The son of two Birmingham schoolteachers, Powell’s intellect secured him a brilliant early career as a Cambridge Classics don, before moving to take up an academic post at Sydney University.
On the outbreak of war he returned to England and volunteered for the Army as a humble private soldier. His character and abilities could not long remain hidden, and he rose from the ranks to become the youngest serving Brigadier in the British Army. Awarded the MBE in 1945, he went on to serve in India, becoming fluent in Hindi and Urdu and acquiring a love for the subcontinent and its people belying later “racist” smears thrown at him.
In 1950, Powell entered Parliament as MP for Wolverhampton South-West, a seat he was to represent until he refused to stand in 1974. A promising ministerial career culminated in being Minister of Health from 1960-63. In the latter position, he ran a ministry which was actively poaching nurses and doctors from poor Third World countries rather than improving pay and training opportunities for British medics. This clearly brought his incisive mind to bear on the whole question of immigration. Powell resigned from the Government in 1963 in protest at what he saw as excessive 2.5% inflation and the Tory Government blaming it on the Trade Unions rather than its own inflationary policies. Powell returned to the Tory Shadow Cabinet in Opposition after 1964.
It was on Saturday, 20th April 1968 that Powell stepped from transient political prominence to enduring greatness, with his famous “Rivers of Blood” speech on immigration.
“We must be mad, literally mad, as a nation to be permitting the annual inflow of some 50,000 dependents, who are for the most part the material of the future growth of the immigrant-descended population. It is like watching a nation busily engaged in heaping up its own funeral pyre”, he said.
“By the year 2000”, he went on – in words that history has shown were a true prophecy – the immigrant population “must be in the region of five to seven million, approximately one-tenth of the whole population, and approaching that of Greater London… Whole areas, towns and parts of towns across England will be occupied by sections of the immigrant and immigrant-descended population.”
As indeed today they are.
He didn’t just raise a widely known, but little spoken of in such senior public circles, problem but also proposed a solution – the same solution as the British National Party proposes now:
“If all immigration ended tomorrow, the rate of growth of the immigrant and immigrant-descended population would be substantially reduced, but the prospective size of this element in the population would still leave the basic character of the national danger unaffected.
“Hence the urgency of implementing now the second element of the Conservative Party’s policy: the encouragement of re-emigration. Nobody can make an estimate of the numbers which, with generous grants and assistance, would choose either to return to their countries of origin or to go to other countries anxious to receive the manpower and the skills they represent. Nobody knows because no such policy has been attempted.
“In short, suspension of immigration and encouragement of re-emigration hang together, logically and humanly, as two aspects of the same approach”.
If this was not done, Powell ended with a dark foreboding to be realised in riot after riot, and even more chillingly on 7/7:
“As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding; like the Roman, I seem to see ‘the River Tiber foaming with much blood’”.
Powell’s courageous and eloquent words were met with a reaction which was to become familiar on this issue. The public backed him to the hilt; sending him 120,000 letters of support, whilst the political Establishment closed ranks against him.
They did not reply to, still less seek to answer, his points. They simply denounced him as a “racist” and Tory Leader Edward Heath sacked him from the Shadow Cabinet.
When Heath became Prime Minister in 1970, the loathsome traitor proved Powell wrong in his faith that, “The Tory Party stood for the absolute independence of the UK: and that in peace as well as in war, this demanded any sacrifice – including life and limb”.
Yet, as Heath signed the Treaty of Rome and submitted our nation to the Common Market, Enoch Powell’s question was as unanswerable then as it is now, after successive Prime Ministers have signed away even more of our freedom to what is now the “EU”:
“Why give up a thousand years of struggle for our self government and discard our independence and submit to laws passed by foreigners?”
For he is also right that:
“If parliamentary self government is the essence of British liberty, the condition upon which we enjoy it is that the UK is politically distinct and separate”.
A British liberty Enoch Powell sadly failed to secure even when he finally broke with the Tories in 1974. He later return to the Commons as Ulster Unionist MP for South Down and although it was a brave decision, given the IRA threat, it was sadly, politically irrelevant.
At his death in 1998 Enoch Powell lent credence to his celebrated dictum that “all political careers end in failure”.
Editor: This was first published by the British Democrats in 2011.