“Rivers of blood”
Of all the great misquotations in political history, none can surely be more persistent that the use of the phrase “rivers of blood” in reference to the speech given by the controversial British politician, http://www.wvwnews.net/story.php?id=4250, forty years ago on Sunday (on 20 April 1968).
What Powell in fact said was, “As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding. Like the Roman, I seem to see ‘the River Tiber foaming with much blood’.” He did not talk about “rivers of blood” as such. A classical scholar, Powell perhaps thought that people would understand his reference to Book 6 of the Aeneid, in which the Sibyl recounts a prophecy of terrible wars to come. No doubt the vision was supposed to be of the Tiber actually foaming with blood, but Powell was some way from predicting actual bloodshed in Britain. Instead, he was using the quotation to communicate his sense of terrible foreboding.
Like many prophets of doom, Powell was furiously denounced for what many people regarded as a highly inflammatory attack on mass immigration. It is true that he had used some rather unfortunate language in his speech. But Powell’s basic sin was to have expressed openly – and dramatically – what many people were saying in private, namely that they no longer felt at home in their own country as a result of mass immigration.Forty years on, it is obvious that Powell was both right and wrong. He was right that mass immigration would fundamentally change the nature of British society. That, indeed, is the point of it: supporters of mass immigration are more interested in multiculturalism as a political ideology than in any supposed economic benefits of it.
But he was wrong to permit one decisive, cataclysmic event. Although there have, of course, been outbursts of racial tension in Britain, and although immigration has contributed massively to the rise in violent crime on the streets of Britain’s major cities – one in five prisoners in Britain today is a Muslim, even though the number of Muslims living in Britain is probably around one sixtieth of the total population – what has in fact happened is perhaps worse: a slow erosion of the principles and values of British life which has occurred without people really noticing. Anyone who looks at a film from fifty or even forty years ago can see that the country has changed out of all recognition.
Immigration has greatly increased under the present Labour government. The huge influx of Poles is the most visible part of it, but the continued immigration from the third world has been massive as well. Immigration is openly discussed (and hotly contested) in several mass circulation newspapers, especially the Daily Mail and the Daily Express which conduct vigorous anti-immigration campaigns. They point out, among other things, that it is false to claim that immigration has no effect on employment among the indigenous population.