Most of us will be aware of, and many of us will remember, Enoch Powell’s infamous “Rivers of Blood” speech, given in 1968. While merely stating the stresses and strains of mass immigration, as reported to him by his constituents, that speech set back that cause, making it almost a taboo subject for at least 30 years, and right up to today for Guardianistas.
However, in his view, it was what was to become the European Union that was a more fundamental problem. In 1969, when it was first suggested that the United Kingdom would join the European Economic Community, Powell spoke openly of his opposition to such a move. It was clear to him that the sovereignty of Parliament was in question, as was Britain’s very survival as a nation, and as Heath railroaded the European Communities Bill through Parliament, Powell (as a back-bencher) voted against the government on every one of the 104 divisions. When finally he lost this struggle, he decided he could no longer sit in a parliament that he believed was no longer sovereign. During the summer of 1972, he prepared to resign and changed his mind only because of fears of a renewed wave of immigration from Uganda after the accession of Idi Amin, who had expelled Uganda’s Asian residents.
However, on 23 February 1974 (with a general election five days away), Powell turned his back on the Conservative Party. He gave a speech in Birmingham to an audience of 1,500, with some press reports estimating that 7,000 were turned away. He made headlines with his call for people to vote Labour, believing they were opposed to the European Union. He said the issue of British membership of the EEC was one where:
“If there be a conflict between the call of country and that of party, the call of country must come first.”
As an Ulster Unionist MP for South Down (elected at the second 1974 General Election) he focused on delivering a number of speeches across the country. His oratory was legendary, one of the most intellectual yet understandable speakers of his generation in the days before sound-bites. I would like to focus on one of those speeches, given in December 1976, which warned us of the dangers of the European Union; dangers that we now can only clearly see thanks to UKIP and a few lone Tory Eurosceptics.
His speech started by revealing what he saw as the treachery of James Callaghan, who by then had replaced Harold Wilson as Prime Minister:
In the days before 1974, James Callaghan was one of the doughtiest opponents of Britain’s membership of the Common Market. He made many fine speeches exposing the disadvantages, both moral and material, which would attend upon that fateful – though, happily, reversible – step. He voted solidly through the session of 1972 against the European Communities Bill – an Act still on the statute book un-amended – which made our entry possible by stripping the British Parliament of its historic right to be the sole source of legitimate power in this realm.
But, Powell then recalled what happened to Callaghan’s opposition once he became the Foreign Secretary in March 1974:
The Foreign Secretary succumbed in little more than two months to the mephitic atmosphere of the Foreign Office. His single-handed determination proved insufficient to make head against the serried mandarin ranks which had closed around him. He was overborne and made captive by those who were determined that parliaments and politicians might come and go, but that this island should remain a predestined province of the new super-state of Western Europe.
Note the use of the term Western Europe – in 1976 not even Powell could foresee the Iron Curtain falling, and Eastern European countries clamouring to join the EU – his horror would have been greater had he realised that possibility. He then recalled the treachery of the 1975 Referendum, where the British electorate had been misled in order to produce a “Yes” vote, much of it regarding the price of food, which rocketed following our entry into the CAP scheme.
He also foresaw the rise of a mass movement against the European Union, as people realised the full impact of it, but not having a crystal ball to predict the rise of UKIP:
The battle over Britain’s national existence and parliamentary independence is a battle which will be fought through to the bitter end, however long it lasts. It is a battle in which no Quarter will be asked and none will be given. It is a battle in the course of which all other political lines and links will continue to be overrun and broken, as it surges one way or the other. It is a battle in which the bitterest foes of the past will stand together and the closest of old alliances be destroyed. I say these things in no spirit of bravado. They are cold and sober deductions from fact, the fact that the fight is about the continued existence of the nation itself, an issue to which by definition all other Political issues and causes whatsoever must be subordinated, as to the greater which subsumes the less.
And as his speech rose to final crescendo, he held his audience rapt with his fine oratory, even anticipating the concept of the “New World Order”, as regional blocs moved towards world government where democracy would be an impossible concept. The final paragraph of his speech says it all:
Those, therefore, in parliament who vote for the institution of direct elections from the United Kingdom to the Assembly of the Community will be voting to confirm that extinction of the United Kingdom as a nation, and to re-affirm that determination to make it a province of a European state which was implicit in the act of British membership itself. The battle for and against the survival of the British nation will be fought again upon that battlefield… this time it must be won.
In our fight to leave the EU, Enoch Powell would have been proud of us in UKIP today.