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No plaque for Enoch

The following is a guest post by the Rev Dr Peter Mullen, Hon. Chaplain of The Freedom Association.

The Rt Rev’d Clive Gregory and the Rt Rev’d Michael Ipgrave have embarked on a project inept and mean-spirited even by the debased standards of our politicised episcopate. The Bishop of Wolverhampton and the Bishop of Lichfield have signed a petition got up by Black Country Stand Up To Racism to oppose the proposal to erect a commemorative plaque to Enoch Powell in Wolverhampton – Mr Powell’s parliamentary constituency from 1950 to 1974.

Bishop Gregory said, “As President of Interfaith Wolverhampton, I speak on behalf of all the major faith traditions in this City, in strongly opposing the idea of a blue plaque to commemorate Enoch Powell. Our inspirational City motto ‘Out of darkness cometh light’ is aptly applied to the response to Enoch Powell’s attempts to stir racial hatred through his ‘Rivers of Blood’ Speech.

He added, "It is disingenuous to suggest that the conferring of a blue plaque on such a divisive figure would be a ‘neutral’ act. It would be widely interpreted as honouring Enoch Powell’s racist views and would no doubt provide a focus for those who wish to exacerbate divisions within our communities and undermine the values that bind us together as fellow citizens.”

The Bishops’ protest is inept because it is wildly in error concerning the facts and it is mean-spirited because Enoch Powell, having departed this life, is unable to answer back. Mr Powell did not “attempt to stir up racial hatred” as Gregory says. Mr Powell knew he would be accused of this and he pre-empted the charge by an explicit qualification in his 1968 speech:

The supreme function of statesmanship is to provide against preventable evils. In seeking to do so, it encounters obstacles which are deeply rooted in human nature. Above all, people are disposed to mistake predicting troubles for causing troubles and even for desiring troubles: ‘If only,’ they love to think, if only people wouldn't talk about it, it probably wouldn't happen."

That is exactly the mistaken attitude of the bishops towards Enoch Powell: blame the messenger for the content of his message.

What Mr Powell foresaw was the multiplication of ghettos in this country populated by immigrants and their descendants who have no intention of integrating into the wider community: ”There are areas that are already undergoing the total transformation to which there is no parallel in a thousand years of English history. Whole areas, towns and parts of towns across England will be occupied by sections of the immigrant and immigrant-descended population.

Fifty years on from Mr Powell’s speech such ghettos have proliferated through dozens of British towns and cities. Do the bishops deny this?

In fact Mr Powell’s judgement is correct to a fine degree. He spelt it out: “The other dangerous delusion from which those who are wilfully or otherwise blind to realities suffer is summed up in the word. integration. To be integrated into a population means to become for all practical purposes indistinguishable from its other members. But to imagine that such a thing enters the heads of a great and growing majority of immigrants and their descendants is a ludicrous misconception, and a dangerous one.

To have their foolish fantasies corrected, the bishops need only visit such locations as Oldham, Rochdale, Dewsbury, Blackburn and scores of similar places. In fact they don’t even have to travel any distance: let them remain in the Midlands and look out of their windows and see these results for themselves. Mr Powell even predicted with startling accuracy the responses of men such as Gregory and Ipgrave:

There could be no grosser misconception of the realities than is entertained by those who vociferously demand legislation as they call it ‘against discrimination’, whether they be leader-writers of the same kidney and sometimes on the same newspapers which year after year in the 1930s tried to blind this country to the rising peril which confronted it, or archbishops who live in palaces, faring delicately with the bedclothes pulled right up over their heads. They have got it exactly and diametrically wrong.”

Half a century before the catastrophe of multiculturalism became clear and so obvious that everyone except ideologically-motivated bishops could see it, Enoch Powell described our predicament precisely:

Now we are seeing the growth of positive forces acting against integration, of vested interests in the preservation and sharpening of racial and religious differences, with a view to the exercise of actual domination, first over fellow-immigrants and then over the rest of the population. The cloud no bigger than a man's hand, that can so rapidly overcast the sky, has been visible recently in Wolverhampton and has shown signs of spreading quickly. To maintain customs inappropriate in Britain is much to be regretted.

When Gregory and Ipgrave accuse Enoch Powell of racism and attempting to stir up racial hatred they heap a calumny upon that distinguished statesman. They have conducted themselves disgracefully and they should repent and apologise. We should ignore their false and wicked accusations. And if we wish to discover Enoch Powell’s true motivation, we need turn only to the words with which he ended his speech:

Only resolute and urgent action will avert it even now. Whether there will be the public will to demand and obtain that action, I do not know. All I know is that to see, and not to speak, would be the great betrayal.


All views expressed in contributions by named authors are their own and may not reflect the views of The Freedom Association.

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