Enoch Powell: Anti-racism rally to mark anniversary of Rivers of Blood speech
Ian Austin will host an anti-racism rally to mark the 50th anniversary of Enoch Powell’s Rivers of Blood speech.
The Dudley North Labour MP will host the event at the Burlington Hotel – formerly the Midland Hotel – which is where Powell delivered his incendiary speech at a Conservative Association meeting in April 1968.
Mr Austin says he is inviting a number of as yet unnamed 'high-profile speakers' from across the country to address the rally.
He said he hopes that 'hundreds of people will come together to celebrate how Britain has got better over the last 50 years'.
Mr Austin said: “This was a shameful speech that caused great division, presented a terrible image of the Black Country and even resulted in people being attacked.
“Powell divided communities based on the colour of people’s skin, he wanted immigrants to leave the country and predicted race wars and blood on the streets.
“His terrible predictions have never become true. Instead, the West Midlands is home to communities in which people from different countries, backgrounds and cultures work and live together harmoniously.
“People from all over the world have made a huge contribution to community life, to our NHS and other public services and, by setting up businesses and creating jobs, our economy too so I’m inviting speakers from across the country and people from around the region to join me as we celebrate all the ways Britain has got better over the last 50 years.
“Let’s celebrate how Britain has got better, not commemorate division.”
Powell was the Conservative MP for Wolverhampton South West from 1950 to 1974. He rose to notoriety when he delivered his Rivers of Blood speech on April 19, 1968.
In the speech he referred to a conversation he claimed to have had with a constituent, who told him that mass immigration into Britain would eventually see 'the black man have the whip hand over the white man'.
He concluded that failing to address the issue of immigration would be 'the great betrayal'.
Mr Austin's announcement comes after the Wolverhampton’s Civic and Historical Society announced it had received an application for a plaque from an unnamed person.
Its six-strong panel is set to decide next year if gets the go-ahead.
More on a potential plaque for Enoch Powell:
- Results are in on blue plaque poll as more than 20,000 have their say
- Here's what you had to say on the controversial blue plaque proposal
- Should Enoch Powell have a blue plaque in Wolverhampton?
The issue has divided opinion across the region and has been debated on national television and radio.
Wolverhampton's three Labour MPs – Emma Reynolds, Pat McFadden and Eleanor Smith – have all declared their opposition to a plaque, as has former Conservative MP Paul Uppal and the Bishop of Wolverhampton, Clive Gregory.
An Express & Star poll garnered a massive response, with 70 per cent of more than 20,000 people in favour of a plaque for Powell.
In a recent article supporting a plaque for Powell, journalist Nigel Hastilow wrote: "Enoch Powell fought to maintain our freedoms and became one of the towering figures of the 20th century.
"Would anyone seriously deny such a significant politician a little blue plaque marking his links to Wolverhampton?"
A change.org petition against a plaque has received around 1,500 signatures.
Mr Austin’s event takes place at 6pm on April 19 at the Burlington Hotel, New Street, Birmingham.
Visit www.ianaustin.co.uk/rally_against_racism to sign up to attend.