UKIP Wales leader under fire for claiming Enoch Powell ‘right’
Enoch Powell’s ‘rivers of blood’ speech has been “proven right by events” according to UKIP’s leader in the Welsh Assembly, AM Neil Hamilton.
Speaking on Good Morning Wales on BBC Radio Wales, he said that the Brexit campaign had continued in the same spirit by “representing people whose voice was being unheard”.
He was responding to a BBC programme aired Sunday which re-broadcast parts of the speech and dissected its contents.
“I didn’t think the programme was very balanced, I’m afraid,” Neil Hamilton said. “Only one of the speakers who interpreted the speech was pro the policy that Enoch Powell espoused.
“I don’t think it really analysed the problems which mass immigration caused.”
The ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech was given by British Member of Parliament Enoch Powell on 20 April 1968.
The speech said that mass immigration, especially Commonwealth immigration to the UK, would lead to violence on the streets. Jacob Rees-Mogg MP had last week referred to it as an “evil speech”.
Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood accused UKIP of “keeping Powell’s racist rhetoric going”.
“If anyone was in any doubt that UKIP are ideologically far right, listen again to their Assembly leader justifying Enoch Powell’s racist speech on BBC Radio Wales,” she said.
Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Jane Dodds said that Neil Hamilton should write to apologise for the 150,000 people in Wales born outside the UK
“People who come to live and work in this country should not be demonised by anyone, let alone Neil Hamilton,” she said.
“I look forward to hearing of his office sending out these 150,000 letters, ideally on recycled paper!”
Matt Greenough, a senior Special Advisor to the First Minister, criticised Neil Hamilton’s comments on Twitter.
“An evil speech which was this morning defended without qualification by a serving politician in the National Assembly for Wales,” he said.
Labour peer Andrew Adonis had criticised the BBC for rebroadcasting the speech, saying that it had “energised” the far right.
“Big mistake, which BBC doubtless now regret, to broadcast Enoch Powell’s violently racist ‘rivers of blood’ speech,” he said.
“Just look at energised racist response on social media. I will be referring it to Ofcom, which (wrongly) declined to intervene in advance.”
Neil Hamilton conceded, however, that the violence that Enoch Powell had precited had not come to pass.
“I don’t think he was right in one sense, in that we have not seen the kind of racial violence and intolerance generated by this that at the time was happening in the United States,” he said.
“We do have particular problems with Islamic terrorism of course, and isolated incidents over the years of racially inspired violence. And not just racially inspired violence caused by whites against blacks.
“But I do think the kind of social changes which mass immigration has brought, never desired by the majority of the British people – indeed they’ve never been asked, do you want to transform your country in the way that has happened.
“Those who are professional grudge-merchants, and those who do want to see the country transformed by mass immigration, do call people like me and Enoch racist.
“Powell changed politics by articulating the fears and resentments of millions and millions of people.”