‘Rivers of Blood’ was a deplorable attempt to inflame hostility to outsiders for political gain. Its author deserves condemnation not exaltation.
I am sorry to comment twice on the same speech in as many days but I am really angry. I have just read Simon Heffer’s latest rant in the Telegraph and it has left me with smoke billowing from my ears. Heffer's attempts to paint Enoch Powell as a visionary hero trying to save Britain from being destroyed by immigrant hordes is by turns laughable, infuriating and outrageous. He angrily instructs us to ‘Read the speech. Make up your own mind.’ Well I have and I am at a loss to see how anyone else, who has could be in any doubt that it is a truly shameful speech.
Heffer starts off with familiar claim that ‘Enoch was right’ not only about immigration but also about ‘the British peoples irreconcilability to the EU’ and ‘the destruction of the United Kingdom if devolution was allowed.’ Well last time I checked the UK was still united and still a member of the EU, so I am not quite clear why Mr Heffer thinks this demonstrates insight on Powell’s part. When it comes to immigration, Powell’s apparent Clairvoyance is not much more convincing. ‘We have 52 dead in attacks by Islamist fanatics in 2005 to prove how integration has failed’ exclaims Heffer. 7/7 was a horrendous event but we must bear in mind that it was carried out by just four people. There appalling actions should not and must not overshadow the fact that millions of people from ethnic minorities live peacefully in Britain, following the law and paying taxes. We are still very far from Powell’s predictions of the death of our nation.
Heffer goes on to claim Powell ‘had merely been highlighting the danger of the racism of others’ and to deny that Powell was a racist. For what it is worth I agree that it is unlikely that Powell was himself a racist for the reasons that Heffer presents. What he did do was deliver a speech that set out quite deliberately to associate him with racist sentiments for political gain. It is striking that at no point does Powell condemn racism and in many places he seems to actually condone it. A man who says that ‘in 15 or 20 years' time the black man will have the whip hand over the white man’ is described by Powell as ‘decent.’ The most powerful section of the speech deals with the persecution of an elderly woman by her black neighbours. It is a very emotive story and Powell lingers on it for a while. Yet when he adds in the little detail that she had refused to have black tenants, he does not pause for a second to suggest that this is anyway wrong. Such tricks inevitably left Powell open to charges of racism and justifiably so. Powell must have known this yet he left them in. The only conceivable reason to do so was that he hoped to be associated with racist sentiments and to derive some kind of political gain from that fact.
Probably the most bizarre claim in the entire article comes in a short paragraph towards the end. Heffer writes that: ‘In a smug observation last week, the equality tsar Trevor Phillips congratulated David Cameron on "de-racialising" the immigration question. But who racialised it in the first place? It wasn't Powell. It was the Left, whose aim of destroying our nation state not least by destroying our culture was furthered by attacks on Powell for telling the unpalatable truth.’ This comment moves Heffer from being simply misguided into the realms of the tin foil wearing nut jobs. The left is not on a mission to obliterate Britain or its culture. While you can quite legitimately oppose left wing ideas and policies, doing so on the basis that your political adversaries are the servants of some sinister plot is to lower yourself to Naomi Kleinesque levels of absurdity.
To compound the error he includes no evidence to support the notion that the left are to blame for the connection between race and immigration and he fails to mention that Powell most certainly did contribute to the blurring of the debates about race and immigration. He devotes as much of the speech to talking about racial discrimination laws as to immigration. Heffer tries to bolster his case by pointing out that Powell never says the word race in the speech, when in fact he does. For example, in the section about the harassed pensioner he says that: “When the new Race Relations Bill is passed...” He also talks about skin colour and ‘Negroes’. So to claim that the speech is not about race is bizarre.
It is entirely possible to talk about immigration with talking about race. If you want to see examples then look no further than David Cameron’s speech on immigration last week. The contrast between this and the hateful, provocative rhetoric of ‘rivers of blood’ could not be clearer. The Conservative leader certainly deserves the praise he has received for tackling the immigration debate in such a responsible way.
Heffer suggests that Cameron has ‘wilfully misunderstood Powell’ when in reality it is Heffer with his desire to exonerate his hero, who his mistaken. As Enoch Powell knew all too all well, words are weapons. And on April 20 1968 he unleashed a verbal arsenal against Britain’s vulnerable immigrant communities and the consequences of that callous decision are still with us today.
Anyway must be off, I’ve got nation states and cultures to be destroying....