Enoch Powell may not be a politician whose name is on the pages of every history book, but his story is now becoming a popular one. Back in the sixties, Powell led a promising career as a politician. He spoke his mind and was considered provocative and brave. With an impressive military career and reputation as a scholar, many other key figures of the time, such as Margaret Thatcher, called him “the best parliamentarian I ever knew.”
Then came moment that changed Powell’s image forever. In 1968, the British politician gave a very controversial speech that made many connect him to racism. The speech became infamously known in Britain as the “Rivers of Blood” speech. On April 20,1968, Powell’s speech explained his idea that “Britain’s acceptance of high levels of immigration from Commonwealth nations was like building its own funeral pyre.” The Washington Post wrote about his remarks that were made at a meeting of the West Midlands Area Conservative Political Centre.
“As I look ahead, i am filled with foreboding. Like the Roman, I seem to see ‘the River Tiber foaming with much blood,’” Powell warned.
He continued with remarks about how the British would wake up and find themselves “strangers in their own country” and suggested that immigrants be sent back to the countries they came from. Unfortunately, the speech used derogatory language to describe the recent influx of immigrants to Britain from the Commonwealth. He also spoke of how the immigrants were harassing the British citizens, such as one story of “excreta” being pushed into one person’s letter box.
1968 reports claim that Powell’s speech was met with agreement with the people present in the room. However, when the speech made into the press, people became outraged. It was a time that the country was trying to build race relations. The country was debating the Race Relations Act of 1968 and wanted to end any ethnic or nationality discrimination.
With the outrage, Powell was forced to leave the world of politics. He lived a quiet life and followed different career paths before passing away in 1998. Even though Powell had disappeared from the public eye, the recent extremist attacks in Paris, which killed 130, brought his “Rivers of Blood” back to life. Some are claiming Powell’s foreshadowing comments had come to life. Some are calling Powell a visionary, claiming that the current events involving extremists in Europe could of been prevented if they would not of been allowed in the country in the first place. One of these supporters is Bill Etheridge, a member of the European Parliament for the anti-immigration U.K. Independence Party had nothing but good things to say about Powell and his speech.
“The creed of multiculturalism is in fact a creed of surrender and it will lead to rivers of blood,” Etheridge said. “A multicultural Britain was diversive [sic] not just diverse.”
Even a columnist of the Telegraph and author of a Powell biographer, Simon Heffer also wrote his agreements with Powell’s philosophy. He agreed that the Paris attacks were the perfect example that Powell was correct.
“If you see the monument of Powell’s critics, look about you,” Heffer wrote, “We are prosperous, decent country that normally embraces many faiths and outlooks within a strong common culture. Yet we have this malignancy eating away at a part of us: and our political class still fears to take the lead necessary to deal with it.”
Some Immigration lawyers are arguing that this is simple fuel for populist far right candidates who want to find anyway to bring Powell’s image back to life. The attacks in Paris are the most recent example for them to use. While some his predictions have came true, such as 10 percent of Britain’s population being made up of immigrants by the year 2000. But, there were some things that were obviously offensive and untrue.
“In 15 or 20 years’ time the black man will have the whip hand over the white man,” Powell preached.
Obviously, this didn’t happen. But, it makes one wonder if instead of Powell seeing into the future. Perhaps, his supporters are looking into the past. As a small percentage of immigrants turn to extremism and violence, the debate will unfortunately continue.