Diary: Powell at peace sees a new awakening

Click to follow
The Independent Online
IN 25 YEARS' time, will the Diary be seeking an interview with Winston Churchill for a retrospective assessment of his 'the rot must be stopped' race speech? How does that compare with Enoch Powell's 'Like the Roman, I seem to see the River Tiber foaming with much blood'? Churchill's speech will soon be forgotten, but the same cannot be said about Powell, who expanded on his 1968 theme (with great caution) to the Diary yesterday.

'What we still don't know is how we are going to live with an ever-

increasing ethnic minority,' he said. 'It was significant to me that Conservative reaction to Winston Churchill's speech included the outraged cry, 'But what are we going to do for votes?' ' In other words, plus ca change. The difference, according to Powell, is that 'the focus has shifted since the Sixties from crude numerical immigration to the age structure of the immigration population, and what the people mistake for the consequences of continuing immigration is really a consequence of the differential age structure of the ethnic minority population'.

Sitting in his home off Sloane Square, Powell, the Diary senses (contrary to what many feel), is at peace with himself. He feels he was right on two important issues, race relations and the European Community, and appears to feel vindicated by present events. He denies ever saying, as suggested in a recent profile, that he thought his immigration speech was a political mistake, and asserts triumphantly (although he failed to persuade me) that 'the electorate has woken up (about the dangers of European economic and political union). My fellow countrymen whom I besought to wake up have woken up with a vengeance.'

JUST BEFORE he was sacked, Norman Lamont declined to attend an important meeting of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, his economic secretary, Anthony Nelson, being delegated to go in his place. Rumours of what was to come intensified as a result. Now I can reveal all. Lamont decided not to go because he had been invited to the Derby by Rothschild, the merchant bank. . The bank, no doubt, invited him on the strength of his previous employment with them and, possibly, after a bit of horse trading yesterday, on the strength of his future employment as well.

MINIMAL EFFORTS

IT IS not particularly hard work being an artist, Michael Landy admitted as he settled into his sofa at his flat in south London. He laughed, as well he might, given the ease with which he knocked up his item for the Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition, which opens on Sunday.

Unlike most exhibitors who have to battle their way past the judges, Landy was invited to submit an entry (previous works include some upturned milk crates bought from Express Dairies for pounds 6 and sold for pounds 3,500) and came up with a pounds 160 display of carnations and chrysanthemums placed on a costermonger's stall, which he bought for pounds 1,500 some time ago. When the invitation arrived, he popped down to the car- park where the stall had been languishing, loaded up the flowers, erected a few light bulbs and pushed it along to Piccadilly. He hopes to pick up pounds 5,000 for his pains.

Expecting a lot of Duchampian verbiage about the flowers and the stall symbolising something or other, I was surprised by Landy's thesis. 'Is it minimalist?' I inquired, looking at a slide of Costermonger's Stall III. Another laugh. 'There is nothing minimal about that,' came the reply. 'People tend not to look at things around them, so I'm taking things out of their normal place and putting them where people will look at them.' By the time I left, he had started muttering about the stall being 'an odd segment of the whole world', but I think I had embarrassed him by then. He is now working on an exhibit about dustbins.

GEORGE SOROS is wealthy, I know - yesterday he announced plans to start up a pounds 500m fund with British Land - but it is hard, sometimes, to see the colour of his money. The editor of this newspaper recalls being invited to the Savoy by Soros two years ago, a pleasant occasion until they got to the bill. Hands rummaging in pockets, the multi-millionaire admitted that he didn't have any ready cash or credit cards on him, and could Mr Whittam Smith possibly pick up the tab . . ?

A DAY LIKE THIS

3 June 1979 Philip Toynbee writes in his journal: 'In one little Derbyshire village we went to the annual ceremony of blessing the wells. Each of the five village wells had been 'dressed' - that is, flowers had been intricately threaded into a frame above it to form a Bible picture. They were hideous, since our summer flowers look much too garish when pushed together like this. But the designs were made with astonishing skill; and how little it mattered that they were very ugly; how much it mattered that this traditional craft was still practised by the young people. May they never give it up] May wells be dressed in Tissington. Till Kingdom Come] (As Rupert Brooke might have written, I am forced to add by my deplorable literary self-consciousness. It is sad that such simple and expected ideas still embarrass me.)'

Comments