Press Column

By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death; and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was attested as having pleased God. Heb 11:5

Our Enoch pleased the Daily Telegraph instead. On the day the news broke, the "official" accounts of his death in the paper was quite restrained: merely a front page story; two full pages of comment and reaction on the inside, which included 800 words from his notorious Birmingham speech in 1968; a further full-page obituary; and a leading article on "Powell’s place in history" which concluded "Powell will survive more surely that any other British politician of the 20th century except Winston Churchill. His speeches and writing will be read so long as there exists a political and parliamentary culture in which speaking and writing matter. And if there comes a time when such a culture is all but destroyed, those brave few who wish to restore it will find in the thoughts of Enoch Powell something approaching their Bible."

The next days, in the Telegraph’s correspondence column, the sewers bubbled over.

SIR-Is it not sad that none of the recent Prime Ministers felt able to offer him the honour which he so merited, that of a hereditary peerage?

SIR - Given your recent correspondents' criticism of the BBC World Service, it might be worth noting that the half-hour television newscast at 11pm GMT on Sunday, which is carried by the CBC news network, mentioned nothing about the death of Enoch Powell.

SIR-The smallness of mind and meanness of spirit shown by Sir Edward Heath following the death of Enoch Powell demonstrates, yet again, how right we were in 1975 to choose Margaret Thatcher.

SIR-Enoch Powell - what a man. Ted Heath - what a bitter lemon.

SIR-Should not the Conservatives throw the disastrous, discredited and churlish Sir Edward Heath out of their party?

SIR-Sir Edward's refusal to comment on Enoch Powell (letters, Feb.10) is appropriate: what could the arch-traitor say about the arch-patriot, without demeaning himself?

I suppose you could argue that this proves that true Conservatives, in the Telegraph sense, hate Edward Heath now almost more than they hate blacks. At least they are less ashamed of the newer hatred. But Heath’s original crime, remember, was to throw Powell out of the shadow cabinet for inciting racial hatred in 1968. One writer to the Daily Telegraph argued that it would have been perfectly acceptable for the prophet to cry "wogs out" if only the Latin had been included on the press release.

SIR - May I make a small correction to your excellent obituary of Enoch Powell (Feb. 9)? In his speech at Birmingham in 1968, which I was privileged to hear, he said: "I am like the Roman, who said Et Tiberim multo spumantem sanguine cerno."

Then he paused, and continued:

"For those of you who learnt their Latin some time ago, I will translate: 'And I perceive the Tiber foaming with much blood'." Unfortunately, the press release of his speech did not contain the Latin words, and it was this that he later regretted."

The same writer went on to say that Powell had refuted allegations of fascism by fighting against the Fascists in the war. I don’t see that this proves very much: there’s nothing about fascism to prevent fascists fighting each other — but it is true that the word has been abused till it means less than nothing. It is also true that the most startling part of the Telegraph’s coverage was not really "fascist" nostalgia at all but something altogether more German. Michael Wharton, an elderly columnist who writes under the pseudonym of Peter Simple, memorialised Powell using a mixture of idealist sentimentality with racist nastiness and vague conspiracy theory that was the closest thing to real Nazism I hope ever to see in the British press.

No "racist", he saw how the immigrants, however innocent in themselves, would be used as an instrument by those who wanted to change England for ever. "Immigration is the fulcrum," he told me at a meeting 30 years ago, intoning the word in that strange, intense, unforgettable West Midlands accent of his. "It is the fulcrum by which England is to be overturned."

And from outside the hall, as he spoke, came the sound of a regimented mob of hate-crazed idealist storm-troopers for One World and the Brotherhood of Man, a baying in rhythmic slogans for his patriot blood.

Well, they have won. If there really was a conspiracy, it has exceeded the hopes of any imaginable conspirators. It has been made virtually illegal to discuss the matter seriously and honestly. A paralysing neurotic disorder has seized on us, making us unable to speak easily, even in private, for fear of being thought "racist".

Yet in the only sense in which Powell was "racist" — he actually thought there were recognisable differences between races! — almost everybody was a "racist" before Hitler gave it a bad name, and most people are "racist" still.

Had Powell been less scrupulous, less deeply in love with English history, its ancient, ordered continuity, he might have seized that moment 30 years ago when he was at once the most acclaimed and the most execrated man in England. He might have become leader of the Conservative Party and in due course prime minister, with greater popular support than any in our history.

Perhaps fancifully, I imagine this eccentric, noble-hearted man putting that tremendous vision aside, not through weakness but through virtue, determined not to risk bringing harm to his country through disruptive action even in a good cause. That is why he is a tragic hero, and will become a legend."

It is almost enough to make one feel nostalgic for Diana. So let us close with one last, sane, voice — Ferdinand Mount, writing in the Sunday Times

"In death he haunts the party still, his ghost hovers in the constituency associations and squawks in the correspondence columns. They said he was a prophet but can anyone point out a prophecy of his that came true (the ‘rivers of blood’, the ‘profound hostility’ of the British people to entering the EEC)? They said he was brilliant and farsighted hut it took him eight years after reading the treaty of Rome (and voting for entry) to come out against the Common Market. Anyone can be wrong, but to be wrong with such intensity and malevolence is not what I thought Conservatism was all about."

It would have been wiser of the Dean of Westminster to let this prophet rise from earth on the unaided exhalations of his followers.

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