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Enoch Powell: Here's what you had to say on the controversial blue plaque proposal

By Peter Madeley | Wolverhampton | Opinions | Published:

An online poll asking whether Enoch Powell should be recognised with a blue plaque in Wolverhampton has received more than 17,000 votes – making it one of the biggest polls in the Express & Star's history.

Around 70 per cent of more than 16,000 Express & Star readers are in favour of a blue plaque to recognise Enoch Powell

The ballot was sparked by an announcement from the city's Civic and Historical Society that it had received an application for a plaque for Powell, who served as the Conservative MP for Wolverhampton South West from 1950-1974 and rose to notoriety with his controversial Rivers of Blood speech in 1968.

It followed an E&S debate on Powell's legacy at the University of Wolverhampton, during which audience members overwhelmingly opposed the idea in a 'show of hands' vote.

But the vast majority of E&S readers have taken a different view, with 70 per cent of 16,500 respondents to our poll backing a plaque.

Have your say in our poll

Civic and Historical Society secretary Barry Hodgson says the committee is likely to discuss the application at a meeting in July, in advance of formal discussions next year.

Since the proposals emerged hundreds of letters, emails and social media posts have flooded into the E&S, with a wide range of views expressed.

Some say that Powell deserves recognition for his prominence as a politician and lengthy connection with the city.

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They include E&S columnist Nigel Hastilow, who said Powell's legacy was much more than just one speech.

Nigel Hastilow

"Enoch Powell fought to maintain our freedoms and became one of the towering figure of the 20th century," he said.

"Would anyone seriously deny such a significant politician a little blue plaque marking his links to Wolverhampton?"

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Others – including the city's three Labour MPs – have rejected the idea of a plaque, describing Powell's views as 'divisive' and saying it would send 'all the wrong messages' about Wolverhampton.

Wolverhampton South West MP Eleanor Smith said: "Having a plaque to celebrate Enoch Powell could divide the city and my belief is that a plaque placed in the Wolverhampton should only recognise those who have made positive contributions to the city."

Eleanor Smith

Here are some of the contributions to the Powell plaque debate that the E&S has received:

Reg Vernon, Codsall:

People call Enoch Powell a racist. It’s simply not true. He treated everyone with respect regardless of creed or racial origin.

Powell was an outstanding and erudite Parliamentarian and a conscientious constituency MP. He had distinguished war service and was a true British patriot.

I re-read his so-called Rivers of Blood speech and I found it to be remarkably prescient. He commenced by acknowledging that there was a human tendency to deal with matters of the moment and to be reluctant to face up to the long term consequences of societal processes.

He was not wrong to draw attention to some of the profound changes which he predicted would inevitably follow if immigration was not controlled.

Who, now, can say that he was wrong?

Enoch Powell deserves recognition for the great man that he was and for the service that he gave as an MP for Wolverhampton. We should not be afraid to do him honour now.

M Cooper, Wolverhampton:

We should celebrate our own, our very own, MP of 24 years, Enoch Powell, a brigadier, poet, statesman, gentleman and EU campaigner on immigration and membership.

70 per cent gave a resounding thumbs up to the plaque in the E&S vote, despite our three MP’s rejecting it.

Is this what we call democracy? Perhaps we only need two MP’s in Wolverhampton, not three, and 30 councillors instead of the current 60 plus. The savings would be tremendous.

After all Karl Marx has a plaque in London and the opposition party top brass have Marxist leanings, so if it’s good enough for Karl it’s good enough for our Enoch.

John Reed, Bushbury:

I totally support this proposal, and would go further.

A full oversize statue in Queen Square of the great man, would please his many adherents.

Powell’s story is now part of quintessentially English folklore, like The Dam Busters , Nelson and Robin Hood. It is well known to all of us, and requires no further comment, other than asking the perennial question – was he right?

Only the hindsight of history will give us the definitive answer. Furthermore, it’s a scary and sobering thought, that in Birmingham 1968, Enoch Powell MP was able to voice his passionately held opinions on the effects of mass immigration into our small island, without fear of persecution or prosecution.

Were he to make that same speech in Birmingham 2018, he would be charged with inciting racial hatred, and jailed.

Shaun Harrison, West Bromwich:

Following the recent debate based on Enoch Powell’s 1968 ‘Rivers of Blood speech’, it was asked if a blue plaque in his memory would be appropriate today.

I gather the instant objection seems to be from those who believed Powell to be nothing more than a racist.

However in reality it was not about race as such. Here was a politician standing up for his constituents, forewarning that not just his area of the UK but the nation as a whole would suffer from mass uncontrolled immigration.

He proclaimed the many dangers open borders would cost us, schools hospitals and public services would suffer, and how right he was.

Powell did not say that it would be only the white man that suffered, but a nation...it’s not colour exempt when you have to wait for a doctor’s appointment, your religion plays no part when the school runs out of funding, neither is your gender an issue on the waiting list, but these are the dangers he foretold all that time ago.

So in essence he was ahead of his time, politicians today are devoid of such conviction, so yes I think it would be appropriate to display a blue plaque in honour of a man who predicted today’s problems.

He told us public services, the demographics of British life, and some of our laws would change, so if for nothing else he should be acknowledged for his wisdom and foresight.

We all suffer the consequences of overcrowding no matter what skin tone or religion you aspire to.

Patrick Vernon OBE, London:

We need to remember that many aspects of British society today would be unrecognisable without the contributions which immigration and integration have made to our society over the generations: from the NHS to the monarchy, our language, literature, enterprise, public life, fashion, music, politics, science, our culture and food, even humour.

Surely the Wolverhampton Civic Society with support of the Express & Star should be doing more to promote the diversity and contribution of migrant communities instead of focusing on Enoch Powell?

It gives the wrong message and will further divide Wolverhampton in the years to come.

PJW Holland:

I met Mr. Powell on a number of occasions and had a few arguments with him. I never voted for him. However, I am a democrat and his place in history warrants a blue plaque.

Not one of Wolverhampton's MPs has done anything for the city so none of them are qualified to comment. None of them seem to know the city's name and the latest addition probably had to look the place up on a map to ascertain where the city is.

Mr Powell's speech contained nothing untruthful. It was not controversial. It was the reaction to it by the Heath establishment that made it so. Even the misleading title attributed to it was a mechanism intended to cause harm to Mr Powell.

As an eye witness to some of the events he referred to I can say his account was the most principled act by any politician in the twentieth century.

It is a matter of history that he had attempted to have the issues he raised dealt with by raising them privately.

Stephen Bunn:

I'm not a fan of this guy, But he did speak the truth , about rivers of blood.

Carl Bodman:

The man was a legend. Everything he said has come true. He deserves a statue and a posthumous knighthood.

Graham Mitchell:

Political correctness would never have taken hold if Enoch had still been around! Build that statue and BUILD IT LARGE!!

Rob Smith:

A lot of people are judging him on one speech. He was more than that, he was a great politician.

Joan Cresswell:

He was a Wolverhampton MP, so why not? And he did live in Wolverhampton.

Yvonne Padley:

He was a Wolverhampton MP for 24 years that deserves some recognition. I am sure that he did many good things for his constituency during that time or he wouldn’t have been voted back again and again

Jabber Mir:

Don't agree with him at all. He was the bane of my life when i came as a kid to England in the 70s, with racist white kids chanting his name aggressively at me at school.

I didn't know what racism was until i came to England in the 70s from Africa. I soon learnt thanks to the type of people commenting about immigrants.

But he is part of Wolverhampton history so why not?

Brenda Skidmore:

Sorry for the pun but you can't "whitewash" history. Whatever you thought of him and his opinions he was a significant figure in Wolverhampton's history.

Rachel Powell:

Maybe the plaque would be a good thing, to learn lessons, to not go back to the 'Dark Ages' so to speak.

Not to celebrate a racist bigot. Times have changed. The views he gave are dated and old fashioned.

Sarah Scooky:

You can't deny history, only learn from it. If he really was that important then he should be remembered and his words/actions debated by future generations. Whether considered right or wrong these days he represents the thinking that was around at that moment in time.

Kevin Blower:

Briefly served in Cabinet. Made a speech of classical, though inflammatory, rhetoric, and supposedly quoted a constituent in a naive or cynical way. Doesn't really deserve a plaque does it?

Thorsten Kri:

Whether you agree with him or not, you cannot deny that he had a major impact and is of historic importance.

Paresh Jethwa:

If the money is privately funded, and placed on a private building, then I couldn't really care less, and I don't think anyone else should either.

But I want to point out that this is being used as a passive aggressive political statement, or there would be no debate, let's just make that perfectly clear.

Let them have their 18" plaque on some random building, I'd personally be more interested in seeing which building they choose, and whether or not the stakeholders of that building consider it controversial or not.

A word of caution though, those people that spend £1,000 of their own money on putting this thing up, I'd advise them to invest in full time security too. I'd like to remind many people that vandalism is unfortunately considered "art" by many people in this city.

Wouldn't that money go to better use helping the homeless, or even buying new beds for New Cross? It's just a sad state of affairs.

Steve Steggy Guest:

Erect it, but it will be torn down by lefties or other cultures against anything that is not their own.

Stewart Whittingham:

All the sheeple saying he spoke the truth and his predictions where correct, yet the bloke was a massive hypocrite. He wanted to be the viceroy of India, yet his in his Rivers of Blood speech he quotes: “In this country in 15 or 20 years' time the black man will have the whip hand over the white man."

I’m sure there’s more worthy people out there for a blue plaque.

Lizzie Tanner Shaw:

Whether his visions were politically correct or not, he’s a part of history, yes he said that back then but how much have we evolved in society? The vikings were barbaric, but York honours them. It is part of history. We cannot change it, but we can change the future.

Wayne L. McDonough:

He wrote one controversial speech that divided opinion, as accomplishments go I don’t believe that should qualify him.

Michael James:

Powell said it as it was, that's why he didn't get enough recognition. The powers that be don't like to hear the truth.

Malcolm Stanley:

Since he made his Rivers of Blood speech times have changed. I now see him as a visionary."

Cassandra:

A complicated and contradictory man, but an early supporter of gay rights – yes, believe it !

A towering intellect and barking mad. History cannot be denied, unless you are a revisionist snowflake.

Let's have a blue plaque. Not to celebrate but to inform.

A Lone Voice:

I believe Mr Powell was an excellent constituency MP who assisted everyone who came to him for assistance irrespective of their race, colour or creed...unlike a lot of current representatives who sit in the Palace of Westminster!

Dave Hall:

As a resident of Wolverhampton for 70 years and someone lucky enough to have voted for "our Enoch", we must have a blue plaque for the best Prime Minister we never had.

I want my name included on the poll in support of the current petition to give this great man a blue plaque in our city.

Black Country Born:

They put one up for Karl Marx to keep the lefties happy. People campaigned for plaques for Lenin and Stalin to really make the lefties happy.

How about one for Margaret Thatcher, the PM who saved us from Communism?

Onlooker1:

He was a brave and honest man who spoke the truth knowing what the repercussions would be.

He was right. He deserves a blue plaque.

Trespasser:

If this plaque is disallowed because people think it gives the wrong message then perhaps all others should be removed. It is wrong to pick and choose certain pieces of history according to personal tastes.

The Cheeseburger of Death:

Well Enoch got it wrong didn't he? I don't see rivers of blood on the streets of Wolverhampton.

Thankfully the sort of racist abuse that was about at that time seems to be a thing of the past.

Not sure about a plaque. I guess some black/Asian people may feel uncomfortable with it.

GailForce8:

Not proud of our town being associated with Enoch Powell, but can't deny he was an important figure.

Trouble is giving him a blue plaque now is a politically provocative act and could cause a lot of problems.

I say wait another 10 years. Hopefully all the Brexit nonsense and aggro will be over by then and it won't have the same impact.

Madeinwolverhampton:

A plaque isn't about 'celebrating' Enoch Powell, it's about recognising him and the impact he had on society.

I mean look how much dialogue has taken place on racism over the years since his (in)famous speech. Surely that's a good thing?

I'm not entirely sure what the criteria is for having a blue plaque – which presumably is stuck on the wall of the former home of the person concerned.

Enoch Powell was a controversial politician, who divided opinion at the time. The plaque if erected, would not be as one MP is quoted as saying 'a celebration of the man' – it's simply stating a fact that he lived here.

Visit expressandstar.com to have your say on the Enoch Powell plaque debate.

Mr Jones, Wednesfield:

As someone who was born and bred in Wolverhampton I can’t see anything wrong with a blue plaque for Enoch Powell. He made the [Rivers of Blood] speech, and many of his achievements have been ignored because of it. In my opinion he thoroughly deserves a plaque.

Beverley Momenabadi:

Should Enoch Powell have a blue plaque? Absolutely not – and how long do we think the plaque would last if there was one?!

Andy Rand:

Yes [Powell should have a blue plaque]. It’s an historical reference point and encourages people to learn about the past.

Kingswinford Man:

As he played a part in Wolverhampton’s history for such a long time, I can see a case for a blue plaque. However, there is a danger that it could become a rallying point for the type of right wing, racist thugs who want to split communities by promoting their bigotry and hatred.

Ceejay:

By all means put a plaque up. Enoch was part of our history.

Darren Howells:

Powell should not be remembered for just one speech. In his political career he did far more than that.

How many other MPs has Wolverhampton had that have represented the city for nearly a quarter of a century?

He was not everyone’s cup of tea, including mine as a Labour voter, but you have to recognise the role he played in politics in the Black Country. When you look at some of the controversial characters around the country that have had blue plaques, I don’t see any reason why Powell should not have one.

Irish Jack:

Anyone who thinks he should have a plaque really hasn’t thought about the consequences.

Enoch Powell was, and still is a divisive figure. It is rather fitting that he continues to divide opinion from beyond the grave.

The first problem with putting up a plaque for him would be finding a suitable location.

Unless they stuck it at the top of a block of flats you would think it would always be the target of vandalism. Then there is the other problem of the unsavoury types that would be attracted to the city to use it as some kind of shrine. Like it or not, Powell is considered a hero to many racists. Do we really want to attract that type of person to Wolverhampton?

Regardless of Powell’s legacy, he is best left without a plaque.

Birchy:

The Secretary of the Civic Society had it right when he said we should represent the city ‘warts and all’. Some people are wrongly saying a plaque would ‘honour’ Enoch Powell. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The purpose of a blue plaque is to recognise the impact a person had on a particular area.

I would like to ask any of the people who are against a plaque for Enoch Powell whether they think he had an influence on Wolverhampton.

By any measure, he surely did. That’s a very different argument from the one over whether his Rivers of Blood speech was right or wrong.

Peter Madeley

By Peter 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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