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Thread: Enoch Powell

  1. #1
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    Default Enoch Powell

    I haven't read the whole review yet but this summary from an LRB thing on him caught my eye.

    https://www.lrb.co.uk/v41/n18/ferdin...o-the-absolute

    Here, I think, is Enoch Powell’s abiding legacy: not his undeniable racism, or his cold disregard for the welfare of those he identified as ‘an alien wedge’, but rather the lurking angst he instilled and bequeathed about the future existence of the British nation, the sense of an imminent catastrophe. Boris Johnson excoriates the ‘doomsters’ and ‘gloomsters’. But who was the Father of all Doomsters? Who first implanted the obsessive belief that breaking out of the prison house of Brussels was our only possible salvation? If Enoch Powell had never existed, I very much doubt that Boris Johnson would be where he is today.

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    not read it either but seems obviously wrong - none of the factors which gave rise to enoch powell would have existed without him?

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    That was my first thought too, that someone else would have come along and done the same, but then I thought they might be talking hypothetically as in if Powell hadn't existed and nobody else took on the Powell role. I should probably read the full thing.

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    This was really the bit that caught my attention though:

    Here, I think, is Enoch Powell’s abiding legacy: not his undeniable racism, or his cold disregard for the welfare of those he identified as ‘an alien wedge’, but rather the lurking angst he instilled and bequeathed about the future existence of the British nation, the sense of an imminent catastrophe.

    The 'Rivers of Blood' thing seems to be his lasting mark.

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    The public library in Leominster used to have a chunky hardback copy of Powell's Collected Poems, together with an introduction by the man himself in which he talks in quaveringly erotic tones about the thrill of foreboding a young man feels within his mortal frame when he begins to sense the change of the seasons. The poems themselves are reasonably competent A. E. Housman knock-offs. Melancholy and nostalgia are really key to Powell's post-imperialist sensibility, his sense of irreversible decline.

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    The best thing I have read on Enoch Powell is Paul Foot's 1969 book The Rise of Enoch Powell. It's good for lots of reasons, not least the opening chapter on his relation and attitudes to Empire (India in particular).

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    That cover makes it look like a Spike Milligan thing.

    51NauHV3lZL._SX304_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

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    That's true, it does. But it's really not. It's a forensic polemic.

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    Surprising quote on that cover. Can you summarise your thoughts on it, Craner?

    I had for a while a massive biography of Powell, one of those 800 pages jobs which I stupidly never read. I wondered what kind of complexities he concealed. I'm generally fascinated with these figures that seem to bridge (to some degree) the age of Empire and the modern world.

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    It exposed him as a crank and an unscrupulous opportunist who abused statistics and fabricated anecdotes about Wolverhampton. One of the most memorable bits for me was near the beginning of the book when he presented a detailed proposal to Churchill for the military reconquest of India if it declared independence. Churchill's response was basically, "get lost, you nutcase."

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    I seem to remember reading a Powell biography years ago, forget why. He didn't come out of it well. But he did come out of it looking a lot stranger than I'd anticipated - neurotic, deluded, intellectually not untalented but without any clear sense of the true scope and reach of his talents. He wanted to be a pivotal figure in the history of postwar Britain, and in his own way became one, but through dishonest rather than honest means. Racist attitudes notwithstanding, he might have made a decent minor politician. What really corrupted him was hunger for the larger stage.

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    He also massively romanticised India, and Britain's involvement with India, almost like a controlling partner who insists that his beloved will be tarnished and diminished forever if she reneges on the redemptive fable of their love. In that sense, a fantasist, for whom reality will always seem tawdry in comparison to his fantasies.

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    I don't know much about powell, but the idea that if he never enunciated it people wouldn't feel uneasy or be racist or whatever about immigration strikes me as wishful thinking

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    It was weird listening to that Rivers of Blood speech when the BBC rebroadcast it recently. I had to turn it down because my daughter had friends round and I didnít want them to get the wrong idea.

    He does come across as both a romantic and an opportunist in the same way that Oswald Mosley did.

    Some bits here about him speaking in Dalston in 1976, something I find peculiarly jarring:
    https://hackneyhistory.wordpress.com...ll-in-dalston/

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