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Title: The Labour Party and European integration, 1961-1983
Author: Cotton, C.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2011
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This thesis reconsiders Labour’s debate over European integration between 1961 and 1983. Specifically, it takes issue with the tendency to see Europe only as a cause of ideological polarisation between two distinct rival versions of socialist politics, and thus as an issue through which Labour’s most fundamental ideological divides were revealed. This thesis describes how, at least until 1975, leading figures on both sides of the debate competed to win over the agnostic middle ground of the party (always the largest group) by playing down their ideological differences and pledging allegiance to mainstream, Labourist ‘common sense’ values. For when the main combatants marketed their competing policy prescriptions to the party, they were generally not seeking to articulate how their distinctive brands of socialism demanded adhesion to, or abstinence from, the process of European integration. Instead, both sides sought to ally themselves with certain axiomatic ideas and key rhetorical tropes. Across the whole gamut of policy issues, many ideals were non-negotiable and both sides courted them. By tracing this pattern over the geo-political, economic, and constitutional aspects of the debate between 1961, when Harold Macmillan made Britain’s first application to the European Community, and the referendum of 1975, we see that the nature of the protagonists’ appeals suggests that the mass of Labour actually possessed a surprisingly unified political culture at this time. In taking the story down to 1983, we see that the referendum precipitated at bitter divergence between the ultras on either side – essentially, the Bennites and the Jenkinsites. However, it is also the case that in the late 1970s and early 1980s – the apogee of Labour factionalism – there remained critical points of convergence between the two sides of the European debate. Identifying this contributes to our understanding of how Neil Kinnock was able to reorientate Labour towards Europe after 1983, and provides another window on the success of his broader ‘fightback’ against the excesses of the early 1980s.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available