Written by Christopher Dean
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The ‘rivers of blood’ speech to the Conservative Political Centre in Birmingham on 20 April 1968 sent shock waves throughout the Establishment and awakened my interest in politics, although I had stood as a Conservative candidate in the mock school election at Dulwich College in 1966, and won. Stewart Purvis was the Labour candidate, and of course, he went on to become the CEO of ITN, proving even then that having left-wing credentials was a passport to a career in the mainstream media.
A year later, in 1969 and I joined the new Croydon and Eastern Surrey Branch of the Monday Club, which at the time was the fastest-growing pressure group within the Conservative Party, and which Harold Wilson no less referred to as the ‘guardian of the Tory conscience’. It was the Club’s fierce opposition to non-White immigration to Britain and its support for South Africa and Rhodesia that attracted me as much as anything else.
Branch meetings were held almost monthly with an extensive and impressive list of Tory MPs and others, including Sir Ronald Bell, Sir Patrick Wall and Sir John Biggs Davison, all thorns in the side of centre-left Conservative governments. But it didn’t stop there for on 27 February 1975 I attended a ticket-only meeting organised jointly by four branches of the Monday Club in Croydon and addressed by Enoch Powell, at that point an Ulster Unionist MP. His subject was ‘Immigration’, and of course there wasn’t a spare seat in the hall. We listened with rapture as he spelt out the folly of the Government’s immigration policy. Little has changed since then; indeed, the situation today is far worse than Enoch Powell could have possibly imagined, and aggravated by our forty-seven-year membership of the European Union and continuing uncontrolled illegal immigration.
Now Enoch Powell was never a member of the Monday Club, although we tried very hard to get him to join on several occasions. As most will know, he was very independently minded as well as being single-minded, and to some very much of a loner. And I don’t think he felt comfortable with the Club’s rather ambiguous stance on the European Union or its support for the return of capital punishment.
Eighteen months later, in October 1976, he returned to Croydon as a guest of the Surrey Monday Club, which had been formed by combining the old Croydon branch with the Surrey West branch. This time he spoke again on the subject of immigration but to a much larger audience in the Fairfield Halls. I remember the occasion vividly for three reasons, firstly that there was standing-room-only in the hall, secondly the vociferous and rather unpleasant rent-a-mob of the great unwashed protesting outside, and thirdly the privilege, as a branch officer, of being able to dine with the ‘great man’ before the meeting.
In July 1980, the Surrey Monday Club again played host to Enoch Powell, who yet again returned to his anti-immigration theme, this time to a packed Martineau Hall in Dorking. Fortunately, there were no protests but instead, a major National Front supporting rally organised by the local NF leader, Tony Haley. Our last meeting with Enoch Powell was in October 1980 at the Bourne Hall near Epsom. This was organised jointly with the very active local Young Conservatives who turned out in force for another unforgettable speech. As Branch Treasurer, I again had the privilege of attending the pre-meeting dinner this time at a rather good Italian restaurant in Stoneleigh. However, our meetings generally were becoming rather too contentious for some venues, and we found ourselves having to obtain third party public liability insurance. In those days the premium for £250,000 of cover was a modest £10!
Towards the end of the 1980s, the Monday Club became less and less influential and was beset with internal disputes not too dissimilar to the UK Independence Party today. I left the club in the 1990s and was then in the political wilderness until I joined UKIP in 2007. I know of several Monday Clubbers who made a similar political journey to mine, and for me, it all started on that eventful day in April 1968.
Christopher Dean (with thanks to John Menzies and Ray Berriff for additional information)