Powell to the people?

enorchpowellEnoch Powell: Was he: A) A dangerous bigot and blot on the history of the Conservative Party? Or B) A bit of a hero?

To answer ‘B’, you have to one of those people who think it was a mistake to intern British fascist leader, Sir Oswald Mosley, during WWII. Or a regular reader of The Daily Mail. Or Daniel Hannan.

Daniel Hannan is a Conservative MEP, who last week, on American TV, cited Enoch ‘rivers of blood’ Powell as one of his political heroes.

In the American context, that would be like praising Strom Thurmond, a symbol of America’s struggle against civil rights and for segregation of the races. In Britain, Powell’s name carries similar baggage, and while there may be aspects of his politics or career that were untouched by racism, praising him (let alone calling him a ‘hero’) sends as clear a message as a Communist who praises Stalin for his agrarian policies or a Cambodian who thinks Pol Pot was a snappy dresser. No unlobotomised British politician could fail to see what praising him suggests.

The point is that even though America may have missed the significance of the remark, we should not.

The reason we should not ignore the remark is because Mr Hannan represents Britain in the European Parliament and he represents a political party that is widely tipped to win the next election. What he says and how he is treated for saying it by his superiors should be of concern to us. A few weeks before praising Enoch Powell, Daniel Hannan was also in the American media, this time attacking the NHS, calling it ‘a 60 year mistake’.

At the time, David Cameron distanced himself from the comment, calling Hannan ‘eccentric’.

And the fact that Hannan has not been punished or even reprimanded by the Conservative Party at the time I write this makes me wonder about the polls that show the Tories in the lead in public opinion. Labour has certainly made gross and disgusting errors during its time in power. So many, in fact, that many disillusioned leftists, liberals and citizens concerned with the social justice that Labour has traditionally fought for have deserted the party and are dismissive of its politicians as hypocrites, liars, and, worst of all from their perspective, Tories.

In many ways, unfortunately, they are right. But is the answer, for a liberal, to vote for a party that has many of the same faults you despise in New Labour, just amplified? Is the answer, for a Christian who is more concerned for the lives of the poor in Asia and Africa than the bankers Gordon Brown has supported rather than punished, to vote for a party that has consistently decreased the UK’s international aid budget and whose members don’t see international development as important?

Who do we vote for when none of the three main parties are even considering a platform of zero economic growth (essential, many academics believe, if we are to combat climate change and the worst excesses of unfair trade)?

I refuse to believe that the answer lies in doing nothing and absenting ourselves from politics to pray in a corner. If party politics is how decisions are made, then that is what we must get involved with, denouncing racism, a lack of concern for the poor and unjust wars as we go, in whatever party we support.

I know who i’m not going to vote for.

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