Sunday, August 5, 2007

Churchill's Powell-like comments about immigration 14 years before "Rivers of Blood"

The latest release of Cabinet meeting minutes from the National Archive seem a fascinating read.

At a cabinet discussion in 1954 about immigration, Churchill is quoted (with abbreviations by the Cabinet Secretary) as saying:

Coloured Workers - Problems wh. will arise if many coloured people settle here. Are we to saddle ourselves with colour problems in UK? Attracted by Welfare State. Public opinion in UK won't tolerate it once it gets beyond certain limits.

This sounds awfully like a summary of Enoch Powell's 1968 "Rivers of Blood" speech without the emotional rhetoric.

As usual with these cabinet papers, one finds cabinets spending hours on the most surprising items.

Macmillan's cabinet seem to spend hours discussing the extermination of squirrels (or was it badgers or rabbits?).

Churchill's cabinet spent hours discussing the surplus of plums. In the end, action was agreed to provide sugar for preserving the excess and the debate was ended by the Prime Minister in most rousing Churchillian terms:

"Plums shall not rot".

So much better than "Never in the field of human conflict......" don't you think? No? Ah, perhaps you are right.


  1. Hmm. Sad to read of people you think highly of saying indefenceable things. This particular one doesn't surprise me too much; after hearing that Churchill advocated the slogan "Keep Britain White" for the Tory campaign of 1955, I struggle to imagine anything that might lower Churchill's views on race any further in my eyes.

  2. Thanks Andy - agreed. But that in many ways is Churchill all over. His career was so long and varied that he was able to have his great moments but also his rather shaming moments. For every "We shall fight them on the beaches"....there was something like his Black and Tans misadventure in Ireland. For every "This was our finest hour" there was something like his Gallipoli obsession and the unnecessary slaughter of about half a million young men there.