February 20, 2020
Author: Chilton Williamson
On April 20, 1968 Enoch Powell, the Shadow Defence Minister in Prime Minister Edward Heath’s Shadow Cabinet and a former Minister of Health, delivered a speech to the Conservative Association Meeting in Birmingham. Several days before, Powell had predicted to his friend Clement Jones, the editor of the Wolverhampton Express & Star, that his coming address “was going to go up ‘fizz’ like a rocket; but whereas all rockets fall to the earth, this one is going to stay up.”
Stay up it did, unlike the speaker himself who was promptly sacked by Heath and was condemned by The Times for having delivered an “evil speech.” “This is the first time,” the paper went on, “that a serious British politician has appealed to racial hatred in this direct way in our postwar history.” Here is what Powell said:
“In 15 or 20 years, on present trends, there will be in this country three and a half million Commonwealth immigrants and their descendants….There is no comparable figure for the year 2000, but it must be in the region of five to seven million, approximately one-tenth of the whole population, and approaching that of Greater London….The natural and rational first question with a nation confronted by such a prospect is to ask: ‘How can its dimensions be reduced?’ Granted it is not wholly preventable, can it be limited, bearing in mind that numbers are of the essence: the significance and consequences of an alien element introduced into a country or population are profoundly different according to whether that element is 1 percent or 10 percent. In these circumstances nothing will suffice but that the total inflow for settlement should be reduced at once to negligible proportions, and that the necessary legislative and administrative measures be taken without delay.”
In the absence of such preventive measures, and with the passage of the Race Relations Bill pending in Parliament that immediately occasioned the speech, Powell foresaw that immigrant communities would be able to “organize to consolidate their members, to agitate and campaign against their fellow citizens, and to overawe and dominate the rest with the legal weapons which the ignorant and ill-informed have provided.”
And he concluded: “As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding: like the Roman, I seem to see ‘the River Tiber foaming with much blood.’”
Fifty-two years after what became infamous as “The River of Blood Speech” the name Enoch Powell, who died in 1998, remains anathema in British political circles, Conservative as well as Labour and Liberal-Democratic, and among bien-pensants in general. Below is a list, complied by Sky News, of the terrorist acts that have been committed in Britain since Powell died.
7 July 2005: Fifty-two people killed by suicide bombers in London in attacks on three Tube trains and a bus. Perpetrators: Sidique Khan, Shezhad Tanweer, Germaine Lindsay, Habib Hussain.
22 May 2013: Fusilier Rigby struck by a car and beheaded by two self-described “soldiers of Allah.”
11 June 2016: Jo Cox, Labour MP, murdered one week before the EU referendum. Perpetrator: a white supremacist.
22 March 2017: Five killed, dozens are injured on Westminster Bridge. Perpetrator: Khalid Masood.
22 May 2017: Manchester Arena bombing kills twenty-two people. Perpetrator: Salman Abedi.
3 June 2017: Three terrorists drive a van into pedestrians around London Bridge, killing eight. Perpetrators: Rachid Redouane, Khuram Butt, Youssef Zaghba.
19 June 2017: One person killed, several injured when an “Islamophobic extremist” drives a van into a crowd leaving a mosque in Finsbury Park, North London, after prayers. Perpetrator: Darren Osborne.
15 September 2017: Twenty-two people are injured in a crowded Tube train in London by an “improvised explosive device.” Perpetrator: Ahmed Hassan.
24 August 2018: Three people are injured by a car hitting security barriers outside Parliament. Perpetrator: Salih Khater, later convicted on two charges of vehicular homicide before the crash.
11 October 2019: Three people are stabbed in a shopping center in Manchester. The suspect is arrested on suspicion of terrorism.
29 November 2019: Three people are stabbed on London Bridge by a convicted Muslim terrorist released from prison “on licence” halfway through a 16-year sentence.
2 February 2020: One man is shot dead, three people are stabbed in Streatham, South London, by a convicted Muslim terrorist granted early release from prison. Perpetrator: Usman Khan.
The current terror threat in the UK is described by authorities as “substantial”—the third highest assigned level, indicating that “an attack is likely.”
Does all this amount to Enoch Powell’s “River Tiber foaming with blood”?
Certainly it seems a credible beginning, and something much more than a warning. Anyone familiar with Runnymede and Windsor on the upper River Thames is aware the mighty river flowing through London to Gravesend is, not many miles upstream, no more than a peaceful stream. Perhaps Powell may be vindicated, and his good reputation restored, sooner rather than later.