Manual Rivers of Blood

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Rivers of Blood speech

Why, then, his infl ammatory Rivers of Blood speech? Powell saw himself as a man of the people and the people had become antagonistic to immigration. Powell forecast up to seven million Caribbeans and South Asians in Britain by He was no opportunist. In his own mind he was the modern version of the tribune of the plebs of Ancient Rome.

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Significantly, Powell never dropped his Brummie accent despite attending public school and Cambridge University. As a speaker he was seductively hypnotic but his words were as electrically dangerous as his delivery.

The people loved Powell. One Gallup Poll in found that 74 per cent of the public agreed with his comments on race. Other polls found the percentage higher still.

Dockers and market traders in their thousands marched and went on strike for Powell. Powell, though, for all of his unflinching self-belief was as prone to error as any other mortal. Modern Britain, it turns out, has not disappeared in a race-war bonfire despite seven million of the population identifying as South Asian, black or mixed in the census. His ghost doubtless does not care.


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It was not race that made him tick but Britain and its national integrity. The true impact of Powell, son of headmaster Albert and his wife Ellen, on UK politics was not what he said in but what he failed to say in He refused to endorse the Conservatives in the general election of that year because of their pro stance on European integration. Such was his personal sway among the public he probably cost Heath the election.

Consequence number one: The defeated, discredited Heath was ousted by the men in grey suits. Margaret Thatcher became Tory leader and unleashed the markets. Consequence number two: Euroscepticism remained alive and well in the Conservative Party and the Right-wing of British politics. Thatcher herself was Eurosceptic-lite. For two decades until his death in aged 95, Powell campaigned tirelessly against the European Economic Community in all its manifestations.

He was the intellectual powerhouse of Euroscepticism.

BBC under fire over Enoch Powell 'rivers of blood' broadcast

A circle completed. No parallel exists for such rapid demographic transformation in the history of Britain or any other European state. Powell was not entirely wrong about the politicizing of race.


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Powell was wrong, however, in many other ways. His race-baiting exemplified the collectivizing hostility he purported to warn against and the opportunistic populism he professed to despise. He underestimated the tolerance of his countrymen. The Enoch-was-right parties of the s never won a parliamentary seat. The British have largely kept calm and carried on as their society has been transformed over a generation.

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BBC defends Rivers of Blood broadcast

That tolerance was disturbed only recently, with the acceleration of Muslim immigration and the eruption of domestic jihadism. It is ironic that Powell insulted Caribbeans and Sikhs in his speech but never mentioned Muslims. Finally, Powell got his history wrong, and not just because the Sybil, who worked at a Greek colony in Italy, was an immigrant to Rome. And French resentment of failed immigration policies has carried the National Front from the fascist fringe to near-respectability.

Enoch Powell's 'Rivers of Blood' speech - Telegraph

When mainstream politicians fail, populists step in. Historians, activists, and even an actor who has played Powell on stage debated each section of the speech.

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The broadcast did not cause the collapse of British civil society. Monocultural European countries can begin to solve their dilemmas of immigration and identity only when they talk honestly about their fears and hopes for the future. Wrong in many ways, Powell was right about that.