Express & Star

Enoch who? 45 years since Rivers of Blood

Most ethnic minority voters have never heard of former Wolverhampton MP Enoch Powell, 45 years after his notorious 'rivers of blood' speech, a poll has found.


However, while 51 per cent of minority voters interviewed said they did not know who the former South West MP was, nearly two thirds of black Caribbean respondents said they were aware of him and what he said.

Enoch Powell

Powell delivered the notorious speech in Birmingham on April 20, 1968, at the General Meeting of the West Midlands Area Conservative Political Centre, when he criticised immigration and anti-discrimination legislation, claiming that Britain had to be mad to allow in 50,000 dependents of immigrants each year.

It became known as the 'rivers of blood' speech because of the line 'As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding. Like the Roman, I seem to see the river Tiber foaming with much blood'.

Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft, who bankrolled much of the part's campaign for the 2010 election, polled 1,035 adults from ethnic minorities.

He has called for the party to do more to win over ethnic minorities to the Conservatives and believes that its failure to do so in 2010 cost David Cameron a majority and forced him to seek a coalition with the Liberal Democrats.

But in the same election, Enoch Powell's old seat, Wolverhampton South West, was won by a British Asian Conservative, Paul Uppal.

Mr Uppal has also previously urged the party to do more to get ethnic minorities interested in standing for it so that it can 'look like the face of modern Britain'.

He said today: "Older voters are more set in their ways but younger voters are much more up for grabs if we can appeal to them.

"I'm the only Conservative MP outside the South East with a significant ethnic minority population in the constituency.

"This poll shows that Enoch Powell no longer has the sway over politics that he once had."

The research found that nine in 10 of both the ethnic minority and general population say Britain has become a multicultural country.

While 91 per cent of minority voters say they are in favour of multiculturalism, only 70 per cent of the general population agree.

UK Independence Party voters are the only group among whom a majority say they are not in favour of multiculturalism.

Lord Ashcroft said: "Only 16 per cent of ethnic minority voters supported us at the last election.

"We must do better than this – both because we should be a party for the whole country, and because we will find it increasingly difficult to win a majority without them.

"There is no doubt that in 2010 this situation cost us seats". Powell described how one constituent had complained that his daughter was the only white child in her class at primary school but investigations by journalists were unable to find evidence to support his claim.

He also called for an immediate reduction in immigration and the implementation of a Conservative policy of "urgent" encouragement of those already in the UK to return home.

As a result, Powell was sacked as a front-bench spokesman by Conservative leader Edward Heath but what he had to say sparked a huge debate about immigration and its impact on British society.

The speech was delivered at the Midland Hotel in Birmingham.

In it, Powell said that uncontrolled immigration was like watching a nation "busily engaged in heaping up its own funeral pyre".

Former South Staffordshire Conservative Association chairman Wilhelm Rose, aged 86, was good friends with Enoch Powell for 50 years and insists that he was not a racist.

Mrs Rose, of Pattingham, said: "History has not been kind to Enoch Powell. He was an incredible man and he was not a racist.

"He gave a speech about the ill treatment of Mau Mau detainees and was an avowed Christian."

"He would never have wanted his warnings to have had such a divisive effect."

Mrs Rose recalled how Powell had served with the army in India and that he had a diploma as an Urdu interpreter.

She said: "Other English officers went to a club in Pune and there was an Indian officer who had not been allowed in.

"It was for white people only.

"So Enoch went somewhere else with the Indian officer because he thought it was wrong that they would not allow him to join them there.

"There are some people who have wanted to keep this argument about immigration going because it suited them, particularly some within the Labour party."

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