Friday, 13 April 2018

To See, And Not To Speak, Would Be The Great Betrayal

Enoch Powell scorned the Commonwealth, so it seems fitting that the Rivers of Blood speech is to be broadcast as the children of the Windrush are being rounded up and deported. Although unlike the politician who talks about "picaninnies" today, also in the context of deriding the Commonwealth, Powell really was a Classical scholar. With his 2:1, Boris Johnson is no more a Classicist than I am a theologian.

Of all the bad things in this country, of all the bad things in the media, of all the bad things on the BBC, of all the bad things on Radio Four, can you find nothing to vex you more than the proposal that an actor should read out a 50-year-old speech by a long-dead politician?

A 50-year-old speech the central anecdote of which was obviously false, since of course Powell knew perfectly well that West Indians did speak English, so that their children did not know no word of it apart from "racialist". He was only varying on the theme that still causes some people to tell Afro-Caribbeans and others that, "You speak English so well." Except that he knew better.

And a long-dead politician who was never very important, anyway. Financial Secretary to the Treasury for a year, Minister for Health for three years (during which he invited over the West Indian nurses), Shadow Secretary of State for Defence for three years, and that was it. He himself denied that he had influenced Thatcherism, replying to Margaret Thatcher's reported claim to have been influenced by his books that in that case, she could not have understood any of them.

Her appeal was to the sort of people who thought then, and who think now, that "Which is the greater threat to world peace, America or Russia?" is a serious question. Such people are unlikely to listen to Radio Four. Yet Nick Robinson hammered away at that question to Diane Abbott on the increasingly execrable Today programme this morning. Today is now made for people who have never heard of it, and apparently by people who had not done so until they were given the job. Never mind Enoch Powell. Complain about that.

No comments:

Post a Comment