ABSTRACT

The fiftieth anniversary of Enoch Powell’s “Rivers of Blood” speech in 2018 attracted considerable attention in the United Kingdom. Following the country’s decision to leave the European Union two years earlier, and given the renewed salience of immigration as an issue in British politics, some media and public interest in the anniversary was to be expected. The coincidence of the Windrush scandal, the seventieth anniversary of the 1948 British Nationality Act, and an ongoing debate about Britain’s imperial past meant that the anniversary had added significance. Twenty years after Powell’s death, British politics was unable to escape his shadow. A Sunday Times Magazine (8 April 2018) feature by the writer David Goodhart described him as “the prophet of doom who clutches at us still” (Goodhart 2018). 1 The New Statesman ran a cover feature titled “Enoch Powell’s Revenge” (Kenny and Pearce 2018a). Meanwhile, the anger generated by a radio broadcast of the 1968 speech was a reminder that the words from fifty years ago still had the potential to cause great upset. 2