Friday, August 28, 2009

It's Completely Unacceptable, Except When It Isn't

As I understand it for a contemporary politician to praise a dead politician who made some controversial remarks about ethnic relations 40 years ago means that he should be ostracised and must lose the whip.

However when a contemporary politician praises a dead politician who made some controversial remarks about ethnic relations 40 years ago then that's fine.

I must be missing something. Labour calls for Daniel Hannan to be disciplined for praising Enoch Powell, even though it was quite clearly not in relation to Powell's record on immigration and even the ludicrous 'dog whistle' argument doesn't stand up to much scrutiny given the forum in which he made the remarks.

The predictions made in Powell's "Rivers of Blood" speech were incorrect and it is not unreasonable to argue that they inflamed racial tensions in a most unhelpful way. The late W.F. Deedes has argued that Powell's speech made it much harder for later politicians to even address immigration.

However he never argued for mass ethnic cleansing as the recently deceased Ted Kennedy did when in the context of Northern Ireland he said that protestants " should be given a decent opportunity to go back to Britain". Kennedy's remarks were made in the context of the murderous atmosphere of early 1970s Ulster where the rivers were already "foaming with much blood" even before this crass ignorant intervention. It was a much more dangerous arena for political demagoguery than peaceful mainland Britain.

Yet Gordon Brown's praise of this man is acceptable whereas Hannan's praise of Powell is beyond the pale and Brown specifically praises Kennedy in relation to Northern Ireland whereas Hannan specifically disagrees with Powell comments on immigration! If instead of warning of the dangers of mass immigration (however inaccurately), Enoch Powell had waited for several hundred years before demanding that the descendents of those immigrants be given an opportunity to leave then that would it be okay to praise him?


Mark Wadsworth said...

You're good at spotting Victimhood Poker. But have you written an article for the World Series yet?

Ross said...

I'm going to, but it probably won't be up until the weekend. Suffice to say it will involve post-colonialism and adult incontinence.

Mark said...

In the immediate aftermath of their deaths, the 'De mortuis nil nisi bonum' rule is normally applied to all parliamentarians- as Guido has pointed out, even Blair was quite effusive about Enoch on his demise in 1998.

If however Nulab dredge up Hannan's praise for Enoch next year in an election campaign, Brown's grovelling to Ted Kennedy will indeed be fair game.

BTW I think it's misleading to state that the 'Rivers of Blood' predictions were 'incorrect'.Ill judged, certainly; despite (or because of?)a towering intellect, Enoch had an erratic understanding of the mundane business of political manouvreing. Look at his failure to plot against Heath between 68-72, when he was probably the country's most popular MP, or his decision in 1974 to join the Ulster Unionists, a political kiss of death is there ever was one.In that regard at least , Mandelson can be said to be Powell's polar opposite.

The demographic prognostications made by EP in 'Rivers of Blood' and subsequently, were in fact less wayward that the official balm being extruded by the Home Office at the time. And of course there have been sporadic outbreaks of racially inspired civil unrest (1976 Notting Hill, 1980 Bristol, 1981 Brixton/Toxteth et al, 1985 Birmingham/Tottenham, 2005 Birmingham), not to mention the 7/7and 21/7 outrages, each the handiwork of first or second generation immigrants.

Ross said...

"it's misleading to state that the 'Rivers of Blood' predictions were 'incorrect"

Surely the remark about the Tiber foaming with much blood implies something more akin to perpetual racial war rather than a couple of race riots with few casualties every few years?

Given his background in India, I'd take it as implying at level of racial violence more like the communal riots they have that kill hundreds and thousands.

Mark said...

'Surely the remark about the Tiber foaming with much blood implies something more akin to perpetual racial war'.

Ross-that indeed is the problem if you append gnomic utterances, based on quotations from Virgil hitherto unknown to most of the electorate, to speeches about the dangers of unprecedented levels of immigration.It was a mistake, and is open to apocalyptic interpretations along the lines you suggest.

I'm not giving EP a free pass on the 'Rivers of Blood' speech, merely disagreeing with the Deedes line that you quote approvingly. The Immigration issue was actually addressed more frequently by the political elite in the years 1968-71 than in the years preceding EP's bombshell.The botched 1971 Act was then used as an excuse to kick the subject into the long grass for 3 decades, on the erroneous assumption that legislation was now in force that impeded further 'primary immigration'.