An Evening with Enoch Powell, 22nd November 1986


Note: This is an exact transcript from one of the handwritten volumes of my Diary. I have kept this, with occasional lapses, since I was fifteen. It currently runs to about five million words. Most entries are of no interest to anyone else. Many are a waste of paper and ink. Some are too shocking or embarrassing ever to be published. Here and there, nevertheless, are entries of actual value. This is one of them. SIG

Saturday 22nd November 1986

No concert after all last night. Instead to Newham North East Conservative Club, to see Simon Pearce – and, much more than that, to see ENOCH POWELL.

Last time I was at the Club was almost a year ago, when it was Harvey Proctor speaking. Nothing much had changed in a year–the same elderly women, the same sprinkling of epicene young men. Oh, of course, there was a good showing of the locals last night. Like me, they’d come out on a wet night to see Enoch. Who wouldn’t?

He came into the meeting room at about 8pm. Dressed with elegance that nearly shocked me in a black, three-piece suit, he must be pushing 75. He didn’t look a day over fifty, nor a day older than the last time I saw him in the flesh, at the Alternative Bookshop. He sat at the front table, on his right the local PPC–some chinless creature whose name I missed and didn’t bother asking for afterwards–on his left Simon, beard impressive as ever, white streak in his hair ditto.

Simon opened the proceedings, with a lavish though halting panegyric on EP. He was scholar, soldier, former Minister, prophet. He drew attention to EP’s great and continuing kindness to East London Conservatives. He sat down to great applause. To greater applause, EP stood up.

He began slowly, thanking the Association for the kindness of inviting him to speak. Looking at his notes, he started the main body of his speech. This was an attack on the idea of positive discrimination and on the system of quotas that would be needed to give it any real meaning. He spoke of the craze for “ethnic monitoring” that was sweeping the professions. This was something he called “a plague more deadly than AIDS.” He gave the Law Society’s recent survey as a prime example. He then attacked the idiotic Prince of Wales with a reference to complaints of “not enough black faces under the buzbies.”

All this, he said, was just one more symptom of the mischievous importation of race into the laws of Great Britain, an importation first made in the Race Relations Act 1965, and now widened and entrenched to the point where it directly endangers the indigenous heritage of these islands.

Our constitution and whole way of life, he went on, was based on the premise of a largely homogeneous population, with more fundamental points of agreement than disagreement, and a bare majority of whom could be trusted with unlimited formal power, because there were commonly-accepted, if not explicit, rules of how that power might be exercised. Undermine that basis by letting areas of the country be settled by groups without this perception of common interest, and the system would become unworkable. This was happening now all about us, here in East London.

There was a conspiracy of silence among the powers that be, he concluded, and his duty over the past twenty years had been to see that the truth was told, before it became too late for remedial action to be peacefully taken.

Questions followed. I asked for his comment on Lewisham Council’s policy of removing “offensive” literature from its libraries. He said this was another illustration of the tendency he had described. The Labour Party was exploiting the race issue throughout the inner cities. As such, it was like a man riding on the back of a tiger–but any man who tried this would find himself eaten alive before proceeding very far on his journey. He mentioned the current fuss in the Labour Party over the issue of black sections.

Someone else asked about education and “mother-tongue” teaching. The answer was fascinating. Education, he said, has two functions. One is to hand on from one generation to another the heritage of a nation. The other is to satisfy human curiosity. Deny the first of these purposes, and you add yet more kindling to the funeral pyre of our nationhood.

Someone asked what was to be done. As ever, he raised repatriation as the only sure answer.

He said much else beside the above, which is only a poor abstract of the speech–an abstract made a day later and without benefit of notes. Oh, inter alia, he praised Mrs Thatcher for her skill in avoiding the imposition of sanctions against South Africa, and he condemned all attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of another country, without also assuming a corresponding degree of responsibility.

It was a grand performance, quite in the old style of English oratory. There was no tinselly rhetoric, no use of long words for their own sake, no striking for alliteration or sentences without verbs. Nor was there any of the monotonous delivery you get from someone who is reading from a text. Instead, every sentence was as grammatically perfect as if written down in advance, yet delivered naturally–and all linked into a single persuasive whole.

That was his speech. I have read greater–of course, I have: last night’s speech was only good, not great–but have heard nothing in my life so far to match it.

One further point: I have mentioned the audience–mostly working class locals. None of these, I suspect, has had the advantage of an education much beyond sixteen. EP spoke, during more than half an hour, in long and often complex sentences. Once, he referred to Greek history. Once, he mentioned the French Revolution. At no point did he lose his audience. They listened in silence. They understood him. They questioned him on what they had understood, and listened to him again. I suspect that those politicians who say they are adapting their style to suit the limitations of their audience are only trying to excuse their own limitations.

Nothing much to report after the speech–except that one of the young men I mentioned above had an epileptic fit in the bar. It was a big one, and interesting to watch. Unlike the ones Big Julie has every morning, he seemed to keep control of his bladder. But he twitched and stiffened, and looked as if he would swallow his tongue.

Should I be reporting this? Why not? It was all part of my evening with Enoch Powell.

Sean Gabb is the author of more than forty books and around a thousand essays and newspaper articles. He also appears on radio and television, and is a notable speaker at conferences and literary festivals in Britain, America, Europe and Asia. From 2006 to 2017 he was Director of the Libertarian Alliance. He is currently an Honorary Vice-President of the Ludwig von Mises Centre UK, and is Director of the School of Ancient Studies. He lives in Kent with his wife and daughter.

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