This paper explores the ways in which the local politics of race have been shaped by national concerns and priorities. It argues that the centre-periphery relationship has been a central theme of the liberal settlement that underpins the British tradition of ‘race policy’. The settlement offered to remove race from national political debate and relegate it to the supposedly non-political world of local politics. How ever, it was at the local level perforce that racial conflicts were at their sharpest both prior to, and irrespective of, the push to introduce liberalising reforms in the 1960s. The strategy was ultimately flawed since it was based on a series of ill-conceived assumptions, namely that (a) the issue could be taken out of the political realm; (b) the local context offered the best hope of achieving its depolitkisation; and (c) the local authoddes were better suited- or indeed at all suited-to ‘manage’ race issues than the centre.