He was quite right in one manner

It’s 50 years since Enoch Powell made his speech concerning mass immigration. A useful enough time to consider what he said and any lessons that might be learned from it. Perhaps the most useful finding being that he was right.

No, not that he was right to make the speech, nor in the somewhat intemperate language he used, nor even whether mass immigration was a good or bad idea. That last, most certainly, is up to each of us to decide for ourselves. But it has changed the country.

In the aftermath of Enoch Powell’s inflammatory 1968 “rivers of blood” speech, which split the nation and instantly became one of modern British history’s most divisive addresses, the fallout was swift and fierce. Protesters took to the streets in support of Powell’s backing for the repatriation of immigrants. Denunciations appeared in newspaper editorials attacking his “appeal to racial hatred” and Powell himself was cast out of the Conservative shadow cabinet, effectively ending his political ambitions. Also caught up in the collateral damage, however, was a small school in his Wolverhampton constituency.

Some interesting figures which I hope I’m recalling correctly from the 2011 Census. BAME is a useful enough but not accurate market of immigration. Among the over 80s we’ve an around 4% BAME population. Among 4 years olds – and I assume this is including all admixtures as BAME – we’ve some 24%.

Whether anyone thinks this is a good or a bad idea is entirely up to them. But it’s obvious that this is actually a change, isn’t it?

How much of a change, well, it’s not as large a genetic change as the arrival of the Beaker People, who essentially wiped out the Neolithic inhabitants of these isles. The Romans and the Normans made large differences to language, governance and so on but not much to the local genome. It would be interesting to know whether the current influx is of the same sort of order as the Angles and Saxons or not. Certainly, a brief think back over our island history suggests that’s the only other episode of similar size.

Enoch was actually right that immigration was going to change things.

What he got wrong was that by raising the point in the manner he did it rather closed down any discussion we might have had about whether it was a good idea or not. A conversation that we still find difficult to have, no?

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10 COMMENTS

  1. Worth pointing out that 50 years about covers the period of substantial modern migration. Powell was speaking from the perspective of the first part of the first wave. Historical migrations were over multiple centuries, not half centuries.

  2. And a thought. Some political figures utterances were going to be used as an attempt to shut down debate. It’s fortunate for the pro-immigration lobby that Powell chose to make his speech & thus it was Powell. Erudite scholar, his words were subtle & occasioned much debate over interpretation but didn’t garner a great following. They could have got somebody a lot more forthright & blunt. Someone who really would have attracted mass support. By the 70s there could have been a truly determined anti-immigration movement loose in the country

    • We have voted in many governments in that time. ALL promised to control immigration. No major party ever suggested an increase, yet an increase there surely was. Crooks, liars and cheats are in control at every level.

    • Not all American governments made this promise. Democrats famously want new, dependent, captive populations of voters, and Republicans are heavily funded by “Chamber of Commerce” lobbyists who want an alternative source of labor (to “do the jobs Americans won’t do” at the current wage level, or below —G.W. Bush). Surely some of the same forces are at play in Britain.

  3. You can argue about his reasons, justification and use of rhetoric, but 50 years on the figures he quoted have proven to be not only on the money, but far below the level of migration we’ve actually had. This is despite the fact that the majority of the political establishment decried his figures as scaremongering and beyond the bounds of reality.

    “And he said, Verily I say unto you, No prophet is accepted in his own country.” – Luke 4:24

  4. Current events in the U.S. should have taught that intemperate speech is not always a deal-breaker, and that if they couldn’t get Powell for that, they would search or fabricate until they get someone for something else. The only way to keep them from getting anyone for anything is preemptive surrender. The forces of Recruiting New Britons to Go Through Life on the Suck will not be deterred. Frittering stolen loot away to those with the best claim of being “needy” is their source of self-worth.

  5. The reason we’re still talking about Powell, while nearly every one of his political contemporaries has disappeared from the popular imagination (who still quotes Michael Stewart?), is because he told the truth.

    Rivers of blood? Certainly looked like it in the Manchester Arena.

    Speaking the truth is one of the most difficult, dangerous and powerful things a human being can do.

    Member the Guardian article from just the other day – Afua Hirsch’s regularly scheduled white-bashing column? I don’t think it’s wise to write that off as Guardianista whinging. I think she was telling the truth. There is a massive undercurrent of resentment among what we’re fashionably supposed to call BAMEs. There’s no evidence to suggest further pandering to minorities will abate this.

    The more different races rub up against each other, the more resentment and hatred there is. We can only try to shame or criminalise people into pretending diversity = happy happy joy joy for so long. It’s not a solution, it’s a sticking plaster.

    Enoch was right, this multiculturalism business doesn’t work. It’s every bit as in denial about human nature as communism was.