Powell, Enoch

Date of Birth:
16 Jun 1912
Date of Death:
8 Feb 1998

Enoch Powell was a well-educated scholar and committed Conservative M.P. He rose to become a charismatic political orator who could command large audiences, but ultimately, his extreme right-wing views and xenophobia resulted in his public expulsion from his beloved party.

John Enoch Powell was born in Birmingham in 1912. He studied classics at Cambridge University and, at the age of 25, became Professor of Greek at Sydney University, Australia. He returned to England at the outbreak of the Second World War and enlisted in the Royal Warwickshire regiment, where he quickly rose through the ranks from private to brigadier.

On leaving the army at the end of the war, he worked as a political researcher for the Conservative Party before being elected as the M.P. for Wolverhampton South-West. He held this seat from 1950 to 1974.

As well as being a staunch opponent of the European Common Market, Powell was aggrieved by what he considered the government's lax stance on immigration. In April 1968, without the knowledge of his party, he gave a speech from the West Midlands Conservative Political Centre in Birmingham outlining his anti-immigration and 're-emigration' arguments.

Powell timed his speech especially to coincide with the East African Asian Crisis and the passing of the Race Relations Bill that was being debated in parliament at the time. The provocative speech has become known for its metaphorical reference to the river Tiber 'foaming with much blood' as a result of uncontrolled immigration.

The leader of the Conservative party, Edward Heath, responded to the speech by sacking Powell from the Shadow Cabinet, describing his comments as 'racialist in tone, and likely to exacerbate racial tensions'. Once the Race Relations Bill was passed and its tough line on immigration revealed, Heath was accused of using Powell to distract public attention fromthe Conservative Party's defence of the legislation.

In February 1974, disillusioned with the Conservative Party for leading the United Kingdom into the European Common Market, Powell left the party. He advised the electorate to vote for Labour, which had promised a referendum on whether or not the United Kingdom should remain in the European Common Market.

Powell re-entered parliament later that year as an Ulster Unionist M.P. for the constituency of Down South, Northern Ireland, which he continued to represent until he lost his seat in 1992. He died in1998 aged 85.

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