Enoch would view Farage’s UKIP with utter contempt
In an exclusive article, Alan Sked, founder of UKIP claims that if Enoch Powell were still alive today, he would view Farage’s UKIP with utter contempt
The Daily Telegraph had a lot to say about UKIP’s courtship of Enoch Powell in the mid-1990s when I was party leader. We did indeed court him and I was very happy when he agreed to speak on my behalf in the 1993 Newbury by-election. The meeting was packed and there was an overspill audience outside.
Enoch was kind enough to say that my speech had been better than his, although I knew this to be untrue and was simply an indication of his good manners and encouragement. He had been very worried that his voice would not hold out and had said very little to me in the car down from London and nothing at all to our chauffeur, Nigel Farage.
He did converse more easily at a restaurant just outside Newbury to an elderly female supporter who had met us there and when I worried about arriving late he gave me the advice: “You must always arrive about ten minutes late on a full bladder. That way, there will be an atmosphere of anticipation and you won’t speak for too long.”
He later declined to speak on behalf of Farage although he did endorse a few candidates in future by-elections. He was prepared to do this because I had got to know him personally through a mutual acquaintance and had been invited to his home for dinner on a couple of occasions.
Our academic backgrounds clicked and we sometimes sparred good-naturedly over nineteenth century diplomatic history. I also saw him from time to time at Bruges Group functions. For example when it arranged a dinner for Margaret Thatcher, he and Pamela Powell were invited.
He also read the constitution for Europe which I wrote for the Bruges Group in anticipation of the Maastricht negotiations and called it the ‘best attempt ever made to square the circle’ between London and Brussels. He was as mesmerising as a conversationalist as he was as a platform speaker.
We never ever discussed immigration. That was not a topic the party took any interest in or notice of under my leadership. We published many policy statements—indeed, I wrote most of them—but never one on immigration. In the mid-1990s in any case it simply was not a subject of public debate. I did not hold Enoch to be a racist by the way.
Nothing he ever said to me was racist (I can’t say the same of Farage) and all our mutual friends explained that he had actually come to the immigration debate rather late (the same was true of Europe) and really only because of the special circumstances of his Wolverhampton constituency.
A famous Channel Four debate had certainly exonerated him of the charge having examined all the evidence and it was well known that he had previously learned many Indian languages as his ambition had once been to become Viceroy of India.
On Europe he and I both agreed that UKIP candidates in European elections (which he himself advocated boycotting altogether) should neither take up their seats or accept salaries or expenses from Brussels. This is made clear in the correspondence with him published in the Telegraph. Even Farage’s letter to Powell takes this line.
Yet Farage was dissembling. Despite the fact that the original membership forms of UKIP contained a clause committing all members to boycott the European Parliament, soon after I left the party in 1997, and after Enoch died in 1998, this clause was removed so that by 1999 Farage was an MEP and has since boasted of taking over £2 million in expenses.
UKIP MEPs do no constructive work in Brussels and seem only to attend to be able to draw salaries and pensions. Indeed, their group is allied to far-right parties from other countries deliberately to enable them to claim more EP funding. In the meantime, their group has split and split again, voted different ways on the same issue and two of their MEPs have been jailed for fraud (a third is now facing charges).
Their history in the European Parliament has been absolutely bizarre. Their first leader to be elected an MEP, Michael Holmes, in the maiden speech of any UKIP MEP to the European Parliament, actually called for its powers to be extended.
For this he was thrown out of the party at its next annual conference. Meanwhile the film of the session shows Farage sitting beside him and shouting “Well said! Hear! Hear!” in his distinctive minor public school accent.
Subsequently, when issues like fish discards or the language skills of foreign medical doctors - key issues for UKIP meetings - came up for debate in Brussels, UKIP MEPs simply failed to turn up.
Given his views on the European Parliament, I think I can assert with some confidence, that if Enoch Powell were still alive today, he would view Farage’s UKIP with utter contempt.
Alan Sked is Professor of International History at LSE and author of several books on British and European history. His last book was ‘Radetzky: Imperial Victor and Military Genius’. He was a founder member of the Bruges Group and thereafter founded the Anti-Federalist League which changed its name to UKIP in 1993. He resigned from the party which he led till 1997 and thereafter became its leading critic
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