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This review is from: Enoch at 100: A re-evaluation of the life, politics and philosophy of Enoch Powell (Hardcover)
Although it's over forty years since Enoch Powell was sacked from the shadow cabinet following his speech on immigration in April 1968, the mere mention of his name still sends the liberal establishment - and the Labour left in particular - into fits of apoplexy. They equate Powell with racism in much the same manner as advocates of homosexual marriage accuse their opponents of bigotry. The charges misrepresent what was said and reinforce those misrepresentations by repeating untruths about Powell and his motives. Truth and accuracy go together so left wing criticism of Powell's 'Rivers of Blood' speech falls at the first hurdle as Powell never used the phrase. Quoting Virgil he said, 'I seem to see 'the River Tiber foaming with much blood'. When interviewed by Anne Robinson, Powell explained where the quotation came from and the context in which it was originally used. Today's left wing repeat and extend their ignorance and inaccuracy of the contents of Powell's speech by failing to mention the political and social context in which it was made. Ironically Powell was a frequent visitor to Michael Foot's house and Foot refuted claims Powell was in any way racist.
Racism implies the superiority of one race over another, a concept which was foreign to Powell's thinking. When he was in India Powell refused to stay at a club which would not accept his Indian travelling companion. In 1959 Powell spoke about the Hola Camp Massacre which led to the death of eleven Mau Mau prisoners at the hands of British officials. Powell rejected the claim that the prisoners were 'sub human' arguing that it contradicted the idea of rehabilitation implicit in the government's policy. One cannot imagine him kow-towing to 'rendition' or the detention of British citizens at Guantanamo Bay. Powell's 1968 speech was made at a time when race riots had broken out in the United States in the wake of the assassination of Martin Luther King and where the philosophy of Black Power, which rejected integration with 'White America', was gaining ground. The political Left supported Black Power while condemning Powell's argument against integration and in favour of repatriation.
In 1968 the Conservative Party was divided over the issue of immigration. What Powell did was to challenge Heath's dithering on the Race Relations Bill and immigration specifically by pointing to the manner in which the subject was hidden from the British public by the political establishment. In 1967 the Labour Government stated it had issued entry vouchers to 7000 males, what they did not reveal was that a further 50,000 dependents had also entered Britain. When Kenya actively promoted discrimination against Asians the latter took the opportunity to use their rights to enter Britain under the Commonwealth Immigrants Act (1962). The Labour Government, fearful this would result in 200,000 Asians arriving from East Africa, rapidly passing the Commonwealth Immigrants Act (1968) which excluded people based solely on their skin colour. The Act was passed six weeks before Powell's speech which provided the political establishment with an opportunity (which they exploited to the full) to implement a racist policy while accusing Powell of racism!!
The Left continues to deny that Powell's speech had any political legitimacy and his concerns were ill-founded. They argue Powell was wrong to raise the issue of race in 1968 claiming it provoked racial violence mainly of white on black. They fail to mention that the main perpetrators of the riots in Brixton, Handsworth and Liverpool in 1981 were black and that racial tension, along with social and employment issues, were an integral part of the unrest. Powell's prediction of racial conflict did occur but not in the way he imagined. Poverty brought blacks and whites together but the immigrant ghetto mentality still prevails in some geographical areas. Powell was right to raise the issue and his prediction that some immigrants did not wish to integrate was accurate but his political judgement was poor. Powell's speech represented a challenge to Heath's leadership of the Conservative Party. He was confident Heath could not sack him. His confidence was misplaced.
Powell's career was remarkable by any standards. He was taught Greek by his mother - who was herself self-taught - and won a scholarship to Trinity College where he won every available prize open to undergraduates, became a Fellow at twenty-two and was appointed Professor of Greek at the University of Sydney at the age of twenty-five. He was bitterly opposed to appeasement and distrusted the United States. At the outbreak of war he joined the army. Starting as a private he completed his service as a brigadier. In 1945 he voted for the Labour Party because of his disgust at the pre-war policy of appeasement. In 1974 he advised people to vote Labour because he thought it was prepared to re-negotiate the terms of British entry into the Common Market. This was the logic of his anti-imperialist stance adopted in 1947 when India was granted independence. He was too shrewd to believe Britain was still a world power, unimpressed by the Suez crisis of 1956 and supported the withdrawal of British troops east of Suez.
Powell adopted a contrarian line because the official party line restricted his intellectual freedom. He favoured the integration of Ulster with the British Parliament and was successful in increasing the number of Ulster MP's at Westminster. He condemned the Anglo-Irish Agreement as being the implementation of American policy objectives. His logic drove him to oppose to Britain seeking membership of the Common Market. He rightly pointed out membership would lead to a decline in national powers and demands for an integrated European state. The Left wing idea that Powell is being rehabilitated by the Right is nonsense. Powell faithfully articulated the views of his constituents. He did so in an injudicious manner for short term ends and demonstrated that logic and common sense do not always go hand in hand. Four stars.