Why it is wrong to praise Enoch Powell


by Rumbold
27th August, 2009 at 2:21 pm    

After his attack on the NHS, the Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan continues with his one-man quest to make the Tories look as bad as possible, by praising Enoch Powell (next week: why we shouldn’t name railway stations after victories over the French). Mr. Hannan claimed that Enoch Powell was one of his political influences because he was:

“Somebody who understood the importance of national democracy, who understood why you need to live in an independent country and what that meant, as well as being a free marketeer and a small-government Conservative.”

Mr. Hannan was not talking directly about immigration and race, and as Sunder Katwala points out, he has criticised Enoch Powell’s views on immigration in the past. Other politicians have lauded mass murderers and been excused. Yet he was still wrong to praise Enoch Powell, given the connotations surrounding him.

Any mention of Enoch Powell brings up bad memories for some, and understandably so. He was not some otherworldly academic absently quoting Virgil in a seminar. This was a deliberate message from a highly intelligent and articulate politician: that the rivers of blood would flow if Britain allowed too many non-white immigrants in. How many times have the words ‘Enoch was right’ been uttered? He felt that only white people could be British, even if in law non-whites could be born here or acquire citizenship. He was a racist who knew what he was saying and knew the effect in would have (though probably not the scale). He should not be anyone’s inspiration for understanding how to live in “an independent country”.

With regards to the EU, there is nothing extreme about Enoch Powell’s views, but why would you single out a man who helped to poison race relations? Harold Shipman might have had sensible ideas about reforming GPs’ surgeries, but you wouldn’t cite him when putting forward ideas.

As Sunder Katwala shows in his excellent post on Next Left, Messers Hannan and Powell don’t even agree on a lot of issues.


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  1. pickles

    New blog post: Why it is wrong to praise Enoch Powell http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/5663




  1. Frank — on 27th August, 2009 at 2:39 pm  

    Kingsley Amies thought Powell was barking mad, perhaps he was. However this article reeks of political correctness at its very worst.

  2. Chris E — on 27th August, 2009 at 2:40 pm  

    Alex Harrowell seemed to have him pegged correctly fwiw:

    http://yorksranter.wordpress.com/2009/08/23/tory-of-the-week-dan-hannan/

    “The second is that the US political circuit is being used as a sort of substitute for British politics here. Hannan at least thought he could say things in the States that would get him in a good deal of trouble in either Westminster or Brussels; intervening in US politics is a way of positioning yourself in Tory internal politics, without showing your hand too much”

    “he seems to have thought that the public wouldn’t notice as long as it happened beyond the seas, but that the sort of Tory constituency associations that could get him a Michael Gove-like seat for life would notice.”

    “Marked out as a loose cannon, his chances of being parachuted into the Commons must now be considered poor. So you can expect a lot more wingnut chum from him, as he steps up his campaign for a sinecure at the Heritage Foundation.”

  3. Boyo — on 27th August, 2009 at 3:13 pm  

    “why would you single out a man who helped to poison race relations?”

    Powell was too clever by half – rather than opening the debate about immigration and its consequences as he intended, he slammed it shut by associating it with racism. Powell was one of the best allies the pro-immigration lobby had.

  4. The Common Humanist — on 27th August, 2009 at 3:15 pm  

    Hannan is the true face of the Tory Party. Well, okay most of the Tory party. Cameron and a small band of non loons excepted.

    Hannan wants in to the US rightwingnut tv, radio and web circuit river of dollars.

    After the next election the actual Parliamentary Tory party will look an awful lot more like Hannan then it will like Cameron. When Conservative Home polled PPCs the results did not please them as they found them to be a lot more reactionary then they hoped.

    People will elect Cameron thinking they are getting ‘progressive’ (oh please, the irony) Tories but the vast majority will be wingnuts.

  5. Boyo — on 27th August, 2009 at 3:25 pm  

    Can i agree with TCH for once – off topic, but i don’t think the British people have any idea what kind of policy car crash they are sleep-walking toward. The Tories will be an absolute disaster. They have few ideas, and those they do are simply wrong – notice their determination to punish the public sector for bailing out their pals in the private. They’ve absolutely no understanding how economics works – they were dead wrong about what to do in the recent crisis as every independent voice will confirm.

    Gordon Brown will go down as one of the better UK prime ministers – there have been no major cock-ups (like Iraq) on his watch and he was brilliant during the economic crisis (although he failed to see it coming, like everyone else). He is a political naif (it’s true) which is why he and Labour are so loathed but believe me we will be looking back on the halcyon days of 2009 in 2012 after the blood bath that will be Cameron’s Britain.

    You read it here first!

  6. Kulvinder — on 27th August, 2009 at 6:23 pm  

    I more or less agree with Sunder Katwala; i don’t think hannan is ‘racist’ nor should powell’s ideas on every other issue be written off simply because of his views on immigration, but picking him as someone to admire on ‘national democracy’ or the issues that surround identity, nationhood etc is odd.

    As Katwala points out his views of immigration were inherently linked with those of ‘independent nationhood’ and even ethnicity.

    He approached euroscepticism from a tribal point of view – a ‘non-white’ couldn’t be english any more than a german man could be. It wasn’t about self-definition and shaping an identity.

    And boyo is right, he was one of those people who had very good ideas in certain respects, but he had absolutely no idea how he came across, and was unable to empathise with those who disagreed with him.

    His ‘rivers of blood’ torpedoed ‘the right’.

  7. Ravi Naik — on 27th August, 2009 at 6:46 pm  

    Daniel Hannan is an idiot – he went on Fox News and said that the NHS is a mistake, which is quite unforgiven considering that millions of Americans have no health insurance or access to medical care, and Democrats want to reform it. I think Cameron should have disciplined him on this action alone.

    Having said that, I feel that your post suffers some inconsistency in regard to your previous post on idolising historic figures. Enoch Powell’s view on race was no different from the ones held by mainstream politicians at that time, including Churchill. Didn’t you say that we could admire certain things, while acknowledge that other things were less admirable? Why can’t Daniel Hannan exercise that right?

    I am being academic, of course. If you are praising a controversial figure, you better explain quite well that you find other parts despicable. My feeling is that Daniel Hannan is an immature brat.

  8. MaidMarian — on 27th August, 2009 at 7:24 pm  

    People often forget that Powell was actually more interesting when it came to his time in Northern Ireland.

  9. douglas clark — on 27th August, 2009 at 8:12 pm  

    Ravi,

    Winston Churchills’ ‘peak’ years were between circa 1938 to 1955. So he isn’t really a contemporary of Enoch Powell whose ‘time at the top’ was circa 1965 to 1968.

    Powell is himself a bit of a ‘slippery’ character who had over his time seemed as though he was the spokesman for the League of Empire Loyalists, and elsewhen as someone who would support the break up of the UK. (I refer to his support for James Kilfedder)

    I doubt he really knew who he was himself.

  10. Rumbold — on 27th August, 2009 at 9:15 pm  

    Ravi:

    “Enoch Powell’s view on race was no different from the ones held by mainstream politicians at that time, including Churchill. Didn’t you say that we could admire certain things, while acknowledge that other things were less admirable? Why can’t Daniel Hannan exercise that right?”

    I don’t think that his views were mainstream though, especially after the ‘rivers of blood’ speech. Enoch Powell’s attitudes in regards to the nature of Britain are too tied up with his racial attitudes for Daniel Hannan to easily pick them apart. If he had stuck with his attitudes to the EU, and the EU alone, that would have been okay, but why the need to cite Enoch Powell at all?

  11. douglas clark — on 27th August, 2009 at 9:40 pm  

    Rumbold,

    For better or worse, Enoch Powell believed in Empire. And his idea of ‘the nature of Britain’ was that it was at the apex of a pyramid, with ‘Jerusalem’ being sung from every corner of the globe..

    He was probably under the misapprehension that it was a force for good. I think it is fair to say that the dissolution of that Empire broke his heart.

    Well, hell mend him and Dan Hannan too.

  12. Rumbold — on 27th August, 2009 at 9:43 pm  

    Douglas:

    I think you have a point there. He wanted to be Viceroy of India I believe (he spoke fluent Urdu, etc.). He just never adjusted to the idea that God didn’t put the British on earth to rule over others. I know that sounds snide, but I think it is true.

  13. douglas clark — on 27th August, 2009 at 10:04 pm  

    And it would be wrong, I think, to deny Enoch Powell his place in history. His double firsts in Latin and Greek from Cambridge are supposed to show a brilliant mind.

    Eh?

    If he did have a brain, what a waste of time that was. A couple of hobby degrees in nothing very important. Or, particularily relevant for a politician.

    But hold hard!

    Nowt out of a double first from Cambridge must go to waste!

    Perhaps, an understanding of the idea, the very concept of Empire as glorious. Yes, yes that’ll do it.

    Greek and Latin could indeed teach you much about that.

    You could look at your double first in ‘Athenians as Bastards’ and ‘Romans as Bastards’ and think, well, well, now there’s an idea.

    What do you think Rumbold :-)

  14. douglas clark — on 27th August, 2009 at 10:13 pm  

    Ahem,

    obviously ‘Athenians as Heroes’ and ‘Romans as Heroes’.

    Or maybe not.

    Depends which side of the fence you are on.

    A few of us were apparently north of Hadrians Wall.

  15. Roger — on 27th August, 2009 at 10:19 pm  

    .

  16. Roger — on 27th August, 2009 at 10:24 pm  

    damn!!

    “And his idea of ‘the nature of Britain’ was that it was at the apex of a pyramid, with ‘Jerusalem’ being sung from every corner of the globe..”
    Almost certainly not. “Jerusalem” was- and is- a revolutionary song. Blake was an anti-imperialist and when Hubert Parry, who wrote the music, was asked by his pupil Ralph Vaughan Williams what kind of music he should write Parry answered: “Choral music, my boy, as an Englishman and a democrat.”

    You’re right about the effects of a classical education, though. Those who see the modern world through Greek and Roman eyes have a strange perception. It makes for fine poets- Powell wrote some good poems- but- except for Gladstone perhaps- appalling politicians. The greeks and Romans are more useful at providing uotations than exemplars.

    “A few of us were apparently north of Hadrians Wall.”
    In the Athens of the North, perhaps?

  17. douglas clark — on 27th August, 2009 at 10:25 pm  

    Anyway,

    Roger, why the silence?

  18. douglas clark — on 27th August, 2009 at 10:35 pm  

    Roger,

    Just joshing at 17.

    Good points. If Blake was an anti-imperialist, and I believe you, honest, why is it taken as an alternate National Anthem. Or have I answered my own question? Is that the option to imperialism? For those that don’t know the words:

    ” And did those feet in ancient time
    Walk upon England’s mountains green?
    And was the holy Lamb of God
    On England’s pleasant pastures seen?
    And did the Countenance Divine
    Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
    And was Jerusalem builded here
    Among those dark Satanic mills?

    Bring me my bow of burning gold:
    Bring me my arrows of desire:
    Bring me my spear: O clouds, unfold!
    Bring me my chariot of fire!
    I will not cease from mental fight,
    Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
    Till we have built Jerusalem
    In England’s green and pleasant land.”

    I can almost see it, if I scew my eyes up really up tight and believe Jesus walked in Huddersfield or summat. Fair does…

    In the Athens of the North, perhaps?

    No, the other one.

    I’ll confess it is a patriotic song and even I feel a tad emotional about it.

  19. Sunder Katwala — on 27th August, 2009 at 11:06 pm  

    Thank you for the link and kind comment.

    I wanted to respond to Boyo who said
    “Powell was too clever by half – rather than opening the debate about immigration and its consequences as he intended, he slammed it shut by associating it with racism. Powell was one of the best allies the pro-immigration lobby had”.

    I think this is now the conventional wisdom about Powell. It is very regularly said, by all sorts of people. It is said that he scared mainstream politicians off from discussing immigration, and governments from acting to restrict it.

    However, both claims are demonstrably false. They are the opposite of what happened. This is an enormous myth. I think it would be helpful if this was pointed out fairly often when this claim is repeated, as I think we entirely misread the history of the immigration debate in this country if we accept it.

    If you want chapter and verse as to why, I went into it in this piece after Trevor Phillips said more or less exactly that in what was, otherwise, apart from the history, quite a good speech about the problem of Enoch for rational immigration debates.

    If you think the claim stands up, I would be interested in how that argument can be sustained.

  20. Roger — on 27th August, 2009 at 11:09 pm  

    Well, even by the standards of poets, Blake was a weirdo. i don’t think he ever left London in his life- easier then of course. He also believed that the whole biblical story actually- not necessarily literally, but somehow actually- took place in england. All the same, as an alternative national anthem it’s very good- not “what a wonderful country this is” but “compare what we have and what we”- and i think we means everyone here- “should have and let’s make this a wonderful country.” Englsnd here is as mythological and generally applicable as Jerusalem.
    There’s the story of Renoir being taken to look at Blake’s very unRenoiresque paintings. Someone explained that Blake had actually seen everything he painted in his visions. “It’s a pity he didn’t look a bit more closely then”, said Renoir.

  21. douglas clark — on 27th August, 2009 at 11:16 pm  

    Roger,

    Thanks for the background on Blake. And, yes, you are right. He was trying to say lets make a heaven on Earth. At least that’s what I think too.

    He also believed that the whole biblical story actually- not necessarily literally, but somehow actually- took place in england. All the same, as an alternative national anthem it’s very good- not “what a wonderful country this is” but “compare what we have and what we”- and i think he means everyone here- should have and let’s make this a wonderful country.”

    Very well said…

  22. douglas clark — on 27th August, 2009 at 11:37 pm  

    Sunder Katwala,

    I don’t think that Powells speech had anything other than a detrimental effect on race relations in the UK. I think it is a tad unfair to suggest that what Boyo said here:

    Powell was too clever by half – rather than opening the debate about immigration and its consequences as he intended, he slammed it shut by associating it with racism. Powell was one of the best allies the pro-immigration lobby had.

    is actually wrong.

    What Powell did, and I am pretty certain about this, was divide the nation between those that saw it his way and those that didn’t. It is entirely reasonable to think that Powell was a catalyst for a line of division that had never been as clearly stated in a UK context. He was asking you to make your mind up.

    That is certainly how I saw him at the time. I think those of us that jumped the shark then – for clarity, rejected his bullshit – were perhaps in a minority, but we were young and have made substantial gains since then.

    Powell probably thought he would get the conservative party leadership by acclaim. He didn’t, and the rest is history.

  23. Alex — on 27th August, 2009 at 11:46 pm  

    The thing about Powell no-one ever mentions is his doublethink; he was rarely consistent about what the leaders should think, only that they should be the leaders.

    He was a serious soldier; then he tried to persuade Churchill he could reconquer, or rather, suppress India with 20 divisions. Even WSC, susceptible to flaky military ideas, saw through that.

    Then he was a One Nation Tory, managing the NHS, bringing over Caribbean workers, and not objecting to MacMillan’s application to join the EEC.

    It was only after he found himself without his red box and black car that he suddenly discovered race and Europhobia and Hayek.

    Later still, he suddenly found he cared about industry and specifically shipbuilding and the Navy…after he moved to Northern Ireland. I wonder how that happened.

    It is conventional wisdom that Powell was creditably principled, just with the wrong principles. It is drivel; he pandered. At every turn, he did what seemed popular; and when it wasn’t, he looked for different people. The guiding lodestar was that he liked being an MP.

  24. Kulvinder — on 28th August, 2009 at 12:14 am  

    I think you may be arguing at cross purposes; I’m not really sure how you got this

    …It is said that he scared mainstream politicians off from discussing immigration, and governments from acting to restrict it.

    from what boyo said

    Powell was too clever by half – rather than opening the debate about immigration and its consequences as he intended, he slammed it shut by associating it with racism. Powell was one of the best allies the pro-immigration lobby had.

    especially as you yourself write

    …The damage of Powellism was to create a debate always dominated by immigration, numbers and controlling the borders; which was never about integration, and which too often treated race relations and immigration as the same issue.

    i took ‘racism’ to be a debate ‘dominated by numbers and controlling the borders’

    I hate the term, but ‘the right’ found it pretty difficult after powell to discuss immigration without raising the obviously unpleasant spectre of ‘rivers of blood’ within their own supporters.

    Noone is arguing, and i certainly didn’t take boyo’s comment to mean that MPs didn’t discuss immigration again or that the government of the time and every government since hasn’t worked to control it or end immigration; rather powell’s speech framed the debate in a way that those within his own party didn’t want, and that after powell every tory leader has had to shape the debate in a way that isn’t seen as endorsing powell.

  25. Sunder Katwala — on 28th August, 2009 at 12:18 am  

    Douglas

    Thanks. The argument/evidence was in my link. He did not “slam the debate shut”, which was what was claimed, and so prove the great ally of the pro-immigration lobby. (Indeed, your claim is different – and probably rather more accurate – that he provoked, framed and polarised a significant public debate on the issue of immigration, in which people had to make up their mind where they were on it).

    But the accidentally silenced debate/ironically led to more liberal immigration claim is made very often.

    It ignores that the (more moderate, relatively!) Powellites of the Monday Club with their “Stop Immigration Now” campaign had a great deal of success in influencing the leading Tory politicians, such as Whitelaw and Thatcher.

    And while it is very often claimed that governments were deterred from acting to restrict immigration, the major legislation to do so passed in 1968, 1971 and 1981 shows that, in fact, almost every successive government did significantly restrict immigration in the 15 years after Powell’s speech.

    However, he did of course lose the repatriation argument (which he argued was by far the more important of the two issues by 1968) and indeed the Europe argument, which is why Powellism is now largely a subject for the history books rather than sensible contemporary debate.

  26. douglas clark — on 28th August, 2009 at 1:18 am  

    Sunder Katwala,

    Yes, I agree with you about the consequences. I do not think that the contra Powellite case – re immigration – has ever, or will ever, be ‘won’, if that is the right word. He perhaps, opened Pandoras Box.

    I hear what you say ré Powellism but he still echoes with some folk.

    I wish he didn’t.

    It is said that the last thing out of Pandoras Box was hope.

  27. Boyo — on 28th August, 2009 at 8:06 am  

    All, I think the spirit of what I meant was in Sunder’s summing up:

    “The damage of Powellism was to create a debate always dominated by immigration, numbers and controlling the borders; which was never about integration, and which too often treated race relations and immigration as the same issue.”

    I’m no expert, but not sure I agree that govt. policy to restrict immigration was “Powellite” – this suggests any restrictive policy is “Powellite.” I can see however how Powell “stirred things up” and pressed the govt. to act.

    More interesting however is re who the debate is held by – it is my perception that Powell in this context was an influence on the right. On the left, it served to frame any debate in terms of race and any issue re culture beyond the pale. Given that the “left” has been in power since 1997 this dialectic (correct use?!) has come to dominate.

  28. Sunder Katwala — on 28th August, 2009 at 8:50 am  

    Thanks – those are all sensible responses and a lot of validity in them. What I think it is important to challenge is “forty years of silence” and “why haven’t we been allowed to talk about immigration” when the debate has been loud, and so the answer is “of course you are and have been, but instead of screaming about how you’ve been silenced, do you want to work out what it is you have got to say”.

    Was there a difference between right (which Powell influenced) and left (which he made more allergic)? Perhaps, though, Labour governments – Callaghan, etc – have often not been liberal, but New Labour have been seen as having an open borders policy by the right and a reactionary regressive policy by the liberal-left.

    A different thought. Perhaps some of the resistance to the idea of integration on the left came not from a reaction to Powell (who didn’t think about integration much; it being almost impossible) but to Tebbit.

    Tebbit also deliberately polarised, perhaps more cleverly than Powell, though the cricket test is also anti-Powellite. If you cheer for us, you are us. This frames the allegiance demand too narrowly for many people, myself included. Practically, the impact may have been majority reassurance putting a brake on minority integration.

    And I suspect this may have made it more difficult to rescue the legitimate idea (which I support) of integration as citizenship from the sense that it was synonymous with assimilation (and so hostile to liberal principles).

    But the 1983 Tory poster “Labour says he’s black; we say he’s British” is perhaps interesting as how far they had rhetorically rejected the Powellite sense of nation

  29. Rumbold — on 28th August, 2009 at 9:02 am  

    Douglas:

    It is not your fault that you were born north of the wall. You are always welcome to come and join us. Heh.

    Sunder:

    It was an excellent post. Even though I disagree with you on a number of things, I do like how you approach things in such a calm and rational manner. Are you sure you are a leftie? Heh.

  30. UGG Boots sale — on 28th August, 2009 at 9:18 am  

    This ghastly video clip is short but very hard to watch. While there is no way to prove the authenticity of the scene, I and individual experts on the recent fighting, found nothing that would suggest otherwise.

  31. The Common Humanist — on 28th August, 2009 at 9:21 am  

    “I do like how you approach things in such a calm and rational manner. Are you sure you are a leftie?”

    It marks himout as a centre lefty and therefore lacking the silly rank hysteria that characterises much of the Left and Right Wingnuts that pollute the body politic, like Hannan.

  32. douglas clark — on 28th August, 2009 at 9:30 am  

    Sunder Katwala,

    Fascinating seeing you develop your ideas @ 28.

    I’d be interested in your views on whether or not, for most of that time, the debate was generally pretty low key? I don’t know for sure, but it seemed to me that it was. Notwithstanding Mr Tebbit.

    It is only in the noughties that it seems to have moved towards the top of the agenda. And even that might be seen as powered through other issues like 7/7 and the accession treaty.

    BTW, I happily fail Norman Tebbits cricket test. Except when you lot are playing Australia.

  33. Jai — on 28th August, 2009 at 11:05 am  

    You’re right about the effects of a classical education, though. Those who see the modern world through Greek and Roman eyes have a strange perception. It makes for fine poets- Powell wrote some good poems- but- except for Gladstone perhaps- appalling politicians.

    Apart from being entertaining reading/viewing, the classical period is also very interesting for recognisable “power politics” and the way people behave in certain situations — some things never seem to change, regardless of the time period or the geographical location. Both the Greeks and (later) particularly the Romans were also far ahead of the rest of Europe in most aspects; it took about a thousand years for northern & western Europe to reach the same level of development after the Roman Empire collapsed, for example.

    There are also many excellent — and still highly relevant — points about “the human condition” in the philosophical writings of people like Seneca and the emperor Marcus Aurelius, or the observations of the senator/orator Cicero, amongst others.

    However, I think problems occur when people with a “classical education” (or an awareness of the period via other means) learn the “wrong” lessons from this part of history.

    And there is huge irony in British imperialists identifying with the Romans and, along with the positive aspects, unfortunately also emulating some of the nastier aspects of their culture in relation to attitudes towards subject peoples & targets of conquest when the Romans themselves did not exactly have a high opinion about how “civilised” the Britons of the time were (even after the second, and successful, major invasion and subsequent annexation of most of Britain into the empire, only approx. 15% of Britons were culturally “Romanised” during the centuries of Roman rule afterwards). Even more so when you consider that Christian evangelism was a major driver in justifying imperialism from the Victorian era onwards, despite the fact that a) Christians were a persecuted minority in the Roman Empire until the reign of Constantine, and b) Roman-style imperialism completely contradicted Christ’s teachings and example.

    “Stockholm Syndrome” on a grand scale, perhaps.

  34. Jai — on 28th August, 2009 at 11:14 am  

    Quick note:

    the emperor Marcus Aurelius

    For those who are unfamiliar with him, this was the Roman emperor portrayed by Richard Harris in the film Gladiator — the one who favoured the (fictional) Maximus but was murdered by his son Commodus. In reality, he did choose Commodus as his successor but the specific reasons are unclear, and (like his depiction in the movie) Commodus really was extremely egotistical and unstable.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcus_Aurelius

  35. Rumbold — on 28th August, 2009 at 11:31 am  

    Jai:

    Excellent points in #33. Just one small quibble though- it was only the Western Roman Empire that collapsed: the Eastern one would survive, in various forms, until 1453.

  36. Jai — on 28th August, 2009 at 11:44 am  

    the Eastern one would survive, in various forms, until 1453.

    Correct, aka the Byzantine Empire.

  37. Boyo — on 28th August, 2009 at 12:11 pm  

    It’s all very complex of course and no 100 per cent answer, however, re the left’s seeming “aversion” to integration, here’s a few straw men -

    - post-imperial self-loathing?
    - post-imperial arrogance?! I think this is an interesting one: it’s often said the left is relativistic because it is ashamed of the empire etc, but i wonder if this conceals a more profound arrogance of ideas? Multi-culturalism was envisaged not as the genuine article, but only the “best” of other cultures, not, for example sharia
    - gramsky’s “revolution through the organs”? A perhaps more plausible explanation for (1) and combining (2). The left, out of “central govt.” power for a generation, populated the organs of state from the civil service and local authorities, to education etc, where by stealth its assumptions – which were antithetical to the status quo – became the norm

    Perhaps multiculturalism was aimed at integration after all, and in many senses it succeeded – certainly in respect of race. Where is has “failed” however is that in its arrogance it did not comprehend the power of Islam as an idea, that some cultures sit more easily in the Western context than others. In that sense it was possibly more high-handed and “imperialistic” than many conservatives, who did not necessarily see their own culture as so superior to all others the rest would just “fit in”.

    Islam came to the West not because it wanted to be like it or respect it, but so it could earn a living. Immigration does not necessarily = envy. I’m afraid for saying that I might get investigated by Rumbold’s Islamophobia Commission, and it is a sweeping statement I know, but nonetheless I think it’s worth considering.

    A perfect, if extreme, example is the SWP and Islamism – they figured they could swallow them up with RESPECT, but ended up being swallowed themselves. Fools!

  38. Dan Dare — on 28th August, 2009 at 11:23 pm  

    Sunder Katwala is correct in claiming that Powellism did not cause political debate on ‘coloured’ immigration and its potential consequences to be stifled. But that is only because such debate had already been stifled as a result of a cross-party consensus which developed in the mid-1960s, and which was intended to remove race and immigration from party politics.

    According to Russell Hansen in “Citizenship and Immigration in Post-war Britain:

    … Although it is difficult to date broad attitudinal shifts in party politics precisely, the foundations of the bipartisan consensus were in place by 1966 election. The consensus would suffer a great deal of strain in the coming years: Margaret Thatcher fleetingly attempted to make immigration a political issue after assuming the Conservative leadership, and a number of lesser politicians – notably Norman Tebbit and Kenneth Baker – have sought a few political points through attacks on black and Asian Britons and on Labour’s laxity on immigration. Yet, despite these efforts, the bipartisan consensus survived, and in the late 1990s Britain is unique in Europe in that it is a country with no significant far-right party and in which immigration plays no significant role in national elections. Indeed, one of the remarkable aspects of the Thatcher years was that a government that was bent on deriding and sweeping away all vestiges of consensus politics left the bipartisan approach to immigration, race, and multiculturalism largely untouched.

    Bipartisanship originated in a deft policy linkage orchestrated by Labour, and above all its maligned Home Secretary Frank Soskice. The goal of the strategy was to make the maintenance and extension of immigration controls more acceptable by linking these with positive measures for integrating migrants. Migration controls were necessary because past migration had locked the UK, by 1964, into substantial future migration: the inevitability of family reunification meant that migration, even if the borders were entirely closed, would continue at around 30,000 per year. Positive measures were necessary because the 1964 campaign had made it abundantly clear that racism existed and threatened to destabilize British politics. Both immigration restrictions and anti-discrimination measures had independent arguments in favour of them. It was Soskice’s contribution to link them together in a coherent framework, and to use this as an offer to the Conservatives to take immigration and race out of party politics.

    The enactment of anti-discriminatory legislation refracted the liberal thrust of government policy, which had supported open borders before 1962, towards race relations policy. The 1965 Race Relations Act, and related measures announced in a White Paper of that year, provided the institutional basis for official measures against racism and in favour of integration. Liberal activists and sympathetic politicians, who before 1962 would have sought to maintain an open door to the Commonwealth, sought in the 1960s and 1970s to secure the consolidation and extension of this legislative framework. The 1965 Act was followed by substantial extensions in 1968 and 1976; both became part of the bipartisan framework. [pp 128-9]

    …

    As a member of the shadow cabinet Powell was well aware of these arrangements and his interventions from 1968 onwards should be seen as part of an effort to expose the bipartisan consensus for what it was, a blatant attempt to exclude race and immigration from public debate.

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