By Eric King-
BBC Radio 4 on Saturday evening broadcast the controversial rivers of blood speech by racist former British MP, Enoch Powell in 1968. The broadcast will face close scrutiny over the coming week. It was designed to mark the 50th anniversary of the politician’s controversial speech on immigration, widely considered as one of the most inflammatory in modern history by a British politician
The British MP’s speech in April 1968 at a meeting of the Conservative Political Center in Birmingham actively denounced mass immigration and also opposed the proposed Race Relations Bill. Mass immigration has long been a sticky point in the British society, though it is fair to say that immigration into any country should be controlled within reasonable limits. However, Powell’s rhetoric was divisive and tantamount to the incitement of racial hatred. Powell even recounted a conversation he allegedly had with one of his constituents, telling him he didn’t see a future in the UK for his children due to immigration.
Powell added: “We must be mad, literally mad, as a nation to be permitting the annual inflow of some 50,000 dependents, who are for the most part the material of the future growth of the immigrant descended population.”The speech caused such a political storm, leading to Conservative leader Ted Heath sacking him and publicly stated it was “racialist in tone and liable to exacerbate racial tensions”. Newspapers at the time condemned the speech at the time, declaring it an appalling and evil speech. Powell, however, won support across the country for his outspoken views. Three days after the April speech, over a 1,000 supporters protested in his defence on Westminster showcasing placards with slogans that read with ” we want Enoch Powell, Enoch here, and Enoch Everywhere”.
The Race Relations Act was passed shortly after Powell’s speech, making it illegal to refuse housing, employment or public services to a person on the grounds of colour, race, ethnic or national origins.
Actor Ian McDirmid read the speech out half a century after it was delivered in Birmingham days before a crucial stage of the 1968 Race Relations Bill. The plan to air the speech sparked massive controversy, but BBC Radio 4 defended the speech by claiming it would provide an opportunity to reflect on how far Britain had progressed in race relations 50 years later, and that analysis and contribution would be balanced.
The speech included observations on immigrants taken from Powell’s Wolverhampton constituents.The 45 minute speech is widely believed to have incited racism against immigrants and led to Powell being dismissed from the Conservative Party. In it, Powell proposed a policy encouraging people who had come to the UK from abroad to return their country of origin.