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Enoch Powell's ghost

Nick Watson
Nick Watson
Politics Show West Midlands

Rivers of blood
Nigel Hastilow
He was right
Nigel Hastilow on Enoch Powell

"Enoch Was Right" is still an immensely loaded and inflammatory slogan when it comes to debating immigration... anybody who uses it is playing with fire.

Nigel Hastilow found out the hard way when he invoked it in his newspaper column in the Wolverhampton Express and Star.

The ensuing controversy ending with him resigning as the Conservative's Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Halesowen and Rowley Regis.

A promising political career now lies in tatters - due, in part, to association with this particular phrase. A phrase which still has potency almost 40 years after the "rivers of blood" speech was delivered at a Birmingham hotel.

Mr Hastilow, the former editor of the broadsheet Birmingham Post, wrote: "When you ask many people in the Black Country what the single biggest problem facing the country is, most people say immigration".

No problem here - everybody would agree this is a perfectly reasonable thing to raise in any opinion column.

An inconvenient truth

Then he added: "Many insist: "Enoch Powell was right".

Enoch Powell
Enoch Powell - an image synonymous with his rhetoric

Again Mr Hastilow was, in reasonable terms, reporting the feeling he was picking up on the doorsteps. An inconvenient truth perhaps, but certainly something worth further examination.

But then he went further, he wrote: "He was right".

Rallying call

In agreeing with Powell in his newspaper column, Mr Hastilow had, inadvertently perhaps, crossed a line and lit the blue-touch-paper on a political row that would ultimately wreck his parliamentary ambitions.

So why is the slogan "Enoch Was Right" still so controversial all these years later?

Its potency resides in the fact that Powell himself was such a controversial figure and the phrase itself became a rallying call for the far right in the 1970s.

National Front

Type "Enoch Was Right" into Google and it is not very long before you're taken to some pretty dark corners of the net.

These dark corners are populated by reproductions of long forgotten National Front posters and ugly anti-immigration rhetoric far removed from the sort of reasoned debate that David Cameron and the majority of Conservatives would like to have.

Enoch Powell's speech was political suicide - something Mr Hastilow pointed out himself in his now fateful column. To be seen to agree with Powell in public in the 21st Century though is equally suicidal.

Legendary guitarist

Eric Clapton
Hastilow seems to have sung to the same tune as Clapton

If Mr Hastilow wants some consolation, perhaps he should give Eric Clapton a call.

The legendary guitarist sparked a furore during a concert in Birmingham in 1976 when he said he agreed with Enoch Powell and suggested that Britain had become "a black colony."

The resulting backlash led to the formation of the Rock Against Racism campaign - aimed at promoting racial harmony.

The moral of this story seems to be if politicians are looking to debate immigration then "Enoch Was Right" is the wrong phrase to use.

Our Political Editor Patrick Burns has been out to Halesowen and Rowley Regis to find out what people there really think and if it is possible to have a grown up debate about immigration without accusations of racism.

Also in the programme...

20 mph sign
Over such short distances, what difference would 20mph make from 30mph?

Would you be happy if the speed limit in your town was reduced to 20mph?

Road safety campaigners, Brake, want to the law changed to make 20pmh the default speed limit in residential and built areas and outside all schools.

They say it could cut the number of people killed on our roads from more than 3,000 a year to around 1,000.

Slow down

The government must act to make our roads safer
Karen Scarrott, Brake

A national survey by Brake revealed that 79% of children in the West Midlands said they wanted drivers to slow down near their homes and schools.

Intolerable death toll

Among those supporting the campaign in the region is Karen Scarrott. Her daughter, Jade, was killed in a road accident.

"Jade's death must not be in vain," she said.

"The government must act to make our roads safer for children and drivers must take responsibility for their actions behind the wheel.

"That's why I am joining Brake's campaign urging all drivers to slow down and look out for children when driving near schools and homes, to help stop the intolerable death toll on our roads.

"Being in a hurry is no excuse for putting children's lives in danger," insists Karen.

Twenty mph zones are already being introduced around every school in Scotland, thanks to Scottish Government funding.

Protecting people

20 mph sign
A life saving sign...

And in June 2007 Portsmouth announced plans to become the first 20mph town in the UK due to evidence showing the effectiveness of 20mph zones in protecting local people, say Brake.

The move is not popular with everybody though.

The Association of British Drivers (ABD) is one of the organisations that have come out against the idea.

"All you achieve by making people drive down the road looking at their speedometer is 10 times as many deaths and that's before you cause more accidents because people aren't looking where they're going," the ABD's spokesman, Nigel Humphries, told the BBC recently.

Our reporter Katie Inman has been out to find out what support there is for a cut in speed limits.

Get in touch with your views by e-mailing on the form at the bottom of this page or call us on 0845 300 1138.

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Join the Politics Show on Sunday 11 November 2007at the usual time of 12:00 GMT

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video and audio news
Nigel Hastilow resigned over his comments on immigration

Nigel Hastilow defends immigration comments

Conservative party chairman on the resignation

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