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Wednesday, February 18, 1998 Published at 18:33 GMT

UK: Politics

Politicians say farewell to Enoch Powell
image: [ Final journey for Enoch Powell ]
Final journey for Enoch Powell

Enoch Powell, the most turbulent politician and controversial patriot of his generation, was laid to rest on Wednesday, alongside the comrades with whom he served in the Second World War.

More than 1,000 people - statesmen, soldiers and just "ordinary folk" - who crowded into St Margaret's Church, Westminster, and afterwards St Mary's Church, Warwick, heard him hailed as a man of prophecy and political sacrifice whose principles forever debarred him from high office.

Two buglers from the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers - which absorbed his old regiment the Royal Warwickshires - sounded the Last Post and a Reveille in a moving ceremony before his coffin was carried from the churchto its final resting place.

The coffin, draped with the Union flag and covered with white irises, was borne by six uniformed pallbearers from the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.

He was buried near to where ten soldiers, including three former members of the Royal Warwickshires, are also buried.

His request, many years ago, for a military element to his funeral, had been honoured in full.

Politicians and peers had turned out in force for the first of the two funeral services in honour of Mr Powell - one of the most controversial British politicians of his generation.

Mr Powell, the former Conservative and Ulster Unionist MP died on February 8, aged 85.

During the 50-minute service at St Margaret's Church, Westminster, the congregation heard that Mr Powell was a gifted parliamentarian, scholar, poet and soldier.

The former Prime Minister, John Major, and former colleagues Michael Howard, Ann Widdecombe, John Patten and William Waldegrave were among mourners.

Other Conservative politicians included Lord Parkinson, the Tory leader William Hague's right-hand man Alan Duncan, Alan Clark and the former Northern Ireland Secretary Michael Mates.

Sir Denis Thatcher was also present but Lady Thatcher did not attend.

[ image: Service at St Margaret's where he was a warden]
Service at St Margaret's where he was a warden
During the funeral address, the colourful politican was hailed as a man of prophecy, political sacrifice and as a great parliamentarian.

The Conservative peer Lord Biffen said that his nationalism "certainly did not bear the stamp of racial superiority or xenophobia".

Lord Biffen said that for Mr Powell the supreme issue of his turbulent public life was Britain and Europe.

"He brought to the debate his passionate affections for national institutions and his outrage that the British people were not given a proper choice."

He said that in Mr Powell's political career, the "snakes matched the ladders" and he did not achieve power. But he achieved influence on a scale "which perhaps only history will come to recognise".

The service at St Margaret's where he was a warden for 10 years was followed by a further service at St Mary's Church, Warwick.

Lord Biffen, who said he was "greatly influenced" by Mr Powell's arguments, outlined the career of this "outstanding classical scholar" and the professor who enlisted in the Royal Warwickshires as a private and achieved "phenomenal promotion", ending the war as a brigadier.

Lord Biffen said: "At Westminster he was utterly self-contained and much preferred the calm of the Commons library to the smoking room. In the chamber he became a compelling orator. His speeches, delivered without notes, needed no corrections.

"He was a Hansard reporter's dream. He was unique in the way he could combine passion and intellect and spice it with shafts of humour which convulsed both sides of the House."

After the Conservative election defeat in 1964, Mr Powell argued that Britain, having lost an Empire, should champion the nation as the best focus for loyalty and authority.

That was the background to his so-called "rivers of blood speech" which led to his dismissal in 1968 from the shadow Cabinet.

"Powell believed that the prospective size and concentration of New Commonwealth immigration would lead to unacceptable tensions and violence.

"It had a profound national impact and it transformed the public perception of Enoch Powell. He was already an established national figure when, for him, the supreme issue arose of Britain and Europe," said Lord Biffen.


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