One of the genuine seasonal pleasures to be enjoyed as 2013 slipped around the U-bend was Enoch Powell making his familiar comeback as the Evil Ghost of Christmases Past. Enoch was disinterred by the producers of the hitherto un-noticed Murnaghan Show — presumably in order to frighten the viewers and put a spanner in the wheel of the programme’s principal guest interviewee, the Ukip leader Nigel Farage.
Dermot Murnaghan tripped up Mr Farage by the devilishly clever tactic of reading him some anodyne quotes from Powell’s exciting and controversial ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech and asking Farage if he agreed with them. But only later did he reveal that they were the words of the sulphurous Antichrist Powell! Brilliant. The quote Murnaghan used was about how mass immigration had led people to consider themselves strangers in their own neighbourhoods and placed a bit of a strain on local infrastructure. Farage, like I suspect a good 60 per cent of the population, nodded along in agreement, and the trap was sprung. Ha! You love Enoch, you do. You probably want to marry him.
A terrific ploy. They must take it further. When David Cameron is a guest on the Murnaghan Show, Dermot should ask him if he agrees with the following: ‘As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have a duty to be a fighter for truth and justice.’ And when the Prime Minister says yep, that’s me, down to the bone, Dermot can pounce: ‘Hitler said that! You’re Hitler, you are.’ And for Nick Clegg: ‘I’m quite modest. I don’t want to tell people I’m a leader.’ That’s Pol Pot! Nick’s Pol Pot! Maybe if they have Archbishop Welby on one day they can ask him if he agrees with this: ‘Man is subject to certain desires and needs which are as natural to his being as they are to that of any other animal.’ And then reveal that it comes from the head of Stalin’s NKVD, Laventiy Beria, you evil episcopal bastard, who do you think you’re fooling with this love and peace rubbish? You want to eliminate enemies of the state in a dark basement.
And so Nigel Farage got Enoched, good and proper. It has been a sticky two or three months for the chap, with his own poll ratings and those of his party slipping inexorably, it would seem, downwards. The press has unearthed plenty of fruitcakes within Ukip and Farage has suffered the further indignity of watching the Prime Minister pretending to be him and sounding all tough on the issue of immigration. If Cameron actually did something about immigration, then it might well spell the end of Ukip, but I don’t suppose there’s a chance in hell of that.
Meanwhile, though, Enoch got a run out in the press once again and the usual idiocies were flung about. One commentator, noticing that there had not been ‘rivers of blood’ in the UK as a consequence of immigration (so that’s all right, then: everything’s tickety-boo) announced that whatever the problems with immigration, Powell’s speech was not the place to begin a debate on the subject, because Powell was wrong about loads of people being killed, etc.
This is either disingenuous or downright stupid, I can’t work out which. Enoch Powell’s speech in which, grandiosely and foolishly, he conjured up the River Tiber foaming with blood, is never, ever, used as a starting point for a debate on immigration. It is used exclusively as a mean of closing down any sort of debate on immigration, which is exactly what Murnaghan was up to. Simply to raise the spectre of Powell is enough to end the argument: you’re saying what Powell said, so not only are you wrong, you’re also a bigot and a racist and you should be sacked and maybe the Old Bill should get involved too. You may remember the case of Nigel Hastilow, a prospective Tory candidate for Halesowen and Rowley Regis, who was forced to resign when he wrote a newspaper column in which he used the words ‘Enoch was right’. Mr Hastilow didn’t himself say that ‘Enoch was right’, he said that increasing numbers of voters in his patch were of the opinion that ‘Enoch was right’. So you don’t even have to say yourself that Enoch was right, it is enough to get you sacked simply to have noticed that some other people think that Enoch was right.
Farage ultimately contented himself with the notion that Powell’s basic principles, regarding immigration, were correct. Quite why we have to drag the poor old hound up whenever people are becoming vociferous about the vast and monumentally damaging influx of immigrants over the past 15 years is a mystery, unless it is simply to quell anxiety by making such sentiments samizdat. The immigration about which Powell got himself worked up numbered less than 50,000 across several years: we have perhaps ten times that amount in a single year. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that, at the very best, the economy receives a brief spurt as a consequence of this inward migration, and certainly in the short term some businesses benefit. But that’s about it; in the long term it is financially and socially ruinous, even if the rivers are not perpetually foaming with blood, but do so only occasionally.