50 years ago, a certain Tory MP by the name of Enoch Powell made one of the most controversial speeches ever given in modern British political history; the ‘rivers of blood’ speech. It was one of which heavily criticised mass immigration. It was one of which described the various experiences of people suffering with the negative side effects of mass immigration in very controversial language. And it warned of grave doom if we as a nation failed to curb this tide, quoting the poet Virgil, hence the ‘rivers of blood’ part of the speech.
It was so shocking that it ended his chances of high office. Despite him continuing to be a Parliamentarian until 1987, it ended his Shadow Defence Secretary and began the end of his time in the Tory Party, all the while the press and popular commentators ruined his career by labelling him a racialist and an idiot, not to be taken seriously. A public shaming indeed. However, there was one problem with the reaction by the political class. One teeny tiny hiccup if you shall; Enoch Powell was right.
Looking at the speech now (of which you can read here), it is very telling (and often times rather alarming) to see how much of it has come to fruition. Let us start at the opening part which is particularly controversial for its reference to race, when Powell quoted a constituent from his Wolverhampton South West seat (often misattributed to Powell himself).
Despite the language used (of which even Powell himself described as ‘horrible’), it reflected a theme constant throughout the speech; how the problems of mass immigration affect ordinary Brits and when they express their fears to their elected officials, they are often ignored. Powell acknowledged how the drastic nature of the conversation made him unable to ‘shrug my shoulders and think about something else’, especially since he did ‘not have the right not’ to address these feelings. The role of an MP is to reflect and represent their constituents in office, and Powell was simply doing that.
Unfortunately, he was rather the exception than the rule; these fears have often been ignored as ‘racist’ and the like, and never truly listened to. Polls over the years have shown that mass immigration has been unpopular with the British public, of who the vast majority are not racist and respect immigrants of who integrate into society. Powell even mentioned himself in his 1969 book Freedom and Reality that many of these complaints came from immigrant constituents of who had the same fears too.
He reflected the fears of the British public, of whose fears about mass immigration have constantly been shown (and sadly ignored), and arguably led to both UKIP making serious gains (of which Powell had supported in the 1990s and was even often to stand as a candidate for them) and Brexit winning. Reflecting these fears is a politician’s job, and Powell reflecting this shows that he was correct in this regard, and his disparity as to how he could not ignore these fears serves as the ultimate condemnation of those who have done so for decades and decades to maintain a swell career at the expense of their loyal constituents.
Meanwhile, in one of many underestimated parts of the speech, he discussed how the number of immigrants was too high at the time. In it, he had claimed that infamously we were mad, ‘literally mad’ for taking in 50,000 immigrants a year, and through that we were ‘a nation busily engaged in heaping up its own funeral pyre’. If only the figures were that low these days. After the 1997 Labour landslide, the borders were widely opened to let millions of people into the country, of which inevitably caused community tension and other socio-economic problems that I shall discuss shortly.
Within 13 years of New Labour undermining Great Britain both culturally and socio-economically, they allowed in 2.2 million immigrants. Beyond the issues that inevitably caused (of which I shall discuss shortly) and the various allegations of racist and far-right that sprang up whenever it was mentioned, the most disgusting thing is how many Labour MPs from that era admit error on that front. Former Home Secretary Jack Straw admitted that opening the borders in 2004 to former Eastern European countries that had then joined the European Union was a ‘spectacular mistake’.
His successor David Blunkett expressed fears that frictions caused by mass immigration would cause riots in British cities. And to top it off, former Labour leader Ed Miliband admitted his party had got it wrong on immigration, even though this was more likely to save face with an angry electorate. So Powell again was not only right to mention this, but given how the numbers have massively increased in terms of net migration since his time, this problem has became significantly worse over time. It is also prevalent given how the Conservative government of 2010 onwards have failed so far to get immigration down in to the thousands, even though new plans for immigration post-Brexit go some way to address the issue, even if there is still much more work to be done.
On top of this, he also discussed the idea of the alarming potential of racial discrimination laws to be self-contradicting, as by treating people of other races differently, they have the potential to further generate racial division, not heal it. In it, he described how all citizens should be treated as ‘equal before the law’, and that immigrants shouldn’t be in a ‘special class’ before the law, and therefore such racial discrimination legislation (in particular the then hotly contested Race Relations Act 1968) would be a ‘match on to gunpowder’.
In turn, Powell was also scarily accurate with this diatribe. It is hard to see how these various laws have aided in the much of race relations, and have arguably harmed the police force and their ability to enforce the law. In particular, the Macpherson inquiry’s conclusions of how the police are institutionally racist have hampered many police forces in this country, of who are now hampered by the threat of racism accusations being thrown at them for enforcing the law. It is hard not to see how such an atmosphere led to many radical Islamic grooming gangs to go unpunished for decades (most notably the likes of Rotherham and Telford) because of fears of being called racist on behalf of the authorities and police alike and how many forces waste money and resources on hate crime units to show that they care about such nonchalance issues while actual crime goes ignored.
And while many on the right (like journalist Peter Hitchens and Conservative MP Michael Gove) have already pointed this out, other prominent criticisms of the Macpherson inquiry come from the left for similar reasons, like Norman Dennis, George Erdos and Ahmed al-Shahi in their Civitas pamphlet ‘Racist Murder and Pressure Group Politics’. Again in this sense, Powell was spot on.
He also discussed how stretched public services could become because of mass immigration. In it, he discussed how many ordinary Brits would ‘found their wives unable to obtain hospital beds in childbirth, their children unable to obtain school places’. This has come true in the worst way possible, as many people are bothered by mass immigration affecting public services, aspects like health tourism because of mass immigration help to undermine our NHS and school spaces are stretched to the limit. It is so prominent that even the left wing Channel 4 admitted that there was some legitimacy to the issue, especially in poorer regions of the country of which can not afford to maintain overstretched public services as opposed to richer areas like London. Again, Powell was spot on.
He concluded with a segment that defined both the themes of the speech and the political ideology of Powell. He once again addressed the fears of people bothered by mass immigration, of which included the infamous pensioner of who used similarly controversial language as other subjects in his speech (of which the press had attempted to dismiss for years as someone who wasn’t real as it wouldn’t fit their narrative on the subject). Here again, he showed his support for his constituents of who he was meant to represent, of who even if they expressed uncomfortable truths, had a right to be heard. He explained such sentiment on the political talk show Frost on Friday, whereby he stated that:
What is the match that which is most likely to ignite that combustible material? Not a politician – who forces the whole of the country to see what is happening, who speaks what thousands of people in these areas concerned are saying to themselves? Who answers their question: why does no-one speak to us? Are we alone, are we trapped?
What Powell was doing was reflecting the fears about mass immigration that thousands of people were at that time and are now fearful of in this country, as which he had to do as an elected politician. However, these fears went ignored for decades, as continuing hands changing did nothing to help the situation, and in the case of the New Labour government under Tony Blair made the matter a lot worse. These fears were not taken seriously until the 2016 EU Referendum, whereby the subject dominated the referendum and after it called in Brexit’s favour, many politicians who had ignored the issue than finally realised that they no longer could; they either decided to adopt it to save face or (may be more likely) were shown that it wasn’t a fringe minority bothered by this issue, but a large section of the population of who would not vote for these people again unless their voice was finally listened to. Powell was again ahead of his time in this sense.
Was the speech completely correct? Of course it wasn’t. Most notably I would say his fears over Sikhs integrating in British society were unfounded. Despite the early issues involving Sikh integration (of which was the context Powell discussed it in), Sikhs have integrated wonderfully in to British society, most notably in the army where they have contributed heavily towards it, and having a Sikh among the Royal Guard. Meanwhile, he was may be wrong to base his fears solely on race, given that many white people from Eastern Europe have made up a lot of the mass immigration over the last decade or so (thank you EU) and they have issues of their own, albeit Powell couldn’t see such difficulties at the time. And I still feel that the policy of repatriations is wrong and would only give more ammo to the left in that sense, especially potentially given its legitimate racial undertones.
But in the end, Powell was often ahead of his time with this speech, sometimes with predictions turning out even worse than what he expected. In that sense he was absolutely right. Mass immigration has been a major burden on this country. This is not because of the immigrants themselves as individuals, of who are often decent and hard working people, but rather the mass flood of which we need to stem now. The problems with integration, public services being stretched and the broader population being ignored on this issue were aspects Powell foresaw, and despite endless accusations of racism, do not stack up, especially given the hypocrisy of some of these statements. Most notably that of the then The Times editor-in-chief William Rees-Mogg, of who called Powell’s speech ‘evil’ and ‘racialist’ without any proof in his ‘An evil speech’ column, but then defended Mick Jagger’s drug abuse in his ‘Who Breaks a Butterfly on a wheel?’ column – indicating that voicing the legitimate fears about immigration among many Brits is far worse than drug abuse that destroys your body. But in all honestly, Powell was a prophet and one of the finest postwar politicians that we have had, and we should heed his warning now. After all, if we do nothing, all we are being is ‘literally mad’ as our nation is ‘busily engaged in heaping up its own funeral pyre’, and that ‘to see, and not to speak, would be the great betrayal’.
(Articles reflect the views of the author, and not necessarily those of Luke Nash-Jones, The Red Pill Factory, or Make Britain Great Again.)