Diary: Why are we drowning in rivers of praise for Powell?


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The Independent Online

There is a campaign under way to rescue the reputation of Enoch Powell, whose centenary it is today. In the Daily Mail, Powell's biographer, Simon Heffer, calls him "a man of conspicuous moral greatness". To Peter Oborne, in The Daily Telegraph, he was "a man of extraordinary integrity". The former MP Paul Goodman, on ConservativeHome, hails Powell, as "the finest political writer of my lifetime". Even Iain Duncan Smith joined in to praise him for battling against the UK's membership of the EU.

Powell's appeal is in his erudition, his free-market economics that pre-dated Thatcher, his opposition to Europe, to high public spending and to an elected House of Lords, and his occasional liberalism. He spoke in defence of Mau Mau prisoners, and (a point missed in this avalanche of praise) he was one of the few Tories of his day who opposed hanging.

His modern admirers do not have much to say about Powell's decision to defect from the Tories to the Ulster Unionists so he could oppose any attempt to produce a workable solution to the Irish conflict.

But what even his admirers cannot overlook was his appalling speech in Birmingham in April 1968, in which he professed to "see the River Tiber flowing with much blood" because non-white immigrants were settling in the UK. Powell was not content simply to end immigration; he wanted to deport people already here whose skin was the wrong hue. His admirers included the young racists who murdered Stephen Lawrence, and their pals, one of whom was taped proclaiming: "Do you remember Enoch Powell? ... He was saying 'No f***ing niggers, they'll ruin the gaff.' And he was right". Another declared: "Enoch, mate, you are the greatest."

I once heard Powell speak, He had a cold, logical mind and starting from a counter-intuitive proposition – he was arguing that property speculators were social benefactors – could construct an edifice of self-contained logic, but he was an intelligent fool, and a very dangerous fool.

My enemy's enemy is my friend

There are worse right-wing heroes than Enoch Powell, one of the worst being Augusto Pinochet, leader of the junta which overthrew the elected government of Chile in 1973. Under his rule, thousands were killed and tens of thousands interned. Margaret Thatcher had a blind spot about him because Pinochet took Britain's side in the Falklands War.

But even her enthusiasm is eclipsed by that of the Tory MP Andrew Rosindell. Contacted by the Romford Recorder about the discovery that a prominent local Tory Osman Dervish belonged to an "Augusto Pinochet Fan Club" on Facebook, Rosindell said: "Pinochet ousted a Communist regime in Chile that was butchering its people. Compared with the rest of Latin America during the 1970s and 1980s, Chile turned into a free society where people were able to prosper. He then helped us win the Falklands War ... I would happily be a member of that group." Councillor Dervish, by contrast, is embarrassed by what he says was "youthful folly".

Council's layoffs a false economy

Council leaders may be saving money over the long term with their policy of sacking senior officers and finding replacements who do the same job for a lower salary – but it can be expensive in the short term. Tory-led Kent County Council dispensed with its managing director, Angela Kerswell, less than half-way through her four-year contract. In 2011-12 she was paid £139,806 for the part of the year that she was in post, plus a £420,000 payoff, making just under £560,000 in all. It is thought that this could be a record.

Railing against the Jubilee Line

Several plans have emerged from Parliament to mark the Queen's 60 years on the throne. A writer in Time Out is not hugely impressed by the suggestion by Labour MPs that London Underground's Jubilee Line be renamed the Elizabeth Jubilee Line. I quote: "Given that the train which caused the most recent Tube meltdown and stranded more than 700 passengers in a tunnel for four hours was a commemorative Diamond Jubilee train ... we think Her Maj may want to forgo that particular tribute."