Rivals pay tribute to Enoch Powell

Monday 09 February 1998 00:02

The Prime Minister yesterday led the tributes to one of the most controversial Tories in post-war politics, Enoch Powell, who died in hospital at the age of 85.

"However controversial his views," Tony Blair said, "he was one of the great figures of 20th-century British politics, gifted with a brilliant mind.

"However much we disagreed with many of his views, there was no doubting the strength of his convictions or their sincerity, or his tenacity in pursuing them, regardless of his own political self-interest."

Mr Powell was one of a number of monetarist Treasury ministers who resigned from Macmillan's government in 1957; he was sacked from Edward Heath's shadow cabinet almost 30 years ago after making his controversial "Rivers of Blood" speech on immigration; in 1974, he defied his party over Europe, quitting parliament and urging the country to vote Labour; and when he staged his comeback, he did so as an Ulster MP whose defence of the Unionist cause at times embarrassed Margaret Thatcher - always one of his most ardent admirers.

Baroness Thatcher said yesterday: "There will never be anybody else so compelling as Enoch Powell. He was magnetic. Listening to his speeches was an unforgettable privilege. He was one of those rare people who made a difference and whose moral compass led us in the right direction."

William Hague, the Tory leader, said: "There were disagreements, sometimes profound, between Enoch Powell and the Conservative Party. Nevertheless, his contribution has helped shape the history of our party and out times. He will not be forgotten."

Blair's town halls, page 8

Obituaries, page 16

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