Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Why Heffer's Wrong

Stephen Heffer is a good writer, even if I personally do not like his writing style. He will not care about that, particularly since I still read the stuff he writes. Today, his Telegraph column defends the reputation of Enoch Powell - and expounds his belief that Nigel Hastilow, the former candidate for Halesowen and Rowley Regis should not have been pressurised and, in effect, forced to resign. Several Conservatives have told me that they take the same view as Stephen Heffer. I think that they and he are wrong - I will outline why.

The defence of Enoch Powell's 'Rivers of Blood' speech (and Nigel Hastilow's comments is based on the dictionary definition of the words used. This is never the whole story. The meaning of words depends on the context in which they are used. The meaning of words varies, depending on where and when they are spoken. And words mean both what the speaker/writer intends and what the listener/reader understands.

Now, I do not know Nigel Hastilow, but assume that he is an able man. And I have read enough of Enoch Powell to know that he was a truly brilliant man. He was far too clever not to have known that his words would have been heard as having racist undertones - even if there wasn't a racist word uttered (in the dictionary sense). What Powell did was make it impossible to have a rational discussion about immigration (without accusations of racism) for decades. His indulgance crippled objective debate - and I speak as an admirer of the great man.

I absolutely believe that immigration is a serious issue for Britain, which politicians should be addressing with honesty and urgency. Predicted levels of population increase have reached frighteningly high levels. I see the consequences for the countryside, for wildlife, for housing, for public services and for social cohesion as serious issues for debate. Over recent months, the debate has taken off - without any significant accusations of racism. David Cameron has played a big part in this and has made the hugely significant statement that immigration levels should be lowered. Trevor Phillips has supported what David has been saying. Real progress was being made. By linking the debate with Enoch Powell's speech, Nigel Hastilow has made this debate much more difficult. If my party is serious about leading a real grown up debate about immigration, Nigel Hastilow had to go.


Aberavon & Neath Liberal Democrats said...

UKIP is reported to be sniffing round Hastilow now.

Coming on top of a ringing condemnation, at last night's LibDem hustings, of racism and of the government's mishandling of immigration, this blog makes me just a bit more optimistic for the UK.

- Frank Little

Teilo said...


Racism is the belief that some races are inferior to others. But Bryan Sykes, Professor of Human Genetics at the University of Oxford, has demonstrated that even talking of different human races is a myth. There is no such thing as a genetically pure race. We are all mongrels.

The root cause of the problems associated with immigration is not race. It is ethnicity - cultural, linguistic, and religious difference.

Glyn, to say that Enoch Powell’s speech made it impossible for politicians to talk about the issue is a huge excuse. The powder keg that exists in some parts of England today is the result of the asinine idea of ‘multiculturalism’- the notion that immigrants do not need to fully integrate in society.

The solution is for governments to move the argument away from immigration, per se. The watchword should be assimilation.


Glyn Davies said...

Frank - I like to spread a little optimism! If Nigel Hastilow becomes a candidate for a different party. I hope he will be a bit more careful in future. I suppose it depends on whether he actually wants to make headlines or make a difference.

Teilo - I don't disagree with anything in your comment - except that you too lightly dismiss the consequences of Enoch Powell's speech. He was a very influential man - and the 'Rivers of Blood' speech is probably the most influential of the time. It has been remembered as a 'racist' speech - even though its reading would not demonstate that. It was a great pity that a politician so able should be remebered as a racist - which he wasn't.

Since then, whenever a politician of the right has raised immigration as an issue, the left has immediately raised accusations of racism. I have been hugely impressed by David Cameron's ability to rise above this. Any linkage of current debate with a speech and a man percieved to be 'racist (however unfair) makes David's task more difficult.

I do agree that a concentration on assimilation would promote social cohesion - but it would not tackle the other huge consequences of population increase that need to be addressed as well.

Left Field said...

Just in case anyone is interested, there is a full transcript of Enoch Powell's speech here.

Glyn Davies said...

left field - Thanks. I hope that everyone who decides to suport Simon Heffer's article (and I have met many already) will take the trouble to read, or re-read Enoch Powell's speech. And I will defy them to then say that the deliverer of this speech could hold a senior position in any national political party. I maintain that the sheer power of this speech made it impossible to discuss, with any rationality, the subject of immigration for decades to come. I wonder what would be the Powell judgement of the impact of the speech if he were alive to look back on it today.

Anonymous said...

his local constituency association are not going to accept his resignation. what does this say about your lot glyn

Anonymous said...

This is indeed an interesting paradox... I see both sides. In the current political climate, where a man dare not speak his mind, Hastilow should have realised the error of discussing Powell. In a better world he should have been free to utter what many of the rest of us think, but in a better world he would not need to do so...

Glyn Davies said...

Roman - I live in the real world. I believe that it is vital for the future of Britain that we have a serious debate about how many people we want to allow into our country - and I have no time for someone who makes it more difficult to have that debate.

Anonymous said...

I agree, Hastilow has hampered 'Dave's' charm offensive, and it was a fairly dumb thing to do in the light of current political dogma. Yes, it is vital we talk about immigration in less emotive terms as it is used as a stick to beat immigration-sceptic people as being Little Britain racists, when we have very good soci-economic reasons, nothing to do with race nor ethnicity.