Saturday, 21 April 2018

The Whip Hand?

"In this country in 15 or 20 years' time, the black man will have the whip hand over the white man." So said Enoch Powell, 50 years ago yesterday. The latest point at which that should therefore have become the case was 1988. In this country in 1988, did the black man have the whip hand over the white man? Well, there you are, then. What with that, and the fact that Powell more or less admitted to having made up the war widow with the guesthouse, the speech deserves to be completely forgotten.

Along with its author, come to that. His claim to have swung one or both of the 1974 General Elections for Labour cannot be proved and never rang true, he always denied Margaret Thatcher's claim that he had influenced her economic policies, his proposal for  the "total integration of Northern Ireland into Great Britain" never made any sense in view of the existence of more than one legal system in Great Britain, his noble enough advocacy of a Labour vote in 1987 in order to be rid of nuclear weapons was scarcely even noticed and certainly had no effect, and his grounds for opposing what became the EU bore no resemblance to the reasons for which the areas that eventually did so voted to Leave in 2016.

Nor did that referendum result have much to do with immigration. The Leave vote was concentrated in the wrong places for that. And after this week, it is clear that popular opinion on the subject is not at all as those who would wish it otherwise would have us believe. If a Bill to provide for the status of EU nationals in Britain after Brexit ever did see the light of day, then it would provide for them all to stay forever, and for as many as fancied doing so to keep coming, again in perpetuity. Few people would notice, and even fewer would mind. There would in any case be no meaningful way of voting against it.

This week has also marked something of a swansong for the Commonwealth, which it must be said that Powell always despised. As one last favour to the Queen personally, Prince Charles will be permitted to succeed her as its Head. But over half of its population already lives in India, which is already its largest economy by some measures, and which will easily be so by all of them by the time that Charles III dies. The problems over British visas for Indian nationals make the Windrush Scandal look like very small beer indeed.

All in all, William V can whistle for the position of Head of the Commonwealth. At which point, what will the Commonwealth be for, since it and the British monarchy seem to exist in order to give each other something to do these days?

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