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Enoch Powell: Shock! Horror! Intelligent debate lives on as protest falls flat

By Pete Madeley | Politics | Published:

Well, who would have thought it?

Bill Etheridge chatting with fans after the Enoch Powell debate

Here we are in the year 2018 and there is still a place for intelligent, sensible and balanced debate (memo to Question Time).

Enoch Powell's Rivers of Blood speech was always likely to prove controversial subject matter, and that's without taking into account today's prevailing attitude of 'if I don't agree with it, I don't want to hear it'.

The Express & Star's debate at the University of Wolverhampton was billed as a panel of experts looking at Powell's legacy, and it did exactly what it said on the tin.

As you might expect, there were those who did not want it to take place, a small number of whom staged a limp protest outside the university building on a damp and drizzly Saturday afternoon.

We're talking around a dozen people hunched under umbrellas while Rage Against The Machine's 'Killing in the Name' blared out over a loudspeaker. The Million Man March this was not.

'UKIP and the Tories don't represent us!' and 'No to racists on our campus', read their banners.

They should have just cut to the chase and said what they really meant: 'Different opinions not allowed'.

As it happened, UKIP MEP Bill Etheridge – the subject of much of the protesters' ire – didn't get to sit on the panel, his late arrival meaning he was forced to cool his jets in the audience.

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When he was given a few minutes with the microphone, he used his time to make a deeply flawed argument about Calais migrants coming to the UK for benefits.

He was missing the point. It is no longer really a question of whether Powell was right or wrong. For the most part, those arguments were put to bed years ago, as panellist Milkinder Jaspal rightly pointed out.

But do we airbrush Powell from history and pretend he didn't exist?

It is far better to allow people to express their views – but that's only my opinion.

Pete Madeley

By Pete Madeley
@P_Madeley_Star

Political Editor for the Express & Star. Responsible for local and national political stories, opinion, comment and analysis.

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