In defence of Enoch Powell


In what was otherwise a good article in today’s Spectator, David Green, the Director of Civitas, wrote the following:

The Windrush scandal also coincides with the 50th anniversary of Enoch Powell’s ‘rivers of blood’ speech in 1968, which poisoned the debate about immigration for decades. Powell made it about race rather than numbers by appearing to agree with the opinions of a constituent who said he could foresee a time when ‘the black man will have the whip hand over the white man’.

Of course, for some people anything said against mass immigration ‘poisons the debate’. But what debate was there to poison? The vast majority of people were against mass immigration and a small minority, the ruling elite, were for it. The latter got their way while the former had no say at all. How can you call that ‘a debate’?

Whether Powell ‘appeared to agree’ with the opinions of one of his constituents, I can’t say. However, what I can do is quote what he actually wrote about mass immigration into Britain:

…it depends indeed on whether the immigrants are different, and different in important respects from the existing population. Clearly, if they are identical, then no change for the good or bad can be brought about by the immigration. But if they are different, and to the extent that they are different, then numbers clearly are of the essence and this is not wholly – or mainly, necessarily – a matter of colour. For example, if the immigrants were Germans or Russians, their colour would be approximately the same as ours, but the problems which would be created and the change which could be brought about by a large introduction of a bloc of Germans or Russians into five areas in this country would be as serious – and in some respects more serious – than could follow from an introduction of a similar number of West Indians or Pakistanis.

What’s wrong with that? Sounds pretty sensible to me.

David Green continues:

The question for any liberal anti-racist [in Powell’s time] was: should it matter if the racial composition of the population changed in favour of ethnic groups?

Whether such things should matter is a question for philosophers but they certainly do matter to most people, and not only to Brits. It is really only progressive liberals who find questions of demographic instability boring and trivial.

Green goes on:

We have all seen the pictures of families from the West Indies filing off ships in what they would have called their Sunday best. Many were churchgoing evangelical Christians. Moreover, it would not matter if the black newcomers who ‘had the whip hand’ were all like Neville Lawrence, who under the influence of religion has forgiven the people who murdered his son.’

Of course most black immigrants aren’t like Neville Lawrence. Nor are they any longer the suit-wearing churchgoing evangelical Christians that were photographed on the Empire Windrush. Instead they are the ethnic group with the lowest academic achievement rate, the highest crime rate and the second highest unemployment rate (10%) in Britain, just behind Pakistanis and Bangladeshis (11%). The white figure is 5%.

But even if immigrants were paragons of virtue I still wouldn’t want them here in large numbers, nor for them to ‘have the whip hand’. These things matter to me, in the same way it matters to most Tibetans whether they are overrun or ruled by the Han Chinese. Who in their right mind thinks it is wrong to worry about such things?

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