But evidently the accusations aimed at Britain's anti-immigration icon have been difficult for them to take.
When it first turned out that glam rock superstar Gary Glitter had child porn on his laptop, his part in the Spice Girls movie was cut. When Rolf Harris was linked to the allegations of child sexual abuse we had to adjust ourselves to a world where the man who had sung: "I'm Jake the peg, diddle-iddle-iddle-um / With my extra leg, diddle-iddle-iddle-um" was a sex offender. And now another British public figure is being dragged through the mud as he is investigated for child abuse. Though the allegations are not proved, surely nobody will be able to enjoy the works of former Conservative Party MP for Wolverhampton, Minister of Health and xenophobic poster boy Enoch Powell without wondering if he was a paedophile. One of Britain's most iconic racists – slandered.
Enoch Powell's name has been passed to police in relation to the investigations into historical child sexual abuse. Powell is best known in the UK for delivering one of the most racist speeches ever given by a British politician. Known as the "rivers of blood" speech, it warned about the dire consequences of immigration, and contained the lines, "As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding; like the Roman, I seem to see the River Tiber foaming with much blood." The idea he was trying to get across was that increased immigration would inevitably lead to communal violence. The 1968 speech caused a furore. Powell was sacked as Shadow Defence Secretary by Conservative leader Edward Heath. The Times newspaper described the speech as "evil" and linked it to a string of racist attacks that occurred in its aftermath. Ten days after the speech was given, a mob of white youths attacked a black christening party in Wolverhampton, chanting "Powell".
Nevertheless, while he was reviled, Powell also managed to be hugely popular with many. The speech made him a national figure, both loved and hated. When he was sacked, thousands of London dockers walked out on strike, backing Powell, joined by the meat porters from Smithfield market. Powell claimed to have received tens of thousands of supportive letters with only hundreds telling him he was wrong.
Ever since then, the phrase "Enoch was right" has been used by people as a shorthand to say that immigrants should be sent back to where they came from. Nigel Farage seems to think he was right and the Telegraph has run comment pieces asking when the Tories will admit that he was.
But this adoration isn't confined to mainstream immigrant-bashers. Powell is still a hero of the far-right. An Enoch Powell Facebook page run by the extreme right-wing Traditional Britain group has several thousands likes. Another, asking if Powell was right and used to post a constant stream of the kind of updates common on any far-right page – racist memes and Daily Mail stories – again has thousands of likes. You can buy badges, T-shirts and fridge magnets emblazoned with the slogan "Enoch was right" and these are regularly seen at far-right demonstrations. Neo-Nazi hardcore band, Of Wolves and Angels, sample recordings of Powell speeches heavily on their only LP. That feeling of idolising a star, to later have your hero accused of being a monster – that's how Britain's racist far-right must be feeling at the moment.
This is all the more awkward given that the far-right love to pose as child sexual abuse vigilantes. Of course, there is no stretch of the political spectrum that doesn't think child abuse is vile, but the far-right articulate this revulsion in a particularly fervent but grim way. Rather that simply wanting to save children, their desire to "save" the white race from some dark menace is always bubbling just below the surface. "Hang paedo scum" has long been a slogan popular on the far-right – you can get it on pin badges. What better way to popularise the argument for the death penalty than by reminding people of paedophilia? Hands up who would defend the life of a paedophile in a political debate?
For the far-right, the grim use of abused children for political ends reaches its nadir when it comes to Asian grooming gangs of the type that have been uncovered in Rotherham. Scandals like this combine several themes prevalent in far-right politics: non-white people (specifically Muslims) committing crimes against white people, a corrupt or feckless establishment failing to keep order and child sexual abuse. If a grooming gang is discovered in your town, you can practically guarantee minibuses and coaches of St George's cross wielding racists will be soon to follow. Newcastle, Rochdale, Stevenage and Oldham are among the English towns and cities to see protests by far-right groups against grooming gangs. Bristol and Llandudno nearly saw protests over the issue. Almost every group on the right has got in on the action: the English Defence League, British National Party, National Front, National Action and various EDL splinter groups, like the Infidels and South East Alliance.
When the scale of the child sexual abuse in Rotherham was revealed – 1,400 mainly white children sexually abused by groups of Asian men – it was a bonanza for the far-right. As if having local authorities turn a blind eye to wide-scale sexual abuse of hundreds of vulnerable children wasn't bad enough, Rotherham had to deal with drunken racists fighting each other on its streets. Not that the presence of nearly every far-right group in the country was completely unwelcome – scenes in the Channel 4 documentary Angry White and Proud show the South East Alliance being applauded through the streets by local residents.
Given the far-right's supposed dedication to combating paedophilia, many have reacted to the allegations surrounding Powell with disbelief. The general consensus among the British far-right appears to be that they are untrue; they are being talked about as a smear on a great man who spoke the truth about immigration. Simon Heffer's article for the Daily Mail describing the allegations as a "monstrous lie" has been shared appreciatively by hundreds of racists on social media, including by fascist social media titans Britain First.
I reached out to various British far-right organisations for comment on the allegations against their hero. Some didn't respond. Some said they would get back to me and haven't. The National Front said Enoch "sold out" after his big speech so they weren't too fussed about him anyway. Another organisation said, "How does fuck off sound?"
In the last few years, the UK has been shocked as much-loved personalities have turned out to be child abusers. The far-right have been thumping Enoch's tub for years, while tarring entire religions and ethnicities with paedophilia in the wake of abuse scandals. Should the allegations against Enoch turn out to be true, it will be interesting to see how the far-right react to the fall of their hero.
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