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Express and Star comment: Is Enoch deserving of blue plaque?

By Star Comment | Opinions | Published:

The prospect of a blue plaque in Wolverhampton to commemorate the life of Enoch Powell is sure to provoke a range of strong views.

Enoch Powell

The former MP is undoubtedly the most famous politician to have called the city home. His Rivers of Blood speech meanwhile, is arguably the most talked about political oration of the last 60 years.

Its lasting legacy on the city was the subject of an Express & Star debate last weekend, which drew an audience of more than 180 people.

It is worth remembering that this intelligent and complex man represented Wolverhampton for nearly a quarter of a century.

But his political career was irrevocably stained by that speech.

Time has moved on, and for the vast majority of people the argument over whether Powell was right or wrong is no longer an issue.

Wolverhampton has become a successful, multi-cultural city. It is probably not a reflection of what Powell had in mind when he made his speech at the Midland Hotel in April 1968.

Blue plaques have sparked many a debate across the country, particularly in the last 30 years when they have started to appear on a more regular basis outside the nation's capital.

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The idea is that they serve as a local marker, commemorating the life of someone of significance with links to a particular area, or an event or a building.

But should they be used to recognise those whose fame is the result of something that many people find unpalatable?

Some argue that blue plaques should reflect the history of a place, warts and all.

Others say the plaques should only honour those who have made a positive contribution to society.

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Let us not forget that England's first blue plaque scheme started in 1867 with a tribute to controversial poet and politician Lord Byron – a man celebrated and castigated in equal measure for his aristocratic excesses.

It is certain that the prospect of a plaque for Powell will prompt debate, both in this region and further afield.

There is no doubting Powell's position as a significant figure in the history of Wolverhampton.

People will have their own views as to whether he deserves recognition.

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