Alex Massie

Hannan & Powell, Round 2

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Danny Finkelstein says my Churchill analogy is "cute" but wrong. Churchill had his flaws but is primarily remembered for getting One Big Thing Right; Powell had his qualities but is primarily remembered for getting One Big Thing Wrong. In other words, the two aren't really comparable and my argument is wrong.

I confess this thought occurred to me this morning. I should have updated my argument to make that clear. In other words, Danny is right.

That said, I also think that when a man is asked who his heroes and intellectual influences are and replies Ayn Rand, Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman and, in a British context, Enoch Powell it is pretty obvious that he is pretty unlikely to share Powell's views on immigration.

Furthermore, my point that newspapers might check this before swallowing the stuff put out by, in this instance, Labour (but on other occasions the Tories) still stands. As Guido reminds us, Hannan is on record disagreeing with Powell's views on immigration in the course of a post looking at how routinely and stupidly newspapers make facile "links" between politicians and disreputable people. Hannan wrote:

For what it’s worth, I think Enoch Powell was wrong on immigration. The civil unrest that he forecast, and that many feared in 1968, didn’t materialise. Britain assimilated a large population with an ease that few countries have matched.

Being an immigrant myself

, I have particular cause to be grateful for Britain’s understated cosmopolitanism.

So, a quick Google and you can see that Labour's attempt to stir up trouble and embarrass the Tories are, on this occasion, utterly absurd. Why newspapers should want to help politicians smear their opponents is a different matter entirely. One can see why the Guardian, on this occasion again, should do so, but why the Telegraph was unable to check its own archive must, I suppose, remain a mystery. Had they done so, however, they'd have had a better story: Labour Make Feeble Effort to Smerar Tory Politician.

Danny also says that Powell's immigrations views make it difficult to see him as a hero. That's a matter of opinion. As regular readers know, my own views on immigration could scarcely be more different from Powell's, but I don't think that demands we erase him from the history books or refuse to say he was right on other issues. There is, to some extent, a comparison to be drawn with Barry Goldwater and his opposition to Civil Rights legislation. Admittedly that was based on principle, not prejudice but it's hard to argue that there wouldn't have been rather awful consequences had Goldwater's views carried the day.

Still, as I say, Danny's point about my Churchill crack is correct.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

Topics in this articleSocietyimmigration