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‘The jobs all go to foreigners’: a critical discourse analysis of the Labour Party's ‘left-wing’ case for immigration controls

Lookup NU author(s): Dr David Bates



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


This paper critically examines how senior figures in the UK Labour Party and wider labour movement discussed the topic of immigration in the immediate aftermath of the UK's vote to leave the European Union in 2016. Influenced by the Discourse Historical Approach, the paper is based on an analysis of 86 public interventions by Labour figures, over a 6-month period, delivered in speeches, articles and essays. The paper examines argumentative strategies adopted by Labour figures – including Members of Parliament, advisors and trade union leaders – who called for stronger immigration controls from an avowedly ‘left-wing’ perspective. Foregrounding their commitment to progressive politics, Labour politicians argued that restricting the number of migrants entering Britain was democratic, anti-racist and an expression of the Labour Party's commitment to the interests of working-class people. Nevertheless, it is the contention of this paper that the Labour Party's rhetoric tapped into right-wing populist discourses which constructed immigration as a threat to the racialised privileges of a ‘white’ working class.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Bates D

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Critical Discourse Studies

Year: 2023

Volume: 20

Issue: 2

Pages: 183-199

Print publication date: 31/03/2023

Online publication date: 24/02/2022

Acceptance date: 09/02/2022

Date deposited: 08/06/2023

ISSN (print): 1740-5904

ISSN (electronic): 1740-5912

Publisher: Taylor Francis Online


DOI: 10.1080/17405904.2022.2041451


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