The Canadian Red Ensign

The Canadian Red Ensign

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Enoch Was Right

Forty-five years ago today, the Conservative Political Centre for the West Midlands met in a room in Midland Hotel, in Birmingham.  It was a small meeting, not the kind that would ordinarily attract much media attention.   The man addressing the meeting, however, was no ordinary man, and his speech was no ordinary speech.  It would be the talk of the nation for days, weeks, even years to come.  It would earn the speaker, an articulate, well-educated intellectual, of High Tory convictions, the love of the lower and middle classes, and the hatred of the progressively inclined, academic and media elites.  It was due to this speech that dock workers, union members, and other manual labourers would march in defense of the most outspoken advocate of free enterprise since World War II and prior to Margaret Thatcher.

The Man

The man speaking that day was John Enoch Powell, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Wolverhampton, South West, the constituency he had represented since 1950. (1)   He had twice been Minister of State for Health in the government of Harold Macmillan.  In 1968, however, the Labour Party was in power and Harold Wilson was Prime Minister.  The Conservatives, led by that wettest of the “wet Tories”, Edward Heath, were in Opposition, and Powell was Shadow Secretary for Defence   Until he gave the speech, that was.  April 20th was a Saturday that year.  On Sunday April 21st, a vivid Heath sacked Powell from the Shadow Cabinet, replacing him with Reginald Maudlin, the Deputy Leader of the Party.  Powell would never again hold a position within a Conservative Cabinet, government or Shadow.   The rift between him and the Conservative Party leadership, especially Heath, would never be repaired.   In 1975 Heath was replaced as Conservative leader by Margaret Thatcher, an admirer of Powell’s who had advised Heath against firing Powell and who expressed agreement with the controversial speech in her memoirs, (2) but by this time Powell, while remaining a Tory by conviction, had left the Party in disgust over the way Heath had betrayed his Party’s principles and platform in his premiership and had compromised British national sovereignty by bringing the United Kingdom into the European Economic Community.  
Powell had been born in Birmingham, the city of his famous – or infamous, depending upon your perspective – speech, in  June of 1912, three years after the marriage of his parents.  His father, Albert Enoch Powell, of Welsh descent, was an elementary school teacher and later principal.  His mother, Ellen Mary Powell, nee Breese, a policeman’s daughter who had been a teacher herself before her marriage, was a woman of immense scholarly aptitude, who had taught herself classical Greek, and who encouraged this same trait when it manifested itself early in her only child.  He won an early scholarship to King Edwards’, a grammar school in Birmingham, when he was only thirteen.  He initially entered as a science student, but transferred to the classical form after one term.  In the break between, under his mother’s tutelage, he learned two years worth of Greek in two weeks, catching up with his fellow students.  (3)  

After graduating with distinctions in Latin, Greek, and Ancient history, he entered Trinity College at Cambridge with several scholarships,  where he studied Latin under A. E. Housman, the classical scholar more famous as the poet author of A Shropshire Lad, and read the writings of German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.   Nietzsche had become the professor of classical philology at the University of Basel in Switzerland when he was only 24.  Powell acquired an ambition to beat his then-idol’s record.   He did not succeed in this, but he came close to matching it.  He became full professor of Greek at the University of Sydney in Australia in 1937 when he was 25.   The following year his Lexicon to Herodotus was published by Cambridge University Press which also published, early in 1939, his History of Herodotus.  His career as a classical scholar was already well-established but events of that same year, would lead to the resignation of his professorship in a romantic answering of the call of duty.   On September 3rd, 1939, the United Kingdom declared war on Nazi Germany.  On the following day, Powell resigned his position and caught a flight back to England, determined like the character of Guy Crouchback in Evelyn Waugh’s novels, to offer his services to King and country.

Powell was more successful in this than the fictional Crouchback, joining the Royal Warwickshire Regiment as a private in October of 1939, being promoted to lance corporal while still in basic training, and then selected to be trained as an officer.  This training began in January 1940 and lasted four months, after which he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the General List, to be shortly thereafter transferred into the Intelligence Corps.  This pattern of promotion continued throughout the war until he attained the rank of brigadier.   Stationed in Cairo, Algiers, and Delhi, he developed an ambition to become Viceroy of India and a lifelong dislike of the Americans, whom he correctly believed were trying to bring down the British Empire as well as the Axis Powers.

When the war ended, Powell had the pathways of two careers in which he had already achieved success open before him.  He could have retained his commission and continued to climb the ranks of the military.   He could have gone to Durham University, where he had been elected Professor of Greek and Classical Literature to resume an illustrious career in classical scholarship.   Instead, he resigned both commission and professorship to go into politics, initially with the idea of achieving his goal of becoming Indian Viceroy.

Powell was, by instinct and conviction, a Conservative, or, to use the term he preferred himself, a Tory.  His excellent definition of a Tory was “a person who believes that authority is vested in institutions.” (4)   In defending the authority of institutions which he had instinctively revered from his earliest days, he grounded it in the concept of prescription, i.e., legitimacy derived from tradition and tested and established through long usage.   It was because the Conservative Party traditionally embodied these concepts and not because he was particularly impressed with the way the Party handled the reins of government when in office that he sought to become a Conservative candidate for office.   He was added to the candidates list and, while he lost his first bid for office in Normanton in 1947, he was given a job in the meantime in the Parliamentary Secretariat and later the Conservative Research Department where he met Pamela Wilson, at first his secretary, later his wife and the mother of his two daughters.  His next candidacy, was in Wolverhampton.  One Sunday evening, on his way home to his Wolverhampton apartment, he heard the bells of  St. Peter’s Collegiate Church.  Although Powell had lost his faith as a youth,  become an atheist, and then an admirer of the notoriously antiChristian philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, he responded to the summons and entered the church to hear Evensong.  He found himself drawn to participate in the worship, and after that regularly attended the church each Sunday.  He soon abandoned his atheism to become a devout if idiosyncratic High Anglican. (5)   In 1950 was sent to the House of Commons by the electorate of Wolverhampton South West to begin his new career as a statesman.

As mentioned previously, Powell served as a minister in Macmillan’s government.  What most distinguishes his Parliamentary career, however, is his erudite and articulate speeches.   Although he is remembered today chiefly in connection with one issue in particular, he was hardly a single-issue controversialist.     When the Macmillan Conservatives introduced the Life Peerages Act he spoke out against it.   The Conservative leaders behind the Act, regarded it as a means of preserving the House of Lords through modernization.  The Labour Party rejected the Act on the same grounds, because they wished for more radical modernization.  Powell, however, regarded it as the first step towards the democratization of the House of Lords.  This would be an unacceptable redundancy, Powell argued, in which the two Houses would both be representatives of the same electorate, creating a constitutional crisis over which of the two is rightly representative.   He championed traditional, hereditary, peerages, soundly arguing that it was prescription that legitimized the authority of the Lords, just as prescription was the basis of the authority of the Crown and even of the elected assembly.

At the time the leaders of the Conservative Party had agreed to support the Keynesian and socialist economic policies brought in by Clement Attlee and William Beveridge after the war. Powell, however, broke with the Post-War Consensus, to insist that Keynesianism generated inflation, to call for monetarist reforms to combat such inflation, and to preach the virtues of private enterprise and the free market.

At the end of the war Powell was still an imperialist.  After India achieved independence in 1947, however, he was convinced the Empire could no longer be maintained and adopted a nationalist approach to foreign policy similar to that of  the Taft Republicans in the United States.  In the Cold War he opposed both the Communism of the Soviet Union and the hubris of the Americans.  His British nationalism led him to oppose the UK’s entry into the EEC in the 1970s and to take up the cause of Unionism in Northern Ireland.   It was also intimately related to the position he took in his most famous speech.

The Speech

The subject of the talk, that would earn Powell the love of the masses, the ire of the fashionable, progressive, chattering classes , and his place in history was immigration and racial strife.   His enemies accused him of trying to incite racial strife by stirring up anti-immigrant sentiment.   The reality is quite different.  In fact, he as actually trying to prevent racial conflicts and violence by warning that such would be inevitable if large scale immigration continued.   The progressive-minded, without listening to or reading the text of his speech in its entirety, responded to the selected excerpts highlighted by the media and accused him of racial prejudice and of promoting discrimination against new immigrants and their descendants.   In reality, Powell declared in the speech what he consistently maintained throughout his political career, that British subjects and citizens were entitled to the same rights and protections under British law, regardless of whether they had arrived on British soil yesterday or whether they lived where their ancestors had lived since the days of Alfred the Great.   It was the Labour government of Harold Wilson, Powell insisted, that was trying to create special privileges for new immigrants at the expense of born and bred, white British people, through their proposed Race Relations Bill.  The second reading of this bill was scheduled for the Tuesday after the speech.

The speech itself was masterfully constructed.   He began by declaring that “the supreme function of statesmanship is to provide against preventable evils.”  (6)  The statesman, however, encounters difficulties in performing this function, because preventable evils lie in the future and are not perceived as being as pressing as present evils, leading to the “besetting temptation of all politics to concern itself with the immediate present at the expense of the future.”   The statesman must rest this temptation, for if he does not he will “deserve, and not infrequently receive, the curses of those who come after”. 

Having thus prepared his listening audience for predictions that they might find unpalatable he launched into his subject by recounting a conversation which had taken place a week or two previously between himself and one of his constituents.  His interlocutor was “a middle-aged, quite ordinary working man employed in one of our nationalised industries” who had expressed dissatisfaction with the direction in which Great Britain was going and a desire to emigrate and to see his children and their families settled overseas.   The genesis of this seemingly rather unpatriotic despair, Powell quoted in the man’s own words, as the feeling that  “in this country in 15 or 20 years' time the black man will have the whip hand over the white man.”

Later in the speech, he quoted at length from a letter he had received describing the plight of another of his constituents.  The lady who wrote to him, told him about an elderly woman, who had begun renting rooms in her house to make ends meet after losing her husband and sons in the war, but who was now the only white on her street, the other, including her tenants, having moved away as the neighborhood filled up with immigrants.  Without the rent income, and unable to get her rates reduced because of an unsympathetic government, she was now subjected to threats, abuse, vandalisim, and the taunts of “Racialist” from immigrant children who followed her whenever she went to the store.  
Nothing in Powell’s address seems to have infuriated his critics, whether from Labour or among the “wet” leadership of his own Party, more than these anecdotes.  Ostensibly, the reason for this is that the most inflammatory rhetoric, the kind most vulnerable to the charge of racism, in the whole speech is contained within them.   Yet the glaring fact that in neither case was the rhetoric Powell’s own but rather that which had quoted from ordinary people who had spoken or written to him does not seem to have mollified his enemies’ rage in the slightest.  If anything it increased it.   One can only speculate as to why this would be so.  The Labour Party has always tried to present itself as being the voice of the ordinary, common, working, Briton, and presumably did not appreciate this lesson in how out of touch their thinking actually was with that of the very people they claimed to represent.(7) Those Conservative leaders who were enraged by the speech appear to have made the same mistake in reverse.   Powell’s  views on immigration were, as he himself pointed out in the speech, the official position of the Conservative Party, and men like Edward Heath, Quintin Hogg, and Edward Boyle appear to have seen Powell’s statement of that position as an embarrassment.  They misjudged the tremendous amount of popular support that actually existed for their own party’s position and jumped on the rhetoric Powell had quoted as an excuse for not acting on that plank of their platform, claiming, quite unreasonably, that Powell’s speech had made the subject of immigration untouchable.

Whatever his opponents may have thought, by including these quotations in his speech, Powell demonstrated his willingness to take seriously the concerns of ordinary British people, in his own constituency and elsewhere, that through forces beyond their control, including the inertia or even malice of their own government, they were becoming strangers in their own country. This was a refreshing change from the attitude of the typical modern intellectual who believes that such fears should be treated as irrational, dismissed and ignored, or changed through an aggressive campaign of social engineering on the part of government, church, media, and institutions of education.

In fact, the bulk of Powell’s speech demonstrated that such fears are far from being irrational in the sense of being contrary to fact and reason.  Noting that in some areas mass immigration was producing a “total transformation to which there is no parallel in a thousand years of English history”, he cited the Registrar General’s calculations that within fifteen to twenty years, there would be three and a half million immigrants and their descendants in the UK.  From these figures, he extrapolated that by the year 2000 the number would be between five and seven million, and pointed out that these would not be distributed evenly throughout the country, but would rather be concentrated in certain areas.

He made it clear that the problem is not immigration qua immigration but is rather a matter of scale. “[N]umbers are of the essence” he stated for:
the significance and consequences of an alien element introduced into a country or population are profoundly different according to whether that element is 1 per cent or 10 per cent.

He was also careful to distinguish between an immigrant, someone who entered the country with the purpose of settling there, and someone who entered the country to visit or to study, with the intention of going back home.   The problem, then, was not that alien people were entering the country, or even that alien people were entering the country to stay, but rather that the latter were coming in so fast and in so large numbers that it was transforming the country, or at least the parts of it where the immigrants were concentrating.   Later in the speech, after quoting from the letter about the widow who had lost her tenants and was experiencing harassment, he made another point that is logically connected to the idea that the scale of immigration was the problem.  This was with regards to the integration of immigrants.  Integration, he said, means that the immigrants “become for all practical purposes indistinguishable from its other members.”   Physical differences such as colour make integration “difficult though, over a period, not impossible”, and of the new coloured immigrants there were “many thousands whose wish and purpose is to be integrated and whose every thought and endeavour is bent in that direction.”  Nevertheless, it was, he said “a ludicrous misconception” to think that was true of the majority of them.  The large scale of immigration and the concentration of immigrants in particular areas, was, of course, a deterrent to integration, which Powell noted, although he brought it up in the context of discussing the Race Relations Bill, an even greater deterrent to integration.

Since the increase in the immigrant population would make it harder and harder to deal with this as time went on and it was happening at such a rapid rate that it was a matter of urgency that it be dealt with immediately.  The government could deal with it in a simple way, he declared, first by “stopping, or virtually stopping, further inflow” and second by “promoting the maximum outflow”, noting that these suggestions are “part of the official policy of the Conservative Party.”    By “promoting the maximum outflow” he did not mean kicking people out of the country, but rather encouraging the re-emigration of those who wished to go, and providing them with “generous assistance” to do so.   He did not know how successful such a program would be because “no such policy has yet been attempted” but he noted that immigrants in his constituency had approached him, on occasion, asking for such assistance to return to their country of origins.

After discussing the possibilities of a re-emigration policy, he turned to “a third element of the Conservative Party’s policy” by way of introducing the subject of the Race Relations Bill.   That third element was that the law and the government ought to treat all citizens the same and not practice discrimination.   This, he said:

does not mean that the immigrant and his descendent should be elevated into a privileged or special class or that the citizen should be denied his right to discriminate in the management of his own affairs between one fellow-citizen and another or that he should be subjected to imposition as to his reasons and motive for behaving in one lawful manner rather than another.

That, of course, was exactly what the Wilson government was setting out to do with its Race Relations Bill.   The supporters of this bill – among whom, Powell singled out the press and the ecclesiastical authorities for specific mention – were completely mistaken.  The bill was not a two-way street and was not intended to be.   It was being enacted to protect the new immigrants from discrimination on the part of the white British.  This kind of legislation was not only unnecessary, it completely mistook the situation and who needed protection from what.  The new immigrants were not in the same situation as American blacks.  The latter had been brought to their country as slaves before the country even existed, and who had gradually been emancipated, enfranchised, and given full citizenship rights.   The new immigrants, however, had entered the UK with full citizenship rights.  Their entrance was “admission to privileges and opportunities eagerly sought” and it was the existing populace that was feeling the adverse effects as:

For reasons which they could not comprehend, and in pursuance of a decision by default, on which they were never consulted, they found themselves made strangers in their own country.

Now the Race Relations Bill was set to make things even worse, being:
a law which cannot, and is not intended to, operate to protect them or redress their grievances is to be enacted to give the stranger, the disgruntled and the agent-provocateur the power to pillory them for their private actions.

Powell’s analysis of the problems inherent in mass immigration and anti-discrimination legislation and his proposed solutions were quite reasonable.  This is not what attracted the attention of the media and the British nation.  It was rather, in addition to the anecdotes referred to above, the apocalyptic tone in which he set his predictions of future evils.  The admission of immigrants at such a high scale was an act of national suicide:

Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad. We must be mad, literally mad, as a nation to be permitting the annual inflow of some 50,000 dependants, 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.

The Race Relations Bill would give the immigrant communities a loaded weapon to use against their unarmed citizens.   Powell expressed his reaction to this in the most famous line in the entire speech, the one which caused it to be dubbed “Rivers of Blood”:

As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding; like the Roman, I seem to see "the River Tiber foaming with much blood”. (8)
The Parallel Voice

In that line, Powell compared his premonition of unnecessary racial strife due to mass immigration and the Race Relations Bill to the ominous prophecy of the Sybil in Virgil’s Aeneid.   From the perspective of hindsight, a more apt comparison might have been to Cassandra, the daughter of King Priam of Troy, or to Laocoon the Trojan priest.  Having been given the gift of prophecy by Apollo, but having spurned his erotic advances, Cassandra had been cursed by the jilted god, who made it that her warnings would not be believed.   She warned against accepting the wooden horse from the Greeks, as did Laocoon.  The warnings went unheeded.  Likewise, Powell’s warnings were disregarded by those with the authority to put his recommendations into action.

He was not the only one to fill the role of Cassandra with regards to immigration.  In 1973, a novel entitled Le Camp des Saints was published, written by French author Jean Raspail.  An English translation by Norman Shapiro was published a couple of years later.   The novel, set in a “near future”, told of an armada of one hundred ships, that had set out from Calcutta laden with thousands of the poorest of the poor and destined to arrive at the French Rivera on Eastern Sunday.   As the ships slowly make their way, the French debate what to do about it.   Leftist elites, in the government, the church, and the media, declare that the immigrants must be welcomed.  They declare the ships to be carrying “The Last Chance for Mankind” and utter banalities like “we are all from the Ganges now” but are basically given free reign to spread their views because the one right-wing publisher left in France, refuses to print anything about the matter except a map of the progress of the ships, and a countdown to the “moment of truth”, i.e., their arrival.  

Throughout the book various people who believe in France and French civilization, oppose the leftist consensus.  One of these is a man who had immigrated from India years previously but who had integrated into French society.   These gather in the home of one of their number, a retired professor whose house overlooks the beach where the ships have landed, and make a last stand for France and Western civilization, as it crumbles all around them, brought down by the burden of a liberal guilt that had rendered the West incapable of fighting to ensure its own survival against hordes armed with their own pitiable condition.

The Retrospect

How do Powell’s predictions appear in hindsight, forty-five years later?

If anything, he appears to have erred on the conservative side in the sense that the things he predicted have come true on a much larger scale.

The Race Relations Bill passed and, like similar anti-discrimination legislation in the United States and Canada, it has been used in exactly the way Powell predicted, as a weapon against white people.   It is more than just the anti-discrimination legislation, however.  A complete double-minded attitude towards race, racial prejudice, and even racial hatred has developed in the UK, North America, and other Western societies.  What is forbidden of white people is tolerated and in some cases even praised when directed against white people.

Powell’s described the United Kingdom’s admission of immigrants on a large scale as the act of a nation “engaged in heaping up its own funeral pyre”, i.e., committing national suicide.   Immigration rates have continued to be high and an additional factor has joined high immigration to contribute to the national suicide of Great Britain, i.e., a decline in British fertility rates.   Declining fertility and high immigration are a deadly combination.   For a nation, which is a living, collective, entity, to survive, its present generation must continue to be primarily descended from its past generations.   People from other nations can enter a nation and become integrated into the nation without threatening the nation’s survival, but if the nation takes to bringing in immigrants on a large scale to offset its own failure to reproduce, it will die.  

To maintain that mass immigration and multiculturalism have been good for the United Kingdom or any of the other countries that have adopted them is to bury one’s head in the sand and ignore reality.   The traditions and institutions of these countries have been undermined and in some cases changed beyond all recognition.  There has been a loss of a sense of continuity, and with that, of a sense of community.   With this erosion of social capital and increase in alienation have come the unnecessary ethnic strife that Powell strove to prevent.

It is not fashionable to say it, but it is nonetheless true, that Enoch was right!

(1) My main source for the biographical details about Enoch Powell contained in this essay is Simon Heffer’s Like The Roman: The Life of Enoch Powell (London: Phoenix Giant, 1998, 1999). This is a comprehensive biography, which, while not an “official” biography, was written with the cooperation of its subject, who made his archives available to its author, with the stipulation that his most private papers would be accessed only after his death. I have also consulted Patrick Cosgroves’s The Lives of Enoch Powell (London: The Bodley Head, 1989).

(2) Margaret Thatcher, The Path To Power (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1995) p. 146.

(3) By the end of his life, he could fluently speak English, French, German, Greek (modern and classical), Italian, Latin and Urdu, read Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Welsh, and was learning Hebrew.

(4) This is in response to the question “Can you tell me what it is to be a Tory?” in the interview he granted to Naim Attallah in 1992. Variations of this same basic definition can be found throughout his various speeches and interviews

(5) The idiosyncrasy is most noticeable in his Biblical scholarship, which he took up as his primary pastime after his career as a statesman.

(6) The text of the Birmingham speech is available to read on The Telegraph’s website:

(7) To give the devil his due, while the Labour Party as a whole was vehement in its denunciation of Powell and his speech, there were exceptions. Michael Foot, later to become leader of the Labour Party, whose friendship with Powell crossed the vast divide between their different views and parties and survived the speech, said that Powell had been tragically misunderstood. Another Labour MP, Christopher Mayhew, cancelled a speech he had been invited to give at Birmingham University after the school reneged on an invitation to Powell. Mayhew told the school bluntly “People who believe in free speech and practice it should stick together whatever their other differences. If Birmingham University won’t have Enoch Powell they can’t have me.” (quoted in Heffer, op. cit., p. 472, italics added)

(8) According to Simon Heffer, in the actual address Powell quoted the line “Et Thybrim multo spumentem sanguine” from Virgil’s Aeneid, in its original Latin first, and then translated it, but provided only the translation in the press release. Heffer, p. 454.


  1. White Feminist Woman at Georgetown University working in the admissions department openly admitted that she REJECTED white men's applications simply because they were WHITE MEN.

    Brief: A female advisor in the admissions department at Georgetown University has been caught openly admitting that she committed the CRIME of discrimination based on people's race and gender in the application process.

    This has the potential to create a large scale lawsuit against Georgetown University, and with the momentum building at the rate it is building, seems very likely that will be the outcome.

    Below are the main links to all of the information regarding this news story and case.

  2. Very interesting post! I work for a new social blogging site called, and was just wondering if you would be interested in sharing your posts there with us? It wouldn't change your blog in any way, and I know our community would find your work here of great interest. Let me know what you think!

    All the best,