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Bishop of Wolverhampton: 'Blue plaque would honour Enoch Powell's racist views'

The Bishop of Wolverhampton has warned that erecting a blue plaque for Enoch Powell would be tantamount to 'honouring his racist views'.

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Bishop Clive Gregory and, right, Enoch Powell

Clive Gregory has spoken out against plans for a plaque for former city Tory MP Powell, who rose to notoriety through his Rivers of Blood speech in 1968.

He said he is 'strongly opposed' to a blue plaque for Powell, which says would 'provide a focus for those who wish to exacerbate divisions' within communities.

Powell was the Conservative MP for Wolverhampton South West from 1950 to 1974.

His incendiary speech warned of the dangers of mass immigration to Britain and led to him being sacked from his position as Shadow Defence Secretary.

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Bishop Gregory is among more than 1,000 people to sign a petition opposing the plaque.

He 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.

"Part of that response was the coming together of people across many faiths and races to work tirelessly for inter-cultural tolerance and understanding.

"That we have such a welcoming and harmonious city today, with strong and respectful bonds between our faith communities, owes nothing to the legacy of Enoch Powell, but a great deal to many who will never be considered for blue plaques.

"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."

In Powell's Rivers of Blood speech, delivered at the Midland Hotel on April 20, 1968, he claimed constituents had told him that Britain would not be worth living in as a result of mass immigration.

It was delivered in reaction to Labour's anti-discrimination Race Relations Bill, which was being proposed at the time.

The following day the then Conservative leader Edward Heath sacked Powell from the shadow cabinet, triggering a protest strike and march by London dockers in support of the MP.