 1954-1965 Phlyon (1983), 128. 14 Van Hartesveldt, Race and Politi cal Parties in Britain, 128. 26


that slum conditions were worsening due to overcrowding an unsanitary conditions of West Indian and Asian immigrants. Reports issued by a 1958 working party noted that colored immigrants lived in dirty and overcrowded conditions which wa s as much from choice as necessity,15 and that they were employed in unskilled jobs of the lowest grade industries. According to the reports, Southeast Asians were difficult to place in employment due to their inability to speak English [were] 16 and unemployment was certain to increase due to the scarcity of semi and unskilled jobs, which were the only ones for which coloured people suitable.17 In addition, the working party note d that they were not Christian.18 But these same reports noted that the immigrants were law-abiding, tend[ed] to keep to themselves, and form[ed] a useful a ddition to the countrys labour force.19 Reports went on to describe the South Asian immigrants as showing no desire to mix with white people or other immigrants and noted that th e arrival of increasing numbers fosters the tendency to associate on ly with each other.20 Police reports warned that the degree of assimilation failed to increase, but the Britis h administration never attempted to promote the integration of such migrants. Cabinet ministers focused solely on the prevention of further migration, never contemplating how the problems they believed to be associated 15 CAB 134/1466, Cabinet Committee of Colonial Immigrants: Progress Report by the Inter-Departmental Working Party on Social and Economic Problems, 4 September, 1958. 16 CAB 134/1466 Cabinet Committee of Colonial Immigrants: Progress Report by the Inter-Departmental Working Party on Social and Economic Problems, 17 February 1958. 17 CAB 134/1466 Cabinet Committee on Colonial Immigrants: Report of the Committee of Ministers, no date. 18 CAB 134/1466 Coloured Immigration: Review of Developments, 11 March 1958. 19 CAB 134/1466 Cabinet Committee on Colonial Immigrants: Report of the Committee of Ministers, 10 March 1958. 20 CAB 134/1466 Cabinet Committee on Colonial Immigrants: Report of the Committee of Ministers, 10 March 1958. 27


with m igration could be ameliorated by any other means than nationality law.21 Furthermore, cabinet papers note that this lack of intermingling was due to the attitude of both races.22 The majority of immigrants in the ea rly 1950s were West Indian; they were viewed as noisy and having loose sexual mo rals. The high number of single men and convenience of a common language resulted in more interaction between the races and prostitution than would have been the case had families migrated together.23 The influx of South Asian migration in the late 1950s to early 1960s was characterized by chai migrationindividuals migrat ed, friends and relatives followed, who in turn sent for additional friends and relatives. The first wave of immigrants took accommodations in the industrial towns in which they found jobs ; they were later jo ined by relatives, allowing settlements of individuals from th e same family or village to become concentrated in a single neighborhood, cr eating ethnic pockets throughout Britain. The segregation of communities came to be s een as the self-segregation created by immigrants; the belief spread that the ethni c community was attempting to create its own exclusive neighborhoods in an attempt to exclude whites and prevent the mixing of cultures. n In the summer of 1958 riots broke out betw een colored immigran ts and whites in Nottingham and Notting Hill. Labe led a race riots by the press, it is unclear whether the actions were inspired by racial strife but, nonetheless, backbenchers pushing for restrictions attempted to use the events in their favor, arguin g that What we ignore at our 21 Kathleen Paul, Whitewashing Britain: Race and Citizenship in the Postwar Era, (New York: Cornell University Press, 1997), 156. 22 CAB 134/1466 Cabinet Committee on Colonial Immigrants: Report of the Committee of Ministers, no date. 23 Van Hartesveldt, Race and Politi cal Parties in Britain, 129. 28


peril is the bitter resentm ent often fe lt by the local white English citizens.24 Those favoring control began to lobby for restrictions as soon as Parliament returned to session; the cause was the same, but the arguments diffe rent. Sooner or late r some control would have to be put on. If it is not put on soon we sh all, whether we like it or notthis is what I fear and am very frightened about ithave Little Rocks and Notting Hill incidents over and over again.25 However, the administration decided it was not the opportune time to present such legislation, part ly due to the recent Suez Cris is and its effects through out the Commonwealth. The immediate government reaction was to ensure that law and order was maintained in the areas. It would be desirable to make it clear that, in the view of the Government, law and order must be maintained irresp ective of the racial characteristics of individuals. It would be important to avoid, if possible, any major pronouncement on Commonwealth immigrati on. We should continue to deal with the problem empirically and shall base our action on the practical considerations of the availa bility of housing and the capacity of the labor market.26 On the surface the government continue d to support the notion of a common status for all Commonwealth citizens, however, behind clos ed doors were attempting to restrict entry by other means such as ad ministrative legislations and government circulars and letters.27 The government adopted a series of administrative controls in an attempt to curb the flow stemming from the I ndian sub-continent. Such controls were 24 A working party of Conservative central office officials under Mrs. Henry Brooke, 7 November 1957, Conservative party archives, Bodl. Lib. CCO 4/7/166 in Dean, Conservative Governments and the Restriction of Commonwealth Immigration in the 1950s, 188. 25 Cyril Osborne, House of Commons debates, 29 October 1958, vol. 594, col. 197 in Dean, Conservative Governments and the Restriction of Commonwealth Immigration in the 1950s, 189. 26 Cabinet conclusion, 8 September 1958, CAB 128/32 in in Dean, Conservative Governments and the Restriction of Commonwealth Immigration in the 1950s, 190. 27 Lauren McLaren and Mark Johnson, Resources, Group Conflict and Symbols: Explaining AntiImmigration Hostility in Britain, Political Studies (2007), 710. 29


enforced by the governm ents of India and Pa kistan. Passport application fees were increased and deposits required to cover possible repatriation fees.28 Passports were denied on the basis that prospects did not intend on permanently establishing themselves in the United Kingdom29, and notices were placed in I ndian newspapers detailing the harsh living conditions and unemployment migr ants were likely to find in Britain. Public awareness of the immigration situation had been building through the 1950; by the end of the decade public opinion became more important to the political parties, thus, Conservative and Labour leader s were forced to formulate party policy. The Tories remained divided, with some be lieving there was considerable support behind the idea of restrictive immigration while ot hers feared taking a ny controversial position so close to an election. The Labour part y reacted by moving towards the opposition of controls and proposition of disc rimination laws, however, there were clear anti-immigrant and racist feelings within the trade uni on movement which the Parliamentary Labour Party chose to ignore for purpos es of political expediency.30 Although discussions on immigration control became more public, the leadership of both parties avoided commenting on the race issue outright. Howeve r, Tory candidates used racial innuendo to attack some Labour candidates with liber al records in terms of immigration, and Conservative backbenchers placed increased pr essure on the leadership of their own party to control immigration. 28 Paul, Whitewashing Britain 152. 29 PRO DO35/5216, no date. 30 Van Hartesveldt, Race and Politi cal Parties in Britain, 129. 30


To the cred it of party leadership, immigration and race relations were not part of the 1959 election.31 With the Tories returning to power, it was likely no serious consideration was going to be given to restri ctive legislation or any anti-discrimination laws, however, the resounding Conservative vi ctory brought a faction of new Members to the House of Commons who, hailing from constituencies with a large number of immigrants, favored demands for control.32 These members could claim direct constituency experience of the difficulties a ssociated with immigrationa claim which, for reasons of electoral geogr aphy, was previously mainly confined to Labour Members. But perhaps most significant, these Members were claiming the view they were putting forward as representative of public opinion at large. In this claim they were assisted by the setting up in the Birmingham area of a lobbying organization, the Birmingham Immigration Control Association.33 Given a voice by the riots of 1958 and fostered by the election of Ministers favoring their cause, political backbenchers not only became more vocal, but also started to organize their efforts. At the beginning of 1961, Conservative MP for Selly Oak, Harold Gurden, organized a privat e meeting of backbenchers from London, Birmingham, Liverpool, and Manc hester, all areas w ith large concentrat ions of coloured migrants, to organize their effort s to support restrictive legislation.34 A motion was presented by Cyril Osborne that required Co mmonwealth immigrants to present evidence that they had guaranteed employment and housing, were in good health and no criminal 31 D.E. Butler and R. Rose, The British General Election of 1959 (London, 1960), 45-67 in John Carson, A Matter of Policy: The Lessons of Recent British Race Relations Legislation, Albion A Quarterly Journal Concerned with British Studies (1976), 158. 32 Carson, A Matter of Policy, 158. 33 Paul Foot, Immigration and Race in British Politics (Middlesex: Penguin Books, Ltd., 1965): 133. 34 Race Relations Institute, Newsletter, February 1961, p. 6 in Van Hart esveldt, Race and Political Parties in Britain, 130. 31


record in order to reside in Britain, suggesting that such m easures were necessary to do the housing crisis, unemployment rates, growth of slums, and strain on welfare services. Nationally, unemployment wasnt necessarily a grave issue however rates remained high in areas where there were large concentrati ons of immigrants. But what backbenchers failed to mention was that as much as one-third of unemployed immigrants were women and two-thirds had been out of work for less than eight weeks.35 But the racial motives behind such positions were illuminated by remarks made by Osborne and other proponents of control. Osborne stated that the reasons colored immigrants were such a problem was because they have altogether a different standard of civilization,36 and that This is a white mans country and I was it to remain so.37 Osborne and Pannell went on to contend that the construction of a Sikh temple in Smethwick served as a threat to Christian ity and that the influx of immigrants was causing a serious outbreak of venereal disease.38 While some Members showed genuine concern based on housing and employment issu es, the debates still took on an openly racial tone. But party leader ship continued to minimize ev ery problem mentioned in an attempt to avoid any notions of discrimination. Ironically, David Renton, government spokesman and Joint Under-Secretary of St ate for the Home Office stated that the problems would become worse if immigra tion continued, declaring that although Government was not ready to take action, they were considering possible solutions.39 35 Hansard, 639 (May 3, 1961): 1343-33; 600 (May 10, 1961): 415-417 in Van Hartesveldt, Race and Political Parties in Britain, 131. 36 Hansard, 634 (February 17, 1961): 1933 in Van Hartesveldt, Race and Political Parties in Britain, 130. 37 Ibid. 38 Hansard, 645 (August 1, 1961): 1320-38 in Van Hartesveldt, Race and Politi cal Parties in Britain, 131. 39 Hansard, 634 (February 17, 1961): 1991 in Van Hartesveldt, Race and Political Parties in Britain, 130. 32


33 Fred van Hardsvedlt argued that no rati onal political can afford to ignore an issue of concern to more than 80 percent of the electorate, but the question remains whether the vast majority of Britons opposed colored immigration to the extent that the backbenchers claimed.40 Home Secretary R.A. Butler openly admitted that the Government had begun to move towards cont rol, but it is necessary to investigate whether public opinion drove government or th e actions of the political elite shaped public opinion. While some believe th at public opinion created pressures on Government, many argue that it as the gove rnment that politicized the problems associated with coloured immigration in order to show the pub lic the necessity of introduction immigration control;41 although public opinion is often perceived by a few observers as creating pressure s on the Government to pass re strictive legislation, many claim that actions and inactions of elite poli tical were responsible for the state of public opinion and for governmental action in the fields of race relations and immigration policy.42 Furthermore, in light of the introduc tion of the Commonwea lth Immigrants Bill of 1962, we must ask what caused Government to abandon the policy they firmly believed would solidify their position as a world power. 40 Van Hartesveldt, Race and Politi cal Parties in Britain, 132. 41 Kathleen Paul, Whitewashing Britain: Race and Citizenship in the Postwar Era (New York: Cornell University Press, 1997). 42 Donely T. Studlar, British Public Opinion, Co lor Issues, and Enoch Powell: A Longitudinal Analysis British Journal of Political Science (1974), 371.


CHAPTER THREE TOWARDS RESTRICTION AND INTO THE PUBLIC GAZE Through the 1940s and early 1950s there wa s little official or public concern about the flow of m igration from the New Commonwealth. Such migration was accepted by the Labour and Conservative Governments on the basis that it was part of the joint economic effort to rebuild Britain after the Se cond World War and the belief that liberal legislation was necessary in order to main tain Commonwealth unity. The arrival of colored immigrants caused little reaction fr om the British public; it was generally assumed that such migrants would assimilate culturally and economically into greater British society. The issue remained in a pre-political age due to an unspoken consensus that any problems that existed w ould right themselves in the end.1 Some Conservative backbenchers voiced discontent and several atte mpts made at the Cabinet level to limit the number arrivals, none of which really came to fruition due to the Nationality Act of 1948. Restricting immigration would invol ve amending the Act, which was both a complicated parliamentary procedure and an act the government wa nted to avoid for reasons highlighted previously.2 1 Ira Katznelson, Black Men, White Cities: Politics and Migrations in the United States, 1900-30 and Great Britain, 1948-1968 (London: Oxford University Press, 1973), 130. 2 Romain Garbaye, British Cities and Ethnic Minoritie s in the Post-war Era: Front Xenophobic Agitation to Multi-Ethnic Government Immigrants and Minorities (2003), 304. 34


Following the 1958 rio ts in Nottingham and Notting Hill, incidents that influenced Conservative bac kbenchers, brought more illiber al parliamentary candidates to office, and sparked a sense of xenophobia within Conservative local organizations, the race and immigration issue was be coming more and more divisive.3 Initially the two parties held opposite views on th e issue; the Conservative leadership was beginning to react to the pressure from those favoring re strictions, while Labour remained vehemently opposed. However, within a few years, the deba te moved from polarization to consensus. In an effort to prohibit the issue from elec toral contests, both pa rties adopted moderate and somewhat interchangeable positions on immigration.4 Through out the 1950s the Labour Party was dominated by those who supported human equality, but as the decade came to a cl ose, party leaders began to recognize the political dangers of taking such a position. As the controversy gr ew more intense, it began to take on unmistakable political overtones. In July 1960 the official policy of free entry still remained, but increasing pressure was placed on the governments of Pakistan, India and the West Indies to control emigration from their ports. In the meantime, local Conservatives began to challe nge Labour candidates with more openly racist campaigns; the Tories implied that Labour favored im migration, later associating any issues associated with blacks as problems fostered by Labours position.5 In 1962 a faction of the Labour part y supporting a centrist view emerged. Members such as Richard Crossman, Roy Ha ttersley, Frank Soskice, and Labour leader Harold Wilson supported entry restrictions on the grounds that they would allay the sense 3 Anthony Messina, Race and Party Competition in Britain (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989): 24. 4 Ibid, 53. 5 Fred R. van Hartesveldt, Race and Political Pa rties in Britain, 1954-1965 Phlyon (1983), 130. 35


of xenophobia em erging in Britain; a position that, unlike that of the Conservatives, was not racially prejudice. Howe ver, it is important to note th at the main concern of Labour was to become the majority party in Britain which they believed they could accomplish by taking the middle ground. They believed race issue as politically vo latile, a political joker that not only could impe de Labour from immediately gaining power but, also, and perhaps more importantly, deflect the party fr om its post-1951 adhere nce to centrist, nonideological politics.6 Labours new race policy was merely part of a strategy, which while repugnant to the partys Le ft, was viewed as fundamental to Centrists in an effort to gain national office. Centrist MPs firmly believed that the only way to gain a parliamentary majority was to capture the middle-ground and to do so must project a more contemporary, classless image than in th e past; to be regarded as efficient, energetic and up-to-date con cerned with the problems of the 60s and the new Britain.7 Thus, party leaders made the decision to avoid all policy commitments that might polarize public opinion along party lines and ad opted the same position as the opposition. As Richard Crossman stated, We felt we had to out-trump the Tories by doing what they would have done and so transforming th eir policy into a bipartisan policy.8 By aligning with the political opposition, Labour leaders hoped to avoid taking a position that may require public defense.9 Research shows that the Conservative Government of the 1950s sought evidence proving that colored immigrati on posed a problem in Britain in order to justify the consideration and later implementation of legisl ation restricting the British settlement of 6 Messina, Race and Party Competition in Britain 32. 7 Ralph Miliband, Parliamentary Socialism (London: Merlin Press, 1979): 350-77 in Messina, Race and Party Competition in Britain 33. 8 Messina, Race and Party Competition in Britain 34. 9 Ibid. 36


colored m igrants from the New Commonwealt h. In 1955 the Cabinet ascertained that public opinion had not matured sufficiently enough to guarantee support for restrictive measures.10 Opinion poll data shows that in 1951, only a third of those polled were opposed to the entry of British subjects from the colonies; in 1956, as much as 71 percent agreed that coloured British subjects had a right to enter Britain when compared to European migrants such as Italians and Poles.11 Yet just a few years later, polls suggest widespread support for immigration control.12 Public opinion seemed to change drastically in just a few years time. Originally tolerant of migration from the Commonwealth, the British public bega n to take a rather hostile stance. Robert Miles s uggests that contrary to arguments that racist ideals stemming from a colonial past permeated a ll of British society, British public opinion regarding colonial immigration remained rather fluid. He argues against the notion that racism was a monolithic ideological bloc noting that while propaganda such as contemporary newspaper headlines and racially charged cartoons were present, what needs to be examined is whether or not the British public actually received the message and whether it remained relevant.13 Furthermore, it is importa nt consider the impact of government action on the nature of British publ ic opinion. In moving towards restriction, were the political elite responding to mass opi nion, or had the government cultivated an atmosphere of intolerance in order to justify restrictive measures? 10 Carter et al., The 1951-55 Conservative Government, 344 in Robert Miles, The Racialization of British Politics, Political studies (1990), 284. 11 Michael Banton, The Influence of colonial status upon black-white relations in England, 1948-1958, Sociology (1983), 551-2. 12 Miles, The Racialization of British Politics, Political studies (1990), 283-4. 13 Ibid. 37


Through out the 1950s and into the 1960s the im portance of Commonwealth had begun to fade. The Cold War of the 1960s broug ht in what Harold Macmillan called the winds of change; the United States and S oviet Union began to vie for the support of independence movements in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean, severely marginalizing and sense of British influence.14 At the heart of the matter wa s the economy. Exhausted from the cost of the war, Britain was no longer ab le to afford her empire, as new military technology had made imperial defense much more expensive, albeit the costs of empire had begun to outweigh the benefits long befo re. British defense expenditures amounted to 5.8 percent of gross national produc t between 1947 and 1987; no longer able to manage her trade deficit with the income from overseas investments, Britain faced a crushing foreign debt burden, not to mention that the much larger costs of nationalized health care, transport and industry had to be met.15 After the Second World War, Britain turned to the United States for a loan, the ra mifications of which proved grave, ultimately diminishing Britains international power. In return for the loan, US policy makers insisted the conversion of the pound into the dollar within a year resulting in a run on the Bank of England and starting the first is a seri es of sterling crises. In the early 1950s, Harold Macmillan declared that the choice facing the country was between the slide into a shoddy and slushy Socialism (and second rate po wer), or the march to the third British Empire. After Suez only the first option seemed to remain.16 The total of trade with the Commonwealth remained substantially large, but after the British entry into the Common Market, European protectionist tariffs forced British 14 Naill Ferguson, Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World (London: Penguin Books, Ltd., 2003): 359. 15 Ibid., 360. 16 Ibid., 361. 38


trade to focus on the con tinent rather than the Commonwealth. But the issue with the Commonwealth was not necessa rily its waning economic importance to the United Kingdom, but rather its growing political impotence.17 With Britains gradual decline, international dominance was no longer of dras tic importance. Political leaders turned their focus away from the preservation of Empire and Commonwealth and towards the maintenance of Great Britain itself. With Commonwealth unity no longer at the forefront of political minds, the government was able to consider restrictive legislation, regardless of its implications. Thus, the Conservative government passed the Commonwealth Immigrants Act in 1962 because, the formal policy was no longer capable of maintaining Empire in its most desirable form its commitment to free entry threatened the political elites perception of the tr ue identity of the British people.18 The actions of government and state offi cials were partly motivated by racism, and in terms of racism within the overall British population, many argue that this was simply a means by which to legitimize the actions taken by the political elite. Citing the overall unity of British society as their goa l, decision-makers believed it necessary to prevent a significant change in the raci al character of the English people.19 Convinced any significant change in the racial makeup of Britain would pose serious problems between whites and coloured people, l eaders believed it necessary to manipulated public opinion in an effort to ensure that th e British public reached the same conclusions. Public opinion on the issue had barely formed in the late 1940s into the 1950s, thus 17 Ibid. 18 Kathleen Paul, British Subjects and British Stoc k: Labours Postwar Imperialism, The Journal of British Studies (1995), 276. 19 Carter et. al., The 1951-55 Conservative Government, 338 in Robert Miles, The Racialization of British Politics, Political studies (1990), 284. 39


British officials n eeded to convince the masse s that the presence of colored immigrants was problematic and, thus, needed to be prevented.20 At the end of 1960 the Home Office contemplated possible administrative and regulatory means which might be employed in order to reduce immigration form certain parts of the Commonwealth, but th eir efforts proved ineffective. As Colonial Secretary Iain MacLeod stated, administrative measures will not really serve. The choice must be between trying to hold these administ rative measures or legislation.21 Thus, a Cabinet committee was formed to examine immigrati on and consider the possibility for broad legislative controls.22 Determined to exhaust all ideas surrounding limited emigration and not yet committed to restrictive legislat ion, the Government placed the issue of immigration on the agenda for the 1961 Comm onwealth Prime Mini sters Conference.23 The placement of immigration control on the back burner fueled the cause of backbenchers, prompting them to respond with new found vigor. In a letter to The Times Harold Gurden, MP stated that the satura tion point of immigration had been reached throughout the Midlands.24 Conversations surrounding controls became more widespread, pushing the issue into the pub lic eye and increasing the urgency for restrict ns ive measures. Immigration Control Associations began to form at the end of 1960 and beginning of 1961 to lobby Parliament and publicize the dire need for legislation. The associatio took on extremely racist tones. Letters were published speak ing to the threat colored 20 Miles, The Racialization of British Politics, Political studies (1990), 284-5.. 21 Parliamentary Debates (Commons), vol. 631, col. 585 in John Carson, A Matter of Policy: The Lessons of Recent British Race Relations Legislation Albion: A Quarterly Journal Concerned with British Studies (1976), 159. 22 The Times December 2, 1960. 23 The Times December 16, 1960. 24 The Times December 13, 1960. 40


imm igration posed to the spirit and purity of white Christians, the dangers of a multiracial society,25 and notions of overcrowded hospita ls and strange diseases continued. The most powerful organization was the Bi rmingham Immigration Control Association (BICA). The organization, formed in Octobe r 1960, called for restrictions to immigr settlement within Birmingham; their cause was given a great deal of publicity in the Birmingham Mail The group sent postcards to the House of Commons declar residents of Birmingham were suffe ring the consequences of uncontrolled immigration, and called on Members of Parlia ment to vote against the come-who-m policy or lose the senders vote; the group went on to ci rculate petitions for Cyril Osborne, collecting some 50,000 signatures. ant ing that ay ggest vists with anti-immigration organizations such as the BIC on a ngle issue [and] their ability to m ove freely among members of at uing a Immigration statistics and the demand for action from the rank-and-file Members of 26 With anti-immigrant organizations such making the intensity of grass-r oots anti-immigrant sentiment quite evident, some su that the Conservative governments move to wards restriction was in response to the involvement of local Conservative acti A.27 As Paul Foot suggested: [I]mmigration Control A ssociations which arose in Birmingham and the surrounding area in 1960 and 1961, by means of their concentration si established political parties had a great impact on British politics. The Government responded to anti-immigrant charges by stating that rumors th restrictive legislation was be ing contemplated were false with Iain MacLeod iss categorical denial to the press. But thes e were false statements in themselves. 25 Cyril Osborne, Should We Control Immigration?, The Church of England Newspaper, 7 July 1960 in Carson, A Matter of Policy: The Lessons of Recent British Race Relations Legislation, 161. 26 Paul Foot, Immigration and Race in British Po litics (Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1965) 201-2. 27 Anthony Messina, Race and Party Competition in Brita in (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), 24. 41


Parliam ent forced a decisive response from Conservative party leadership.28 At the annual conference of the National Union of Cons ervative and Unionist Associations held in October 1961, Home Secret ary R.A. Butler announced that all possible solutions had been considered and ultimately found ine ffective, thus, immigration controls were necessary and that restrictive legislation would be introduced.29 The Commonwealth Immigrant Bill was published twenty four hour s after Parliament opened on November 1, 1961, receiving Royal Assent on April 18, 1962.30 Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and R.A. Butler cited the cost of housing and influx of migrants as the official reasons for the Bill, noting that the tendency of immigrants to cluster into certain areas wa s causing social problems in Britain. They claimed that the government would not be able to control such problems if immigrants continued to arrive at the current rate. The Bill introduced a voucher system, granting migrants entry based on their skill and whet her they had secured employment before arrival. But the Bill clearly had a color bi as, as the Irish were conveniently exemptall other groups arriving in significant numbers were colored. The Labour opposition to the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill was led by Hugh Gaitskell who argued that the b ill will be regarded very la rgely throughout the world as the imposition of a colour bar31 He cautioned against restricting Commonwealth migrants while opening the door to Eur opeans by entering the European Economic Community, stating that it was a very sad da y for the Commonwealth and that the true 28 Carson, A Matter of Policy: The Lessons of Recent British Race Relations Legislation, 161. 29 National Union of Conservative and Unionist Associations, Official Report of the Eightieth Annual Conference, October 11-14, 1961, 26-33 in Carson, A Matter of Po licy: The Lessons of Recent British Race Relations Legislation, 161. 30 Parliamentary Debates (Commons), vols. 650, 651, 652, 653, 654, 657 and 658 in Carson, A Matter of Policy: The Lessons of Recent British Race Relations Legislation, 161. 31 Hansard, 648 (October 31, 1961): 26 in van Hartesveldt, Race and Political Pa rties in Britain, 19541965 (1983), 132. 42


motive f or the Bill was colour and fear of racial disorder.32 Other liberals agreed in terms of the racial bias and its certain eff ect on Commonwealth relations, thus urging the Labour party to eliminate it at first chance.33 But with Gaitskells death in January 1963, Harold Wilson, now leading the Party, moved away from the opposing position, later that year conceding that control was necessary and suggesting Labours position never changed, as it was Tory methods of control they had opposed all along not the Conservative position. By the time the Commonwealth Immigrants Act was adopted in 1962 there were already an estimated 400,000+ migrants from th e West Indies, India and Pakistan living in Great Britain. The government was primar ily concerned with ha lting the flow of new immigrants; by time action was taken, Britain was already a multicultural society. Some suggest that it was the Act itself that created a multiracial so ciety as it allowed for family reunification and high quot as on new immigration.34 Whether or not the clear influx if immigration was due to the imminence of the Act is still a matter of debate, but the fact remains that between 1940 and 1950, 211,640 people emigrated from India, Pakistan and the Caribbean; during 1961 and the first half of 1962, before the Act came into force, 191,060 arrived on British shores.35 The talk of restrictions and formation of control associations pushed the race and immigration onto the public stage. A subject previously debated in Cabinet surgeries was beginning to receive public attention. In their vigorous at tempt to pressure party leaders, political backbenchers were more apt to par ticipate in editorial debates and make public 32 Ibid., 649 (November 16, 1961): 792, 796, 803. 33 Ibid., 654 (February 27, 1962): 1228-29, 1231, 1235. 34 Lauren McLaren and Mark Johnson Resources, Group Conflict and Symbols: Explaining AntiImmigration Hostility in Britain Political Studies (2007), 711. 35 Peter Evans, Immigration: British-Style Transition (1971), 42. 43


statem ents, the content of which became mo re and more exaggerated and racially charged. In a meeting of the West Indian Immigrants Committee in December 1961, it was stated that: Since the public discussion of the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill there had undoubtedly been increased sensitivity amount West Indians, who were worried about the likely attitude of their English neighbors. There was a feeling that those people who were prejudiced against coloured people might feel strengthened in their attitude by the Government decision to introduce legislation.36 Furthermore, the Commission had received reports of West Indians having been insulted in the streets and public houses, and since the publication of the Bill there had also been an increase in activity of organizations opposing colored immigration. It was reported that the Commission had received a vast number of reports suggesting there was a significant change in the attitude of police o fficers against West Indians; there had been many allegations of physical manhandling of West Indians by the police.37 Growing local tensions spurred civic-minde d white residents to create Voluntary Liaison Committees (VLCs) in many cities. W ith the aid of local churches and councils, such organizations sought to assist immigrants to get settled in their new home. They carried out a diverse set of func tions including the delivery of juridical and social services such as the administration of English cla sses. The committees had a paternalistic conception of the welfare of immigrants, as th ey were primarily focused on explaining to colored migrants how to conform to British soci ety. At the time of creation, they were neither efficient nor politically expedient. Generally run by vol unteers, VLCs were 36 CO 1031/ 3931, 19 December 1961,Extracts from minutes of meeting of West Indian Immigrants Committee. 37 Ibid. 44


45 marginal on the political scene in the 1940s a nd 1950s. They were generally ignored by local councils, who had little to no interest. Some scholars of immigration politics favor a Marxist-inspired argument that VLCs serv ed to control minority populations and shield them from local politicians, t hus contributing to the non-politicization of racial issues, while other suggest that the Committees contributed to the local attitude of benign neglect that was present on the national scen e. However, the VLCs did have a serious impact on how the issue would be dealt with nationally in that they encouraged the central government to see the problem as one that should be dealt with locally; there presence in the 1940s and 1950s can in some wa ys be seen as placing racial issues on the path of local politics rather than national.38 Regardless of the actions and influence of Volunteer Liaison Committees and the positions taken by the Conservative and Labour parties in order to marginalize race and immigration, the issue exploded onto the nation al scene shortly afte r the introduction of the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill, mainly as a result of the shocking events that occurred in the Midlands town of Smethwick. Determined to seize the parliamentary seat that had been held by Labour for almost twenty years, the Conservative candidate, Peter Griffiths, chose to run on an openly raci st platform, tackling the colored immigration issue outright. The nature of his campaign a nd the ultimate results would have a long and lasting impact on race and immigr ation in British party politics. 38 Romain Garbaye British Cities and Ethnic Minorities in the Post-war Era: From Xenophobic Agitation to Multi-Ethnic Government Immigr ants and Minorities (2003), 303.


CHAP TER FOUR SMETHWICK AND AFTER I have come here to visit because I am disturbed by reports that coloured people in Smethw ick are being treated badly. I have heard that they are be ing treated as the Jews under Hitler. I wait for the fascist element in Smethwick to erect gas ovens. Malcolm X, February 1965 Immigration first entered the political scene in Smethwick during the local elections of 1960 when a Conservative candida te for the Soho Ward ran on a policy of evicting colored people from overcrowded hous es without government responsibility to assist in their relocation. Running on a racist platform, the Conservative almost won the Labour seat at a time when Smethwick Tori es, riding on their Partys current fortunes, gained four seats on the Smet hwick Council and for the first time threatened the wellestablished Labour majority. Shortly after the 1960 campaign a series of disturbances dubbed as race riots broke out on the borde rs of Dudley and Smethwick, following which a wave of letters on immigration bega n to appear in the local newspapers, the publication of which continued almost unabated until the General Election of 1964. In 1960 a long series of letters written by Lawrence Rieper, a retired bank officer from Manchester, vehemently opposing co lored immigration were published in the Smethwick Telephone a widely circulated local paper. The paper served as a vehicle to spread racist propaganda, f acilitating Riepers corresponde nce with Donald Finney, an 46


engineer from Sm ethwick who joined Rieper in a long campaign violently opposed to the settlement of colored people within Britain. In an effo rt to spark fear amongst the Smethwick population, Finney included exaggera ted and unsubstantiated statistics in his letters. In February 1961 he wrote: I wonder how many people realize that in 1951 we had 19 people known to have leprosy and in 1959, the total jumped to 317 known sufferers in England. In five years time, at the present rate immigrants are coming into this country, I sup pose it will be 1,000 with leprosy. In 1939 there was no leprosy in England and tuberculosis had been stamped out. Now our hospitals are full again.1 One month later, at the request of a leading Birmingham councilor, Finney announced the formation of a branch of the Birmingham Immigration Control Association in Smethwick. Over three hundr ed people attended the committees first meeting, with an excess of five hundred sign ing up in the weeks that followed. The group organized the circulation of petitions calling for immigration control, ultimately sending thousands of signatures to Cyril Osborne who was making similar efforts on the national level. Pamphlets were assembled and circulated throughout the district calling for individuals to wake up and take action against the immigrant invasion. Foot soldiers for the Smethwick branch canvassed the area en masse; their efforts to spread propaganda were organized and extrem ely effective. Regardless of the veracity of their claims, the average Smethwick resident could not tell the di fference between fact and fiction. Furthermore, the leap from real to fantastic was simple; propagandists turned the reality that Asians were more prone to tuberculosis into the notion that all blacks 1 Paul Foot, Immigration and Race in British Politic s (Middlesex: Penguin Bo oks, Ltd., 1965): 34. 47


spread dreadful diseases and spun the fact that imm igrants resided in multi-occupied slums into the idea that they lived like cattle.2 Events that occurred over the su mmer of 1961 supported the claims of the Smethwick branch, bringing their cause into the national spotlight. After a Korean war veteran was evicted from a home owned and occupied by Indians, the organization circulated a petition arguing th at the man had been evicted simply because he was white. Shortly after, the Labour-controlled council agreed to hous e a Pakistani whose home had been demolished due to slum clearing. Reside nts of the area of relocation were outraged, threatening to withhold rent should the colored immigrant be granted accommodation; their efforts proved fruitless. Nonetheless, the events further pr ovoked agitators, leading to increased correspondence in the Smethwick Telephone ; articles and letters addressing the Growing Colour Problem appeared on a regular basis.3 Until that summer, the Smethwick branch had steered clear of party politics. They trusted neither the Conservative nor the Labour party, believing both would conform to any policy necessary to capture vo teseven the colored vote. But as time went on and it became clear that the Conser vatives were moving towards the introduction of restrictive legislation, the Association called for an en bloc Labour resignation [in order to] get Smethwick run by councilors who are servants of the people of Smethwick.4 The organizations newfound support for the Conservative party aroused Labour leaders. Accusing the Smethwick branch of being directly connected with Conservatives, Patrick Gordon Walker, the La bour Minister who had held Smethwicks seat for almost twenty years, refused to speak at a BICA engagement and following the 2 Ibid., 36-7. 3 Ibid., 38. 4 Ibid., 39. 48


introdu ction of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, delivered a speech in opposition of the Bill, further provoking the Associations members. In March of 1962 the Smethwick branch of the Immigration Control Association was dissolved. Shortly after, Finney, Associ ation founder and former leader officially joined the Conservative party, joining forces wi th Peter Griffiths, a school teacher, leader of council Conservatives, and Conservative Parliamentary candidate for the Smethwick constituency. Griffiths was different from previous Conservative candidates in that he was not a member of societys higher echelons, but rather a m an of the people. He was also a strong supporter of teachers unions, favored more schools, higher salaries, and better benefits for the unemployed. As Paul Foot argued, a common misconcep tion about Griffiths is that he was a political opportunist who adopted an an ti-immigration stance once the political advantages became evident. Prior to immigr ation becoming a significant political issue, Griffiths took a stand in favor of restrictions, stating that: Immigration into this country should be limited to persons of sound health who have jobs and living accommodation arranged before they enter. Preference should be given to pe rsons holding British passports. Immigrants should not be permitted to remain here without working, or to overcrowd their housing accommodation.5 Foot noted that this statement was made without provocation and in absence of any electoral advantage. Griffiths interest in immigration as a political issue became evident in 1961 when he led the Smethwick council in dr afting a letter to Harold Gurden, MP for Birmingham, in support of his demands for im migration control. After joining forces with Finney in 1962, Griffiths began addressi ng the immigration issue in his weekly political columns in the Smethwick Telephone using the column to spread racial 5 Ibid., 31. 49


propaganda as well as attack his oppos ition, P atrick Gordon Walker, making such statements as We do not want another Va rna Road in Smethwick (a street in Birmingham known for its prostitutes), that a single incident in Smethwick could result in race riots, and As our MP [addressing Gordon-Walker] you have been a dead lossno doubt youll get a medal from the West Indies.6 The campaign slogan If you want a ni gger neighbour, vote La bour appeared in July 1963 when Gordon-Walker reported that school children had been organized to chant the slogan. Griffiths responded that, We cant stop children reflecting the views of their parents. The people of Smethwick certainly dont wa nt integration. He went onto tell The Times I would not condemn anyone who said that. I regard it as a manifestation of popular feeling.7 Immigration had become the main theme of Griffiths campaign. He made statements about the moral dangers the presence of Indians posed to white girls, saying that he had personally seen young ladies entering the homes of such immigrants, called for a ten-year residential qualification for immigrants displaced due slum clearance, and referred to colored residents as Labours immigran friends. In January 1964 he t wrote that: Apparently the plight of English ch ildren held back by the presence of non-English speaking children in a class doesnt bother the immigrant leaders. Well, it bothers the Smethw ick Tories and our kids are going to get a square deal in spite of the co mbined opposition of the Socialists and their immigrant friends.8 In his official election address he wrote that: I shall press for the strictest possible control of immigration. We British must decide who shall or shall not enter our count ry. So vital a matter cannot be left to other Governments. Overcrowding and dirty conditions 6 Ibid., 42. 7 Ibid., 44. 8 Ibid., 45. 50


must be ended. There m ust be no entry permits for criminals, the unhealthy or those unwilling to work. Our streets must once again be safe at night.9 A campaign was also launched directly attacking Gordon Walker, spreading callous rumors that he had sold his house to blacks, th at he went to the West Indies to recruit blacks, that his wife was blac k, and that all of his daughter s had married blacks. Patrick Gordon Walker responded that Labour fa vours continued control of immigration, stricter health checks and deportation of thos e convicted of criminal offences. He thought this simple statement may be enough to pacify his critics.10 The people of Smethwick cast their vot es on October 15, 1964. Peter Griffiths defeated Patrick Gordon Walker with a swing of 7.3% to the Conservative party in a year when the national average of 2.9% swung towa rds Labour. The shock was not so much that Griffiths won, nor that race and immigr ation played such a prominent part in a general electionsuch feelings towards the issues had been on th e verge of eruption. What was amazing was that the sentiment was ex pressed so openly. With the trickle of Commonwealth immigration turnin g into a flood and former colonies such as Africa and the Caribbean gaining political independence, the issues of race, nationalism, colonialism and the end of Empire were certainly a pa rt of the electoral agenda that year. Furthermore, given the exposure to events in the southern United St ates and South Africa through television news, Britons were undoubtedly more aware of current racial strife. But although race was seen as an important issue, it had not been considered a determining factoruntil Smethwick. 9 Ibid. 48. 10 Ibid. 51


The Smethwick results raised the visibili ty of the race issue on a national level, due solely to the vicious nature of the cont est. Furthermore, the outcome confirmed antiimmigrant views that the public was behind their cause. More importantly, the outcome had a resounding effect on both parties pos ition, especially Labour, making it evident that taking a racist position c ould, in fact, deliver electora l dividends. Anti-immigrant candidates in Southall and Birmingham Perry Bar had done also well, sparking fear within the Labour party and increasing the vulnerability of the new Labour government.11 Newly elected Labour Prime Minster Harold Wilson accused Griffiths of manipulating the race issue in order to gain a po litical advantage, describing the new Conservative Member as a parliamentary lepe r who would return to oblivion; in the next general election. In a public address he asked: Is the Leader of the Opposition proud of hon. friend the Member for Smethwick? Does he now intend to take him to his bosom? Will the Conservative whip be extended to him, because if he does accept him as a colleague he will make this clear; he will betray the principles which not only his party but also his nation have hitherto had the right to proclaim.12 Wilsons direct attack on Gr iffiths shocked many Conser vative politicians, while the leader of the Oppositions refusal to commen t on the Griffiths campaign angered Labour Members. Prior to the election, then Prime Minister Alec Douglas-Home appeared on a national broadcast where he responded to stat ements in which Griffiths where he claimed that Smethwick rejected the idea of being a multi-racial society Douglas-Home commented that We should not indulge in statements of this kind Every Conservative candidate and certainly any member of the government a nd Conservative Party, would 11 Zig Layton-Henry, The Politics of Immigration: Immigration, Race and Race Relations in Post-War Britain (Cambridge: Blackwell Publishers, 1992): 78. 12 Foot, Immigration and Race in British Politics 66. 52


reject any feeling of racial discrim ination and we should not indul ge in this kind of statement. Griffiths responded with a comment in the Birmingham Evening Post, stating that he still believe[d] the people of Smethwick reject[ed] the idea of a multiracial society in the town. The incident prompted Gordon Walker to draft a letter to Douglas-Home addressing the nature of th e Griffiths campaign asking the Prime Minister to repudiate specifically and publicly Alderman Griffiths repeated statement of a view which [Douglas-Home] said is in conflict with Conservative Party policy.13 In a Birmingham Post article publishe d on 24 September 1964, Griffiths argued that the: Labour Party was stirring up a most da ngerous political si tuation and if Socialist council returned to Smethwic k in the next few years and gave homes to those who had only been in slum clearance properties a few months there would be immediate riots. In response, Gordon Walker went on to write to the Prime Minister, I also ask that you disassociate yourself and your party from these remarks by Alderman Griffiths. In the Conservative Prime Minister response he st ated, I understand that Alderman Griffiths has stated that he finds himself in entire with what I said. I do not however, feel that a problem of this sort is dealt with by p ublic correspondence duri ng a General Election campaign. He contemplated closing the lette r with the statement, I am sure you will agree that it would be undesirable to risk making immigration a major national issue by continuing the correspondence.14 The fact of the matter was that race a nd immigration had already surfaced on the national scene. What Douglas-Home wanted to avoid was taking a clear stance on the events unfolding in Smethwick. Furthermore, it was becoming evident that Griffiths may 13 PREM 11/ 4891, Patrick Gordon Walker to Alec Douglas-Home, 25 September 1964. 14 PREM 11/ 4891,Alec Douglas-home ot Patrick Gordon Walker, 27 September 1964. 53


win the electoral b id, thus Conservative leaders chose to ignore the Candidates extreme positions in light of the fact that he was about to gain a seat held by Labour for the past twenty years. Two years later, Peter Griffiths was unseated by a well-known actor, disappearing from political life until in 1979, he returned to Parliament representing Portsmouth North. Holding the seat until 1997, his carried out the rest of his political career with great caution, so much that the greate r public did not realize he wa s the same Peter Griffiths from the 1964 Smethwick campaign. Following the 1964 election, in a period when race relations was as the forefront of politics, Griffiths was not asked to become involved politically again. Nonetheless, his campaign tactics had made it evident that play ing the race card could certainly equate to electoral success. The even ts which unfolded from 1960 to 1964 in the small Midlands town constitute what Foot called a milestone in British politics. Smethwick brought on the first Conservative organization in the c ountry that dared associate itself unequivocally with anti-immigrant propaganda. Prior to 1960, the mass of Conservative statements made in favor of multi-racialism had deterred such associations from doing so. More importantly, by highlighting the electoral ad vantage of an anti-immigrant platform, Griffiths and his 1964 campaign provided the Conservative Party with a political formula to counter the electoral loyalty of the indus trial working class to Labour. However limited and temporary his success, Griffiths, by way of his own working class origins and understanding that working cla ss individuals were those most effected by immigration, helped develop the same resonance of loyalty as experienced by th e Labour Party. The issue was used to gain the necessary worki ng class votes; in a sense, by facing the issue 54


straight on and taking a stance, the S methw ick Conservative accomplished what Labour set out to do by means of avoiding the issue.15 Recognizing potential political payoff, the majority of Shadow Cabinet decided to move to the Right on the immigration issue. On 3 February 1965, Alec Douglas-Home delivered a speech in which he called for ti ghter immigration contro l and evasion and a government scheme to assist immigrants to return to their countries of origin.16 Cyril Osborne went on to introduce a motion calling for a ban on all future immigration into Britain except for those whose parents or gr andparents had been born in the country. Peter Thorneycroft MP, then Shadow Home Secretary, approached Cyril Osborne with the suggestion of a milder approach. The s lightly toned-down moti on which still called for deportation and repatriation was debate d on 2 March 1965; the entire Shadow Cabinet marched into the same voting lobby in favor of periodic a nd precise limits to immigration.17 Thus, the ideas which would produce the 1971 Bill were shaped immediately following the Smethwick electi on. Griffiths had thrown a primed grenade into the parliamentary process which would spark ne w debate; discussions previously avoided and viewed as political poison were now deliberated in the open arena.18 On 21 May 1965, Enoch Powell, MP and staunch supporter of immigration control argued: The opportunity of a person to enter this country from the Commonwealth ought to be subjec t to exactly the same considerations, controls and conditions as the opportunity of a pe rson coming from anywhere else It is wholly absurd that while entry of aliens, whether from France or China, 15 Foot, Immigration and Race in British Politics 77. 16 Peter Evans, Immigration: British-Style Transition (1971): 43. 17 Ibid., 42.. 18 Clayton Goodwin If you want a nigger for a neighbour vote Liberal or Labour (2004): 41. 55


is con trolled and policed with utmost efficiency, and permission to work, and even more to settle is grante d only with the greatest care and circumspection, Commonwealth immigran ts still stream in with little surveillance and an absolute right to bring or fetch an unlimited number of dependants.19 Nonetheless, the Conservative Party remain ed divided on the immigration issue. The inadequacy of the 1962 election had become evident, highlighted by the introduction of thirty one resolutions in troduced at the 1965 Conservative Party calling for further restrictions and precise limits.20 Three years after the implementation of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, Conservatives were still plagued by the same pressures which motivated the move towards restriction in 1962. The Labour Party faced their own set of ch allenges. Well aware if they adhered to a strong pro-immigrant policy they were cer tain to alienate the working class, yet fearful if they opted for further control th ey would lose the su pport of the socialistintellectual Left, Labour lead ers realized the less they commented on the subject, the better, hoping that an attempt to remove the issue from the political agenda may result in less intense pub lic opinion. The 1964 Wilson Administration was faced with two unattractive alternativesthey must either tighten controls or risk being perceived as ac ting irresponsibly by a significant section of the electo rate. Labour leaders were we ll aware that the Smethwick election made it quite evident that immigrati on could be a huge potential vote-loser if seen as permitting a flood of additiona l immigrants to enter British cities.21 19 Evans, Immigration British-Style, 43. 20 I. Katznelson, Black Men, White Cities, (London : OPU, 1973) in Anthony Messina, Race and Party Competition in Britain (New York: Ox ford University Press, 1989): 36. 21 Richard Crossman, The Diaries of a Cabinet Minister Volume I, 1964-1966 (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1975), 150. 56


The Governm ent chose a two-pronged a pproach, attempting to strengthen the ineffective immigration controls enacted in 1962 while also moving to prevent discrimination against immigrants already re siding in Britain. Ultimately hoping to remove the immigration issue from the minds of the British pub lic, Labours actions generated additional interest, as discussions of further limiting the entry of colored immigrants and the possible in troduction of criminal sanc tions against anyone charged with discriminating against a colored migr ant made immigrant communities even more visible to the grea ter British public.22 In response to the politicization of race at Smethwick, the parties worked in a bipartisan effort to extricate the issue from the political arena. Until 1975 leaders followed an informal rule in which each party avoided all race-related subjects. Whichever party was in control of governme nt, they could expect the Opposition to cooperate in this area to an ex tent rarely enjoyed on other subjects. For over a decade, the Conservative and Labour parties joined in a trul y bipartisan effort in terms of British race policy. The cooperation between the two pa rties was made evident through the Conservative acceptance of the Race Relations Act of 1965, a hollow act outlawing discrimination in public places, and their agr eement with the genera l outline of the White Paper proposing a reduction in the number of vouchers issued to Commonwealth Immigrants. Alec Douglas-Home referred to th e Labour initiatives as sensible and very fair;23 Norman St. John-Stevas, a Conservative Radi cal stated that both parties were in a broad area of agreement on this [immigrati on] question We are all agreed on the need 22 John Carson A Matter of Policy: The Lessons or Recent British R ace Relations Legislation (1976): 155. 23 Katznelson, op. cit., 149 in Messina, Race and Party Competition in Britain 38. 57


58 for control.24 It was obvious that by the end of 1965 there was clear party agreement in the areas of race and immigration. Both parties had agreedkeep race out of party politicsthey did so simply by denying that such issues were politically relevant.25 Before the Smethwick election of 1964, the Conservative and Labour parties attempted to keep the immigration issue out of public politics in or der to secure their standing in the international arena. After the hostile and openly racist campaign led by Griffiths, party leaders found it necessary to bury the issue once agai n. It was true that taking a clear stance could result in an elec toral advantage, but in gaining the support of one faction, party leaders reali zed they would lose the votes of another, thus the parties chose to work together to keep the race issu e out of politics all together in an effort to satisfy both ends of the electorate. They wanted to decrease immigration while also appealing to the anti-discrimin ation lobby. By extricating th e issue from public politics, both governments were able to enact the nece ssary laws while avoi ding the alienation of any certain part of the British public. 24 Ibid. 25 Messina, Race and Party Competition in Britain 38.


CONCLUSI ON Between 1945 and 1965, race and immigration in British politics had gone full circle. The bipartisan effort to keep the immigration issue out of the public gaze immediately following the Second World War, launched in order to sustain Britains imperial status and portray the United Kingdo m as a newly enlightened force, began to erode throughout the 1950s. As the importance of Empire diminished and discussions of control increased, the issues of race and Co mmonwealth immigration formally confined to Members surgeries began to spill over in to the public arena. The 1958 incidents in Nottingham and Notting Hill, deemed race riot s by the press, contributed to public awareness, ultimately giving voice to politic al backbenchers who had opposed colored immigration from the start. By 1961, aware that could no longer keep pace with the American and Soviet superpowers thus less concerned with international opinion or Commonwealth preservation, the Conserva tive government found it an opportune time to introduce restrictive legislation. Wh ile the Tories began to r eact to the strong lobby for immigration control, Labour remained opposed, resulting in a crack in the bipartisan effort established in the late 1940s. Bu t before long, consensus reemerged, as both parties wanted to avoid the issue from influe ncing electoral contests though in an effort to appeal to the a wider section of the elec torate, a centrist faction of the Labour party 59


em erged. Intent on keeping the immigration out of public poli tics, both parties remained acutely aware of its signifi cance, maneuvering in order to placate public opinion, but even more so, attempting to manipulate public opinion in order to forward their cause. The issue of colored immigration became a clear part of part y politics in the 1964 Smethwick election. Not only did the Conser vative candidate Peter Griffiths run an openly racist campaign, but he managed to win running on a clear anti-immigrant platform. Both parties were aware of th e political expediency the race issue may produce, but it was the Smethwick election that proved that the race and immigration issues could be major vote-getter. While Conservative leaders did not issue official support for Griffiths and his tactics, they also failed to condemn his actions. Party leaders may not have agreed w ith his tactics, but chose to turn a blind eye in order to capture the longstanding Labour seat. But just as Smethwick demonstrated the electoral advantage that may be gained by taking a strong stance agains t colored immigration, it was also clear that such a position would alienate the Socialist-intellectua l section of the electo rate. Thus, in an attempt to avoid alienating either faction, bot h parties reentered their unofficial, unspoken bipartisan agreement to keep race an d immigration out of party politics. While the colored immigration issue had b een stifled after 1965 by the bipartisan agreement, the race issue would rear its ugly head again in 1968, when Enoch Powell resurfaced as the populist lead er of the charge against non-white immigration. He believed the entry of colored migrants into Britain posed a serious threat to British nationality and culture. He argued that the arrival of a large number of colored immigrants and their tendency to congregate in concentrated areas in Britain would serve 60


as a bar rier to assimilation resulting in a ra ce problem the equivalent of which had taken hold in the United States. He went on to lobby for a complete halt to all immigration and the implementation of a plan to assist those bl ack immigrants already settled in Britain in returning to their native countries.1 Powell and his views were launched onto the national scene with his infamous river of blood speech delivered on 20 April 1968. Opposing the pending Race Relations Bill, introduced two days later, he stated: For these dangerous and divisive elemen ts the legislation proposed in the Race Relations Bill is the very pabulum they need to flourish. Here is the means of showing that the immigr ant communities can organize to consolidate their members to agitate and campaign against their fellow citizens, and to overawe and dominate the rest with legal weapons which the ignorant and the ill-informed have provided. As I look ahead I am filled with foreboding. Like the Roma n, I see the River Tiber foaming with much blood! That tragic and intractable phenomenon which we watch with horror on the other side of the Atlantic but which there is interwoven with the history and existen ce of the States itself, its coming upon us here by our own volition and our own neglect.2 Powells speech made him the most popular Conservative politician. In four opinion polls he recorded an average a pproval rating of seventy-five percent.3 He received a flood of letters and enormous suppor t at rallies and dem onstrations, exhibiting the public frustration surrounding the bipartisan approach and dissatisfaction with antidiscrimination legislation. The Labour government was enraged by Powell and his speech, believing the bipartisan agreement had been broken. In order to disassociate the Conservative 1 Zig Layton-Henry, The Politics of Immigration: Immigration, Race and Race Relations in Post-war Britain (Cambridge: Blackwell Publisher, 1992): 81. 2 Text of speech delivered to the annual general mee ting of the West Midlands Area Conservative Political Centre at the Midlands Hotel, Birmingham, 20 April 1968 in Layton Henry, The Politics of Immigration 81. 3 D. Spearman, Enoch Powells Postbag New Society 9 (1968): 667-8 in Layton-Henry, The Politics of Immigration 81. 61


leadership from Powells views, he was remove d from the Shadow Cabinet. It was not the exact nature of his positi on that alienated Powell, but th e fact that he expressed his opinions publicly. After removing Powell, C onservative Prime Mini ster Edward Heath stated: I have repeatedly emphasized that th e policy of the Conservative party is that immigration must be more stringently limited and that immigrants wishing to return to their own countries should be helped to financially do so.4 Heath was angered at the fact that Powell broke the estab lished rule of silences. It became clear that Powells view represented the large segment of th e population that clearly opposed New Commonwealth immigration, were angry over the decline of Britains imperial decline, and frustrated that British politicians, in their bipartisan effort to keep the issues out of the public eye, were, in fact, ignoring public interest. Although removed from the Shadow Cabinet, Powell still had a lasting effect on British politics. As a result of his speech, eighty constituency resolutions on immigration were introduced at the annua l Conservative conference. With the amount of support Powell was receiving from within the Conservative party, combined with his overwhelming public popularit y, the Heath administration was forced to announce tougher controls on immigration. Smethwick was the political earthquake that injected race onto the political scene as, before the 1964 election, neither part y could have guessed the extent to which it would galvanize the political scene. With Smethwick the issue received a high political profile from which it was difficult to retreat. The response of both parties was to attempt to depoliticize race, a bipartisan effort th at proved both self-s erving and angering the 4 Quoted in Ira Katznelson, Black Men, White Cities: Politics and Migrations in the United States, 1900-30 and Great Britain, 1948-1968 (London: Oxford University Press, 1973), 181. 62


electorate and party activists long-term. Nonetheless, C onservative and Labour leaders had m anaged to create dilute the issue fo r a period of time, ultimately ensuring the campaign tactics used at Smethwick would not resurface. With the exception of Enoch Powell, both parties managed to impose the bipartisan agreement and marginalize the issues of race and immigration for over a decade.5 5 Anthony Messina, Race and Party Competition in Britain (New York: Oxford Univer sity Press, 1989): 51. 63


WORKS CITED Banton, Michael. The influence of colonial status upon black-white relations in England, 1948-1958. Sociology 17 (1983): 546-559. _____. The Race Relations Problematic. The British Journal of Sociology 42, no. 1 (1991), 115-130. Carson, John. A Matter of Policy: The Le ssons of Recent British Race Relations Legislation. Albion: A Quarterly Journal C oncerned with British Studies 8, no. 2 (1976): 154-177. Colley, Linda. Britons: Forging the Nation, 1707-1837 London: Pimlico, 2003. Crossman, Richard. The Diaries of a Cabinet Minister Volume I, 1964-66 New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1975. Dean, D.W. Conservative Governments and the Restriction of Commonwealth Immigration in the 1950s: The Problems of Constraint. The Historical Journal 35, no. 1 (1992): 171-194. Evans, Peter. Immigration: British-Style. Transition, no. 40 (1971): 42-47. Ferguson, Niall. Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World London: Penguin Books, Ltd., 2003. Foot, Paul. Immigration and Race in British Politics Middlesex: Penguin Books, Ltd., 1965. Garbaye, Romain. British Cities and Ethni c Minorities in the Post-war Era: From Xenophobic Agitation to Multi-Ethnic Government. Immigrants & Minorities 22, nos. 2 & 3 (2003): 298-315. Goodwin, Clayton. If you want a nigger for a neighbour vote Liberal or Labour. New African, 433 (2004): 40-42. Joshi, Shirley and Bob Carter. The role of Labour in the creation of a racist Britain. Race & Class 25, no. 3 (1984): 53-70. 64


Katznelson, Ira. Black Men, White Cities: Politics and Migrations in the U nited States, 1900-30 and Great Britain, 1948-1968 London: Oxford University Press, 1973. Kennedy, Dane. Britain and Empire, 1880-1955 Harlow: Pearson Education Limited, 2002. Layton-Henry, Zig. The Politics of Immigration: Immi gration, Race, and Race Relations in Post-War Britain. Cambridge: Blackwell Publishers, 1992. McLaren, Lauren and Mark Johnson. R esources, Group Conflict and Symbols: Explaining Anti-Immigration Hostility in Britain. Political Studies 55 (2007): 709-732. Messina, Anthony M. The Impacts of Post-WWII Migration to Britain: Policy Constraints, Political Opportunism a nd the Alteration of Representational Politics. The Review of Politics 63, no. 2 (2001): 259-285. _____. Race and Party Competition in Britain New York: Oxford University Press, 1989. Miles, Robert. Nationality, Citizensh ip, and Migration to Britain, 1945-1951. Journal of Law and Society 16, no. 4 (1989): 426-442. _____. The Racialization of British Politics. Political Studies 28 (1990): 277-285. Paul, Kathleen. British Subj ects and British Stock: Labours Postwar Imperialism. The Journal of British Studies 34, no. 2 (1995): 233-276. _____. Whitewashing Britain: Race and Citizenship in the Postwar Era New York: Cornell University Press, 1997. Porter, Bernard. The Absent-Minded Imperialists: Empire, Society, and Culture in Britain New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. _____. The Lions Share: A Short History of British Imperialism, 1850-1970 New York: Times Books, 1978. Rex, John and Sally Tomlinson. Colonial Immigrants in a Br itish City: A class analysis London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979. Richmond, Anthony H. Colour Prejudice in Britain: A St udy of West Indian Workers in Liverpool, 1941-1951 London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1954. Rose, Sonya O. Race, Empire and Brit ish wartime National Identity, 1939-45. Historical Research 74, no. 184 (2001): 220-237. 65


66 Studlar, Donley T. British Public Opinion, Colour Issues, and Enoch Powell: A Longitudinal Analysis. British Journal of Political Science 4, no. 3 (1974): 371381. _____. Policy Voting in Britain: The Colore d Immigration Issue in the 1964, 1966, and 1970 General Elections. The American Political Science Review 72, no. 1 (1978): 46-64. Van Hartesveldt, Fred R. Race and Political Parties in Britain, 1954-1965. Phylon 44, no. 2 (1983): 126-134. Wade, E.C.S. British Nationality Act, 1948. Journal of Comparative Legislation and International Law, Third Series 30, no.3/4 (1948): 67-75. Waters, Chris. Dark Strangers in Our Mids t: Discourses of Race and Nation in Britain, 1947-1963. The Journal of British Studies 36, no. 2 (1997): 207-238.


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