Thinking About 7/7: Enoch Powell`s Revenge?
We are always delighted to welcome John
Derbyshire, whose last appearance here was as an
immigration reformer supporting the Iraq War,
having heroically agreed to balance our
Paul Craig Roberts and the late
Sam Francis. (Apparently Derbyshire now
doesn`t support the war
enough to satisfy his colleagues at
Empire Review). However, I must enter my
usual protest against all this pessimism—for
reasons I outlined
here. Great nations like Britain and America
have bad patches, even centuries. But, as
Powell himself said in his 1961 St. George`s
“we know not what branches yet that wonderful
tree will have the power to put forth.”]
[Also by John
Nice Guys Get Illegal Immigrants]
In one of those curious juxtapositions of events
cherished by commentators—they make great "hooks"
for opinion columns—Edward Heath, who was Prime Minister
of the U.K. from 1970 to 1974, died
just ten days after the
horrible bombings in the London subway, that killed
54 people. The nature of this particular juxtaposition
is as follows.
Heath was the leader of the Conservative Party, then
in opposition, in the spring of 1968 when Enoch Powell
made his famous "Rivers
of Blood" speech . Powell`s speech was intended
alert his nation to the
future dangers inherent in mass Third World
immigration. His conclusion was that
"nothing will suffice but
that the total inflow for settlement should be reduced
at once to negligible proportions, and that the
necessary legislative and administrative measures be
taken without delay."
Powell was at that time defense spokesman in Heath`s
Shadow Cabinet. After hearing of the speech, Heath fired
Powell from that position (though he remained a Member
of Parliament and a
political gadfly). Powell never again held political
office, though a poll taken four years later found him
most popular politician in Britain.
And the connection to the 7/7 bombings?
Not really hard to figure out. What happened in
London that dreadful day, and very nearly happened again
two weeks later—neatly bracketing Ted Heath`s
passing—can, I think, fairly be described as Enoch
I have now read half a dozen articles, some by
friends or colleagues, about the bombings arguing that
what Britain must do to prevent future atrocities like
this, featuring native-born but disaffected young men of
Third World parentage, is to assert British national
identity more clearly and strongly, so that young
Britons have something to identify with.
John O`Sullivan said it in the
New York Post : "[The July 7 bombers]
were fully assimilated into a nullity. The British
identity presented to these young people under
multiculturalism was at best thin and at worst
Boris Johnson, also in
The Spectator, called for "the re-Britannification
There seems to be a fair consensus, therefore, that
Muslim immigrants, in the UK must assimilate to
Britishness, and Britishness must be more firmly
asserted by Britain, so that immigrants actually have
something to assimilate to.
There is not the slightest prospect that anything
like that will happen. A strong and confident assertion
of Britishness would go against the entire
socio-intellectual trend of the past 40 years—against
all the apparatus of
education, and liberal-elite commentary, against
everything two entire generations of Britons have been
brought up to believe, against the entire zeitgeist.
I venture to say that there is no chance whatever
that Britishness will confidently assert itself again,
not in my lifetime.
Don`t you know that Britain was an
imperialist nation, that oppressed and exploited
colored people in distant places? That invented the term
"concentration camp"? That was beastly to the
poor Irish for
800 years? That forced
opium down the throats of the
wretched Chinese? That sent little children
mine coal? That helped plant
Israel on Arab land, dispossessing thousands of
This stuff is taught in
schools now, and absorbed early in life, so that it
is difficult for British people to doubt or question it,
or to understand it in any proper historical context.
Why on earth would anyone wish to assimilate to such a
nation, with such a history?
A confident assertion of national identity is hard to
bring off unless you believe, as most British people
probably did believe until
40 years ago, that your nation is better than other
nations, that your people are better than their
people. Lingering traces of this belief in national
superiority remain, both in Britain and here, or did
until recently. You can catch a glimpse of it in
artifacts like the
first Indiana Jones movie, where the mental,
physical, and moral superiority of Americans is taken
Clear verbal expression of such a sentiment is,
though, now completely prohibited. Our people are
better than their people— Who on earth would dare
say such a thing out loud now? How long would a person
last in public life, having
uttered such a thing?
I hear the voice of
my father (b. 1899), speaking ex cathedra,
i.e. from his armchair: "Foreigners? Bloody fools for
all I can see… One Englishman is worth
ten Frenchies…" etc., etc. And here is a more
sophisticated commentator, writing in 1940:
"[I]s a country
necessarily inferior because it is one`s own? Why should
not a fellow feel proud of things in which a just pride
may be taken? I have lived in many countries, and talked
in several languages: and found something to esteem in
every country I have visited. But I have never seen any
nation the equal of my own."
— "Frank Richards
Replies," in The Collected Essays, Journalism,
and Letters of George Orwell,
Vol. 1, p.538.
Of course, hardly anyone believes those things any
more. But can you have a strong national identity if
people don`t believe them?
I am not speaking of intellectual people like the
contributors to, and readers of, VDARE.COM. Intellectual
folk can cook up rationalizations for anything. I am
speaking of ordinary unreflective people. Once they have
had those deplorably inegalitarian attitudes
beaten—browbeaten—out of them, in what sense can they be
An assertion of Britishness? Huge numbers of
people—including practically all of what over there are
"the chattering classes," as well as the most
influential spokespersons for the
immigrant communities—would regard such an assertion
Discomfiting though it may be to admit it, they have
a point. I can actually remember when there was a
strong communal sense of Britishness in Britain. One of
my very earliest memories with any political content at
all, in fact, is of being taken out into the playground
of Far Cotton Junior Primary School on
Empire Day (May 24—this was 1951 or 1952), along
whole of the rest of the school, to sing
"There`ll Always Be an England." I find I can
And yes, horrifying to report, every one of the
300-odd kids in that playground was a white Christian
from an English-speaking home. The great majority
descended from great-grandparents who were born within
two or three miles of that school.
That`s not the world we live in any more, for better
or worse. (Unless we live in one of the dwindling number
Finland, Iceland, Saudi Arabia,
Israel, and a few others.) Yet it may be that
without that level of homogeneity, or something not too
far removed from it, "Britishness," or any other
strong national feeling, is not possible.
The Multicultural Theorem—that nothing but the lowest
and grossest kind of human wickedness ("hate")
stands in the way of peoples from all regions of the
world living together in happy harmony—has not been
Of course, any society can easily accommodate, and
surely profit from, a leavening of foreigners. However,
as Enoch Powell said again and again (and again and
again): Numbers are of the essence.
The 2001 U.K. census showed nine percent of the
population of England—4½ million souls—as belonging to
"minority ethnic groups" (including "mixed").
higher proportion of the population, I think, than
was represented by England`s last successful invaders,
Perhaps strong national feeling doesn`t have any
place in the
modern world, and we ought to bid it good riddance.
Perhaps that is so. Whether it is so or not, I am afraid
that strong national feeling, like innocence, is a thing
once lost, can`t easily be regained.
A reassertion of Britishness? In your dreams.
Prime Obsession: Bernhard Riemann and the Greatest
Unsolved Problem in Mathematics, (see!) comes out
in paperback in May.