John Enoch Powell


Biography of John Enoch Powell

John Enoch Powell (16 June 1912 – 8 February 1998) was a British politician, classical scholar, poet, writer, linguist and soldier. He served as a Conservative Party Member of Parliament (MP) (1950–74), Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) MP (1974–1987), and Minister of Health (1960–63). He attained most prominence in 1968, when he made a controversial speech against immigration, now widely referred to as the "Rivers of Blood" speech. In response, he was sacked from his position as Shadow Defence Secretary (1965–68) in the Shadow Cabinet of Edward Heath. He had few friends in the establishment. Michael Heseltine condemned the Rivers of Blood speech as having a "racist tone" and of being an "explosion of bigotry”. Thirty years later, however, Heath would admit that his remarks on the "economic burden of immigration" had been "not without prescience."

A poll at the time suggested that 74% of the UK population agreed with Powell's opinions and his supporters claim that this large public following that Powell attracted may have helped the Conservatives to win the 1970 general election and perhaps cost them the February 1974 general election at which Powell turned his back on the Conservatives by endorsing a vote for Labour, who returned as a minority government in early March following a hung parliament. He returned to the House of Commons in October 1974 as the Ulster Unionist Party MP for the Northern Irish constituency of South Down until he was defeated in the 1987 general election.

Before entering politics, he had been a classical scholar, becoming a full Professor of Ancient Greek at the age of 25. During the Second World War, he served in both staff and intelligence positions, reaching the rank of brigadier in his early thirties. He also wrote poetry, his first works being published in 1937, as well as many books on classical and political subjects.

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