The Economist claims Enoch Powell’s 1968, April 20th “rivers of blood” speech, “before an audience of Conservative Party activists in the Midland Hotel in Birmingham,” was completely wrong in its predictions.
More than wrong. Not only does The Economist assert that Powell’s claims have been “disproved”; but that despite Britain’s relatively recent “superdiversity”; the “conflagration that Powell predicted has not materialised.”
Nice to know. And, if only.
First, a refresher:
… Powell’s “rivers of blood” speech, so named after the peroration … was a direct and provocative assault on immigration from the Commonwealth, quoting the fears of one constituent that “in 15 or 20 years’ time, the black man will have the whip hand over the white man.” It caused outrage at the time—Powell was sacked from the Tories’ front bench—and still does. Many objected even to an actor reading out his words in a recent BBC radio programme to mark the anniversary. …
… Powell’s main contention was that if mass immigration continued, there would be civil strife. “Like the Roman,” he warned, “I seem to see ‘the River Tiber foaming with much blood’.” The line was from Virgil but the apocalyptic tone was borrowed from America, ablaze with riots after the murder of Martin Luther King on April 4th that year. Powell, “filled with foreboding”, implied that Britain could not continue to absorb the current number of immigrants without mass violence. …
…The subsequent 50 years have disproved that idea. Today’s levels of immigration dwarf those at the time of Powell’s speech (see chart). About 14% of Britain’s population is foreign-born, nearly treble the proportion in 1968. Non-whites made up 14% of the population at the last census, in 2011; non-British whites (mainly Europeans) a further 5%. A tenth of adults reported that they were in mixed-race relationships. All this might have shocked Powell, who died in 1998. Yet the conflagration that he predicted has not materialised. …
… Birmingham itself provides as good a case study as any. Today half of all the non-white people in Britain live in the three largest cities of London, Birmingham and Manchester. Birmingham exemplifies the trend towards what academics call superdiversity. In the past, minority ethnic groups tended to cluster together. Now, unprecedented numbers of people of different ethnicities are mixing. No ward in Birmingham has fewer than 32 ethnic groups, says Jenny Phillimore of Birmingham University. At the extreme is Handsworth, whose 31,000 residents hail from 170 different countries. Here, says Ms Phillimore, “virtually everyone can fit in”.
That “everyone can fit in” may be true if you ignore the nobodies in this equation: white-British and Irish people.” There is,
less contact between whites and ethnic minorities. There has been some “white flight” from superdiverse areas … as whites have moved out of the poorer areas where migrants gather, to the suburbs. The end result is that “minorities are mixing with each other, but less so with the white British.”
… An official review into integration in 2016 by Dame Louise Casey found that white-British and Irish people were the least likely to have ethnically mixed social networks.
Alas, “Perfidious Albion” is not worried about “white-British and Irish people,” presumably there before the rest—but about “Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities. They have the lowest levels of English-language proficiency of any minority group; more than a fifth of Muslim women cannot speak the language well.”