Race, media and local politics: Smethwick and the 1964 General Election

Yemm, Rachel (2016) Race, media and local politics: Smethwick and the 1964 General Election. In: Social History Society Annual Conference, 21st-23rd March 2016, Lancaster University.

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Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Paper)
Item Status:Live Archive

Abstract

In the 1964 General Election, Conservative candidate Peter Griffiths won a seat in Smethwick with a swing of 7.2%, contrary to national and local trends. Griffiths took a fiercely anti-immigrant stance and Smethwick became known as the most racist town in Britain; this accusation was corroborated the following year when Griffiths launched a campaign to purchase houses on Marshall Street to prevent immigrants from buying them. The immigrant population in Smethwick was no greater than that of neighboring Midlands towns, posing the question of how and why this intense anti-immigrant feeling emerged.

This paper will address the impact of local media on public perceptions of immigrants in Smethwick during and immediately after the 1964 General Election. The study argues that the local newspaper, The Smethwick Telephone, fueled hostility towards immigrants for a number of years before 1964 and was used by Griffiths to disseminate myths presenting immigrants as problematic. ATV Midlands News also presented Griffiths and the Marshall street campaign in a wholly favorable light, thus creating and reinforcing racial prejudice. This paper develops the work of Wendy Webster and Gavin Schaffer, who examine the framing of immigration by a range of national media forms, but who also overlook the vital role of local reporting in this process. By investigating the media’s influence at a local level we can gain a greater understanding of the development of racial prejudice in British communities and add depth to existing scholarship on post-war immigration.

Keywords:Race, Media history, 20th century British history
Subjects:V Historical and Philosophical studies > V210 British History
Divisions:College of Arts > School of History & Heritage > School of History & Heritage (History)
ID Code:26489
Deposited On:27 Feb 2017 15:32

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