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Immigration: It Is Worse than Enoch Powell Predicted

Autor: John Laughland | Publikováno: 17.5.2008 | Rubrika: English

Of all the great misquotations in political history, none can surely be more persistent that the use of the phrase “rivers of blood” in reference to the speech given by the controversial British politician, Enoch Powell, forty years ago on Sunday (on 20 April 1968).
What Powell in fact said was, “As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding. Like the Roman, I seem to see ‘the River Tiber foaming with much blood’.” He did not talk about “rivers of blood” as such. A classical scholar, Powell perhaps thought that people would understand his reference to Book 6 of the Aeneid, in which the Sibyl recounts a prophecy of terrible wars to come. No doubt the vision was supposed to be of the Tiber actually foaming with blood, but Powell was some way from predicting actual bloodshed in Britain. Instead, he was using the quotation to communicate his sense of terrible foreboding.
Like many prophets of doom, Powell was furiously denounced for what many people regarded as a highly inflammatory attack on mass immigration. It is true that he had used some rather unfortunate language in his speech. But Powell’s basic sin was to have expressed openly – and dramatically – what many people were saying in private, namely that they no longer felt at home in their own country as a result of mass immigration.
Forty years on, it is obvious that Powell was both right and wrong. He was right that mass immigration would fundamentally change the nature of British society. That, indeed, is the point of it: supporters of mass immigration are more interested in multiculturalism as a political ideology than in any supposed economic benefits of it.
But he was wrong to permit one decisive, cataclysmic event. Although there have, of course, been outbursts of racial tension in Britain, and although immigration has contributed massively to the rise in violent crime on the streets of Britain’s major cities – one in five prisoners in Britain today is a Muslim, even though the number of Muslims living in Britain is probably around one sixtieth of the total population – what has in fact happened is perhaps worse: a slow erosion of the principles and values of British life which has occurred without people really noticing. Anyone who looks at a film from fifty or even forty years ago can see that the country has changed out of all recognition.
Immigration has greatly increased under the present Labour government. The huge influx of Poles is the most visible part of it, but the continued immigration from the third world has been massive as well. Immigration is openly discussed (and hotly contested) in several mass circulation newspapers, especially the Daily Mail and the Daily Express which conduct vigorous anti-immigration campaigns. They point out, among other things, that it is false to claim that immigration has no effect on employment among the indigenous population.
On the contrary, the government has been forced to admit, after many years of claiming the opposite, that the number of indigenous British people has fallen as the wave of immigration from Eastern Europe has risen in recent years. The number of immigrants, both from Eastern Europe and the third world, is now so great that it is almost impossible to find a single English person working in a shop of restaurant in London. I am not exaggerating. There are, of course, many inner city areas (including in the East End of London) where you hardly ever see a white face. As a result, there is now a very considerable phenomenon of “white flight” in Britain, white people leaving the inner cities and even the country in order to live in parts of the country, or other parts of the world, where they are not surrounded by immigrants. Hundreds of thousands of British people every year emigrate or move to the provinces for this reason. Those who stay practise segregation for their children: in London, all state school children are black while all private school children are white.
Powell was a bizarre figure. He was sacked from the Cabinet and left the Conservative Party after his famous speech; but it was not just on immigration that he disagreed with the Tories. He also fell out with Prime Minister Ted Heath’s over Europe, a subject on which he was as prophetic as on mass immigration and for which he is still revered by many Eurosceptic Tories today. But unlike them, Powell also disagreed with the pro-American stance of the entire British political class. He regarded British and American interests as different and often incompatible. He became convinced during the war (rightly) that the United States was determined to destroy the British empire. By contrast, the vast majority of Conservatives even today hold it as an article of faith that Britain must servilely copy everything the Americans do. This has now become the distinguishing feature of British foreign policy under New Labour.
For all these reasons, I agreed with Enoch Powell on almost everything and of course admired him greatly. Yet I never warmed to the man. On “Desert Island Discs”, a popular and well-established radio programme in which interviewees pick eight records they would take to them on a desert island, and on which Powell appeared in the late 1980s, Powell chose exclusively excerpts from Wagner’s Ring. I adore the Ring, and Wagner generally, but the choice of one single work of music, however superb, seemed to me to betray a basic strangeness, almost inhumanity. My impression of a certain inhumanity – a cussed determination to shock and to estrange – was confirmed when he was asked at the end of the interview if there was anything in his life he regretted. Powell replied, “I would like to have been killed in the war.”


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