The weekend past marked the centenary of the birth of Enoch Powell, the controversial British politician who is best remembered for his 'Rivers of Blood' speech on immigration in 1968.
Born on June 16 1912, Powell had a glittering career in academia and in the Army before his election to Parliament in 1950. A scholar at Trinity College, Cambridge, in the Second World War he served in the Army in North Africa and in India, rising to the rank of Brigadier.
Powell entered politics after the war, firmly believing in the glory of the British Empire. But the granting of Indian independence in 1947, followed by a succession of crises in the 1950s, led Powell to emerge as a critic of the imperial legacy.
Powell's views on immigration were a legacy of his early imperialism. His speech at Birmingham in April 1968 made a number of grotesque slurs against the immigrant communities in Britain. Although Powell claimed that he was merely giving voice to the concerns of ordinary people in Britain, the speech clearly went beyond what was considered acceptable even by the standards of the time. Powell became a hero for sections of the working class in Britain but he was sacked from the Shadow Cabinet by party leader Edward Heath and he never held ministerial office again.
During Heath's premiership in the early 1970s, Powell became a persistent thorn in his side, criticising the Conservative Government's economic policy and opposing the cause Heath attached greatest importance: British entry into the Common Market. As a result Powell left the Tory party in 1974, urging his followers to vote for Harold Wilson's Labour, which promised a referendum on the Common Market.
It was also in these years that Powell began to take an interest in Northern Ireland. An instinctive unionist, Powell accused the Heath Government of undermining the Government at Stormont. He opposed the abolition of the devolved Parliament in 1972. Following his Tory departure, Powell was recruited by the Ulster Unionists to stand in the seat of South Down, winning it in the second election of 1974.
During his 13 years as a Northern Ireland MP, Powell had a difficult relationship with his colleagues. Powell was seen by many as a latter-day Carson, but there were others - notably Ian Paisley - who had designs on Carson's mantle themselves. Powell's campaign for 'integration' turned out to be unacceptable to many traditional Unionists. But the real reason that Powell did not lead the Ulster Unionists is that he was, because of his lonely personality, unsuited to such a role.
What the Unionists needed was a 'foreign policy' of their own in London. What they failed to realise was that by associating themselves with Powell, they had become entangled with the enfant terrible of British politics. Powell was in fact an obstacle to the cause of integration that he championed.
Even Margaret Thatcher, who was sympathetic to some aspects of his politics, did not fully understand or accept many of his positions, particularly on Northern Ireland. Powell was also jealous that Margaret Thatcher, a woman - he thought women were unsuited to Parliamentary careers - had achieved much of what he had set out to do in politics. Although he praised her conduct during the Falklands War, her signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement led him to accuse her of 'treachery'.
Powell lost his South Down seat in the 1987 General Election to Eddie McGrady of the SDLP.
In retirement, he continued to speak out on the causes with which he had been identified during his career, lamenting the move towards greater European integration and criticising the peace process in Northern Ireland. He died in 1998.
Enoch Powell's name will forever be associated with his views on immigration. Historians will continue to debate the legacy of his 1968 speech and the role it played in exacerbating race relations in Britain. On other issues, particularly Europe, his views may well find a more sympathetic hearing.