A curious piece has appeared at Mail Online: authored by Anne Robinson, she of the supposedly amusing wink, and still in favour at the BBC for reasons that escape me right now, it tells that “My parents supported Enoch Powell – but that doesn’t mean they were racists”, which is interesting, considering that Liverpool is some distance from Wolverhampton.
The Hefferlump in its natural habitat
Or rather, it is curious only until you understand that Mail Online is edited by the preposterously puffed-up Simon Heffer, recently sent on his way by the Maily Telegraph, whose management had tired of his ranting about how wonderful the UK’s currency was before decimalisation, only for the buffoon to get his pre-decimal sums wrong when trying to show off.
Why should the presence of the appalling Hefferlump matter so? Ah well. Heffer does not merit the USP of “Enoch was right” for nothing. He’s been attempting to rehabilitate Powell for years. This has involved a biography of The Great Man, and pieces in the Telegraph (samples HERE and HERE). Yet Heffer’s selective treatment fails to answer the obvious points.
It was probably a fishing story - one of Private Eye's most notorious covers
Powell, according to the Hefferlump, loved Indian culture so much that he learnt Urdu. Rubbish. He learnt Urdu because he had ambition to become Governor General of India, something that was prevented by the mildly inconvenient fact of that country’s independence. Nor did Powell’s knowledge of the ancient Greeks mean he was less subject to criticism for his utterances.
It was not acceptable back in 1968 to talk of “the black man having the whip hand over the white man”, and to reinforce his apocalyptic vision by talking at length about the riots that had recently taken place across parts of the USA, a country where attitudes to race have not always proved helpful to peaceful coexistence. Nor was it wise to turn up to speak to gatherings where known racists would be present.
Anne Robinson similarly fails to address these points. That Powell was a personal friend of Michael Foot is briefly interesting, but then, it might surprise many of the more tribalist among today’s bloggers and pundits that politicians of left, centre and right are not inevitably sworn enemies. And it does not make Powell’s views, expressed so forcefully in 1968 and afterwards, any more acceptable.
All that this piece shows is that Simon Heffer has found someone who is prepared to write something for his current home that is in accord with his long and tedious crusade to retell part of modern political history. Enoch Powell should not have made his 1968 speech. He knew what he was doing. Sailor Heath was right to sack him from the shadow cabinet. And from there he descended into obscurity.
And that is where Heffer ought to leave him – and get over it.
Paul Foot's short book was most probably right: Powell was an opportunist playing the race card on the back of racist strikes such as on the Bristol buses and appalling electioneering by the Tories in Smethwick and elsewhere. No principle about it, just dirty, racist politics.
Powell failed in his personal crusade but gave the Tories a big boost and also British fascism, which came out of obscurity to become an electoral force in the mid-1970s.
Oh, and the Tiber quote from the Aeniad means the exact opposite from what Powell intended, Heffer admits it in his biography but calls it "irony". I call it dishonest.
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