British Attitudes to the Political Aspects of Membership of the European Communities

  • Stephen Holt
Part of the Studies in Comparative Politics book series (STCP)


One does not need to be a particularly close observer of the political scene to be aware that politicians do not always mean what they say. It has always been true that those who excercise political power, or who aspire to do so, have to consider the feelings of the people or groups on whom they are dependent. This consideration governs the choice of the words, the emphasis and the timing of the statements made by the actors on the political stage. In this kind of play, moreover, the script itself is liable to change according to the mood of the audience and only by studying the audience can one make any sense of the plot. For an absolute ruler the audience is usually a small, tightly knit group with whom he can conduct his dialogue in private. In the mass liberal democracies of the 20th century the audience is huge, consisting of a large number of groups of varying importance, and much of the dialogue has to take place in public. The long British debate about the advisability of going into the Common Market has been conducted in front of an interested audience of unprecedented size — i.e. not just Britain but the whole of the Commonwealth, the countries of the EFTA, the United States and the prospective partner countries of the Common Market. The latter, in their turn, have differed among themselves.


Foreign Policy Labour Party Major Party Political Aspect Defence Policy 
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  1. 3.
    F. Heer, The Intellectual History of Europe (translated by Jonathan Steinberg), Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1966, p. 348.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    See extract from As it Happened quoted in R. W. G. Mackay, Towards a United States of Europe, Hutchinson, London, 1961, p. 108.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    See extract from Zürich speech in U. Kitzinger, The European Common Market and Community, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1967, p. 37.Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    D. E. Butler and Anthony King, The British General Election of 1964, Macmillan, London, 1965, p. 132.Google Scholar
  5. 8.
    D. E. Butler and Michael Pinto-Duschinsky, The British General Election of 1970, Macmillan, London 1971, p. 440.Google Scholar
  6. 9.
    Ibid., p. 326.Google Scholar
  7. 22.
    For an excellent account of the respective positions on political union of the Community countries themselves see Susanne J. Bodenheimer, Political Union: A Microcosm of European Politics 1960–66, Sijthoff-Leyden, 1967.Google Scholar

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© Government and Opposition Ltd 1972

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  • Stephen Holt

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