Review: Politics: Enoch at 100 Edited by Lord Howard of Rising
Biteback, £25, hbk, 352 pages
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Reading his speeches after watching the BBC production of Richard II, I was struck by the extent to which the words and the sentiments of John of Gaunt resonate through the rhetoric of Enoch Powell.
"This sceptered isle, set in the silver sea, this blessed plot . . . this gem . . . this England . . . is now leased out to foreigners."
It would be hard to find a better summary of Powell's last position in British politics.
In a valedictory address included in this volume, he expresses his disillusionment with the course politics has taken since he first entered parliament. He excoriates those who -- with the consent of a supine electorate (the people have no right to do wrong) -- betrayed the nation state by selling off large slices of sovereignty to Europe and by becoming a military vassal to America.
This collection of largely uncritical essays interleaved with some of his main speeches is published to mark the centenary of his birth, but may opportunely provide support for the Tory right in their efforts to force a referendum to take Britain out of Europe.
Gifted with a prodigious intellect but little emotional awareness, Powell found it difficult to relate to other people.
He was a difficult colleague, and his insistence on carrying argument to its logical conclusion and far beyond made him an awkward customer.
He was probably the most prescient politician of his period, and perhaps the most perverse.
The most commonly quoted remark of Enoch Powell is that all political careers end in failure, and none exemplifies this more than his own.
He saw more clearly than most that a common currency must inevitable lead to common governance -- or disaster. He expounded free-market economics before it was popular to do so.
He saw the folly of maintaining a military presence east of Suez, and he was more nearly right on the demographics of immigration than were his critics in government.
He was an unadulterated English nationalist, with an obsessive belief in the nation state as the only basis for democratic government.
He hated Edward Heath for his pro-European policies, he was dismissive of the Commonwealth; he believed that the British Foreign Office was a nest of traitors, and that the US was capable of any perfidy -- including even collusion in the murder of Earl Mountbatten.
The final act of his parliamentary career was played out on the wings of British politics in Ulster, in an uneasy marriage of convenience with the Unionists in which neither really understood the other -- he fixated on total integration, they yearning for a return to Stormont.
It is ironic that the increase in representation which he manipulated for them in the end cost him his seat.
The main speeches are here -- the notorious "rivers of blood" speech on immigration which ended his political career, and the less quoted denunciation of the massacre of Mau-Mau suspects in Kenya.
Since all the contributors draw heavily on his other speeches, this volume could well represent the essential Powell which, for many of those who had to deal with the living Powell, may be more than enough to be getting on with.