A passionate career of protest and storms: Glenda Cooper looks back at a life of scholarship and politics

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The Independent Online
ENOCH Powell claims he was born in the middle of a thunderstorm. Perhaps that is why he has been causing storms in the 82 years since.

His early years were peaceful enough. He was educated at King Edward's School, Birmingham, and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he became a Fellow at 22. At 25, he was Professor of Greek at Sydney University, Australia.

Enlisting in the British Army on the outbreak of war in 1939, he rose to brigadier. On demobilisation, he entered politics as Conservative MP for Wolverhampton South West in 1950. Two years later he married his secretary, Pamela Wilson.

In 1958, he resigned as financial secretary to the Treasury over Harold Macmillan's pre-general election economic expansion, taking with him the Chancellor and the economic secretary. Macmillan called it a 'little local difficulty'.

He served as minister for health in the Macmillan government between 1960 and 1963 but then resigned saying that he would not serve under Alec Douglas-Home. He retracted this after the 1964 election and became opposition spokesman on defence.

Mr Powell's best-remembered speech was on 20 April 1968 in which he warned of 'rivers of blood' following mass immigration. He was denounced as a racialist and Edward Heath dropped him from the Shadow Cabinet.

He caused another storm in the February 1974 election, when he refused to stand as a Conservative candidate on the grounds that the election was unnecessary and dishonourable.

In the October election that year, he stood for the Ulster Unionists in Down South. Hearing the news, Lord Hailsham said: 'It is an excellent thing Mr Powell has joined the Ulster Unionists. They have found a new leader to desert and he a fresh cause to betray.'

Mr Powell resigned his seat in Down South in 1985 in protest at the Anglo-Irish Agreement, but won it back in January 1986 - only to lose it in the 1987 general election.

Mr Powell has written poetry, published books and spoken out on many issues. One was the Queen's Christmas speech in 1983, which he said spoke to immigrants rather than the 'great mass of British subjects' - a comment that a Buckingham Palace source described as 'wicked, mischievous and frankly loony'.

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