The BBC and the Rivers of Blood speech at 50

Robert Henderson

The BBC recently broadcast Enoch Powell’s 1968 speech about immigration which is known popularly as the Rivers of Blood speech.  The speech is forthright in its treatment of mass non-white immigration and couched in terms which  prompted the onetime Labour minister  Lord Adonis  to attempt to have it banned by Ofcom  on the grounds that  “If a  contemporary politician made such a speech they would almost certainly be  arrested and charged with serious offences.” Ofcom refused to intervene but only because they did not act until material had been broadcast.

On the face of it this might seem a strange programme for the  assiduously politically correct  BBC to air because the . However, it served two purposes for them. First, the BBC likes to maintain the pretence that “all views are represented”. Programmes such  as this  allow them to say, see, we allow views across the political spectrum. Second, the shape of the programme allowed the BBC to have the last word on what Powell foretold.

The breaking up the speech into sections which were commented upon by commentators who were in the main unreserved critics of  Powell  – Simon Heffer, Powell’s biographer, was the token  Powell supporter and even  he attempted to put his support within a  politically correct envelope.

The interruptions to the speech  inevitably  diminished the force of the speech  but the great lack was a failure to  address much of Powell’s predictions. .For example, Powell’s forecasts for  the growth of black and Asian minorities in the UK were pretty accurate as the 2011 census shows, viz:

 “Amongst the 56 million residents in England and Wales, 86% were White, 8% were Asian/Asian British and  3% were Black/African/Caribbean/Black British.”

In his speech Powell made these predictions:

“In 15 or 20 years, on present trends, there will be in this country three and a half million Commonwealth immigrants and their descendants. That is not my figure. That is the official figure given to parliament by the spokesman of the Registrar General’s Office.

There is no comparable official figure for the year 2000, but it must be in the region of five to seven million, approximately one-tenth of the whole population, and approaching that of Greater London. Of course, it will not be evenly distributed from Margate to Aberystwyth and from Penzance to Aberdeen. Whole areas, towns and parts of towns across England will be occupied by sections of the immigrant and immigrant-descended population.”

Powell was also correct in predicting a  lack of integration and  the creation of de facto ghettos by immigrants and their descendants.

In addition Powell foresaw the effects of state enforcement of  censorship on anyone who spoke out against immigration and its effects  is only too visible today when thousands of people every year  find  themselves in criminal courts because they have said or written something  deemed to be  racially or religiously “hate speech”.  ( It is worth adding in passing that the constraints on what may be said about  race  and immigration have acted as a springboard for political correctness in general to flourish.)

When Powell spoke of the black man having the whip hand over the white man he was thinking of  how the 1968 Race Relations Act  would affect the existing relationship between the population of the UK.  He saw that those who were from  racial and ethnic minorities would have a new  form of privilege deriving from the fact that such people would be able to insist that they be served or employed  in a way the native white population would not be able to insist. For example, a native white Briton would  not normally  be able to cry racism if he was denied a   job because the vast majority of employers were (and are)  white.  Anyone who was black or Asian would have huge opportunity to make a claim of racism because most employers were (and are) white.

Here is Powell on  the disadvantaging of the native British:

“But while, to the immigrant, entry to this country was admission to privileges and opportunities eagerly sought, the impact upon the existing population was very different. For reasons which they could not comprehend, and in pursuance of a decision by default, on which they were never consulted, they found themselves made strangers in their own country.

They found their wives unable to obtain hospital beds in childbirth, their children unable to obtain school places, their homes and neighbourhoods changed beyond recognition, their plans and prospects for the future defeated; at work they found that employers hesitated to apply to the immigrant worker the standards of discipline and competence required of the native-born worker; they began to hear, as time went by, more and more voices which told them that they were now the unwanted. They now learn that a one-way privilege is to be established by act of parliament; a law which cannot, and is not intended to, operate to protect them or redress their grievances is to be enacted to give the stranger, the disgruntled and the agent-provocateur the power to pillory them for their private actions.”

In his speech Powell quoted the Labour minister John Stonehouse on the subject of communal privileges which minority groups were already demanding when Powell made the speech. Stonehouse had written this

“’The Sikh communities’ campaign to maintain customs inappropriate in Britain is much to be regretted. Working in Britain, particularly in the public services, they should be prepared to accept the terms and conditions of their employment. To claim special communal rights (or should one say rites?) leads to a dangerous fragmentation within society. This communalism is a canker; whether practised by one colour or another it is to be strongly condemned.’”

None of these issues were addressed  meaningfully or at all in the discussion breaks which interrupted the reading of the speech.

On Powell’s prediction of violent racial clashes  with “the Tiber foaming with much blood”,   it is true that  has not yet occurred in the sense of large scale fighting between the native population and the minority immigrants. However, there has been a series of  serious riots by non-whites since he Powell gave the speech, the most recent in 2011.  Moreover,  it is worth pointing out Powell put no time limit as to when   such violence might occur. Common sense  suggests that the larger the racial and ethnic minorities become the greater will be the racial tension  because the minorities will demand more and more privilege for their own group. It  is also worth noting that  non-white immigrants have brought a disproportionate amount of crime to the streets of Britain, much of it violent. That propensity for violence  could easily be harnessed to fight racial/ethnic disputes.

As for the general effect of   non-white immigration, it has undeniably resulted in a fractured and vastly less cohesive society.

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