Enoch Powell still speaks to us today

The first words of the “Rivers of Blood” speech are: “The supreme function of statesmanship is to provide against preventable evils.” Powell tried sincerely to do this.

Enoch Powell was, until the rise of Margaret Thatcher, the most famous politician in Britain. This was because of his “Rivers of Blood” speech in April 1968, in which he warned of the effects of mass immigration. No single speech since the war has caused greater controversy.

At the time, Enoch (as with Boris today, friend and foe alike referred to him by his unusual Christian name) was a polariser. He had fervent supporters and violent – sometimes literally violent – opponents. Luckily, this no longer applies. Powell died in 1998. He would have been 100 this year. The 21st century can consider him in the perspective of history.

But why should one bother? What is there to learn from a politician who, in career terms, failed, never rising higher than being minister of health?

This book, friendly to Enoch, but critical too, provides excellent answers. The speech of Powell’s which it quotes most frequently is one in which he himself addressed the question. “At the end of a lifetime in politics,” he said, “when a man looks back, he discovers that the things he most opposed have come to pass and that nearly all the objects he set out with are not merely not accomplished, but seem to belong to a different world from the one he lives in.” Yet it turns out that failure has its uses. It can make people see more clearly than success.


Complete text linked here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *