[WI] Enoch Powell getting into office?

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by TheReplicator, Jan 11, 2019 at 4:55 AM.

  1. TheReplicator Member

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    How would Britain be today? Would they be in the EU, would they have perhaps caused others to stay out of or leave the EU by not joining in the first place? Would Britain experience the migration crisis or stay isolated from it?
    This isn't a discussion on whether or not Enoch would be a good influence, but what would his effects be if he for whatever reason got in?
     
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  2. overoceans Well-Known Member

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    Immigration would be the least of the issues. Powell was anti-NATO and believed that Irish republicanism and African decolonisation were Yankee plots to dislodge Britain from her rightful place at the top of the world order.

    Given such a heterodox(and in the case of the colonial issues, delusional) understanding of the world, Powell would either have to do a complete 180 on foreign-policy, or get himself turfed from office within weeks of assuming power.

    (Well, actually, his worldview was not all that different from De Gaulle's, but Britain ain't France.)
     
  3. Scerus Stanley Baldwin's neatly polished shoes

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    He was simply too extreme and toxic for the Conservatives to ever accept as leader.

    His foreign policy would have agitated virtually every country in North America and Europe, while his views on Northern Ireland and Rhodesia are....interesting....
     
  4. Politibrit Well-Known Member

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    As always, it depends on the exact circumstances of this scenario. The best opportunity for Powell to become leader is often said to be after Heath losing to Wilson in 1970, in which case, you might see Labour negotiate admission into the EEC rather than the Tories, Wilson might decide against entry, and then a Powell led government would come in and follow the same policy, or an earlier referendum on entry into the EEC could be held and lost-boosting Powell's popularity as the figurehead for the anti-European voters, making him harder to dislodge as Tory leader. Any of these scenarios could have a number of different implications for Britain's membership of the EU.

    Under any of them, I could see Powell having an extremely difficult time as PM. Remember, he'd likely be in power in the mid to late 70s, which was not a good time for the global economy, and given that this the 1970s, and the fact that a significant portion of the population would hate his guts no matter what, he would probably only have a relatively small majority with which to work. And its difficult to overstate how isolated he would be within his own party. The dynamic would be very much like the first year of Corbyn as Labour leader; he would have a few dozen of committed supporters, a larger number of right leaning MPs who basically agreed with what he was trying to accomplish though objected to some aspects of his leadership, particularly his views on foreign policy, and there would be a larger moderate faction who would be vociferously opposed to him, and refuse to even join his Shadow Cabinet. And unlike Corbyn, he could be ousted by a binding vote of no confidence.

    So the most likely result of Powell becoming PM would be an earlier version of Thatcherism against a worse economic backdrop, a harder line in Northern Ireland, and a hardline immigration policy being moderated significantly by Wets. There would be an awful lot of short term pain, and he might end up alienating many of his hardcore supporters. I could see him being kicked out by his own party after a couple of years amidst an economic depression and huge labour unrest, and replaced with someone more moderate. If that didn't happen, he would probably be beaten comfortably by Callaghan or someone at the next election. There would at least be some attempt to join the EEC later if someone hadn't tried in the early 1970s, if they did and a referendum was lost then there is a decent chance that Britain would stay out and form the core of a larger EFTA.

    I am not really sure what you mean by 'the migration crisis'. That's generally taken to mean the events in the Mediterranean (primarily in 2015) which the UK was only ever a peripheral part of due to basic geography, which obviously wouldn't change in any scenario. If you mean the influx of migrants from Eastern Europe (which can't really be described as a crisis, even if a lot of people don't like it) then it quite possible that the UK would still experience something like that as part of some form of freedom of movement between the EEA and EFTA countries, though there might be more conditions to it, such as migrants can't claim welfare for x number of years, can only move if they have an offer of work.
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2019 at 6:07 PM
  5. ShortsBelfast Events, dear boy, events

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    Powell was that rare breed post 1956, a British nationalist. I think a Powell premiership would have ended in tears as Powell had a slightly autistic personality and wasn't great at personal relationships.
    As far as the colonial issues were concerned though, Powell was not particularly delusional. Unusually clear sighted would be nearer the mark. It was indeed the USA that did far more arm twisting to induce the European powers to decolonise than the USSR did pre-Brezhnev (and Brezhnev was only kicking at an opening door and had the advantage Stalin and Kruschkev didn't have of having two non-Warsaw Pact surrogates in Cuba and North Korea capable of providing technical,military and logistical support). I would suggest reading a couple of studies of the Bretton Woods agreement and a biography of Adolf Berle. Under Roosevelt,Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy the USA was consistently pushing Britain to retreat from Empire. This view was only modified under Johnson and Nixon as the US started to suffer from overstretch in Vietnam and noticed that the new emerging states were more sympathetic to the USSR than to them and did less business with the US as independent states than they had as French or British colonies. By the Seventies the US is urging Britain to retain a presence in the Middle East but Britain no longer has the stomach for it.

    In the 1950s and early 1960s financial support for the IRA did come almost entirely from the Irish-American population of the USA and the US government did not crack down particularly hard upon it for political reasons. Not until the advent of Colonel Gadaffi in Libya and the Warsaw Pact intelligence services beginning to provide deniable training and technical support to Western urban guerilla movements to divert their military resources did that position change.

    In any case Powell also believed that, having lost India, Britain retaining most of its remaining colonies was a pointless exercise so I doubt if an Enoch Powell government would have been particularly bogged down in trying to hold on to Africa. Britain might also have been better served by a more transactional alliance with the US than OTL rather than taking decisions based on an emotive attachment to some delusion of a "special relationship"?
     
  6. Lord Wyclif Well-Known Member

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    This would be a very interesting topic, Powell was an extremely intelligent man, fluent in over a dozen languages and carefully studied the topic before speaking. During WW2 in India the locals considered him a holy man.
    However, those who have never studied the man, and calling him a racialist, will undoubtedly destroy this time line with their ignorance.
     
  7. Zen9 Well-Known Member

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    So he was one to like 'putting the cat among the pigeons', and his infamous speach has to be seen in that context. As surely as he was genuinely worried about importing India's sectarianism.

    It's hard to see him as a team player though. So I'm not sure he would hold the office of PM for long.
     
  8. Politibrit Well-Known Member

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    I didn't know a great deal about Powell until about a year ago, and although I knew I didn't like his politics, I still was willing to think of him as not being all that bad, more like a 1960s UKIP than, say, the BNP. But the more I have studied him and his career, the more I've become convinced that even if he might not have been a 'racialist' in the sense he didn't believe in the genetic inferiority of races, he was nevertheless a blatant racist.

    Although 'Rivers of Blood' is cleverly crafted so that Powell can present himself as the 'honest prophet' who doesn't agree with the sentiment that is being expressed but feels duty bound to report it, I don't see how anyone could conclude anything other than that is just a front to appeal to racist views. All his sympathy appears to be with whites who clearly hold prejudiced views themselves- particularly in the passage about the lady who won't allow black lodgers in her house. He was obviously pandering to prejudice and bigotry in that speech, and I think that was precisely what he had in mind when he was writing it.

    Although he was careful not to say much himself which could be construed as 'racialist' he never disavowed his supporters who did express that kind of sentiment. If you haven't seen this documentary already, I would strongly encourage you to do so, he seems to if anything be proud of the letters of support he has received from members of the public who clearly harbour racist ideas. At one point, the interviewer puts it to him that he is a racist, and he responds by saying "what's wrong with racism?" Which is a pretty damning indictment of his world view.

    Plus he did call for a large scale program of repatriation, which is an idea that is straight out of the playbook of the NF and the BNP. Powell wasn't the fascist some make him out to be, and he probably wasn't a racialist either, but he nevertheless held some pretty distasteful views to say the least, and a world where he became PM would be a pretty dark one.
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2019 at 9:22 AM
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  9. EnglishCavalier Overzealous liker who apologises for this.

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    Whilst I think you’re bang on about Powell still being something of an opportunistic racist despite not being the racialist and fascist many make him out to be, I do feel you overestimate just how much of his agenda he’d be able to achieve as PM.
     
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  10. Politibrit Well-Known Member

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    As I said earlier on in the thread, I don't actually think he would get to implement many of his most extreme ideas if he were in government. But the fact that Britain would have elected a PM who held such views unapologetically would be pretty disturbing in and of itself.
     
  11. ShortsBelfast Events, dear boy, events

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    Powell was among other things (some of them rather nasty I agree) a dedicated supporter of the British Constitution and the Westminister parliamentary system and isn't even going to attempt an "Idi Amin" if he gets to form a government. Powell's views are unpleasant yes but they were very widely held fifty years ago (contemporary polls showed that around 68% of the electorate agreed with him on immigration and 73% on capital punishment). A Powell government wouldn't have been particularly nice but might have proved a salutory corrective to the current problem of the dichotomy between the "enlightened" views of the governing classes and the "unenlightened" views of a majority of the UK population. Given Powell's fervent constitutionalism, the reigns of power would probably have been safer in his hands than in those of Edward Heath or Harold Wilson neither of whom were overburdened with political or constitutional scrupulosity. Populism arriving early on the scene might have proved healthier than its late OTL arrival. What you would actually see in practice would be an Immigration Act similar to Thatcher's and the heat taken out of that discussion and a referendum and restoration of the death penalty. No further attempts to join the EU and earlier reform of the British economy. And, for all the Left and the soft Right detested Thatcherism, average household incomes have doubled in real terms since Thatcher came to power in 1979.
     
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  12. Politibrit Well-Known Member

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    Can you point to any country where something like this has led to a better political discourse today? My experience is that countries that were vaguely inclined toward populists in the 1960s and 1970s have become even more so since. I mean, look at the US.
    Was Powell in favour of a referendum on the death penalty? It doesn't seem like something he would favour, given that he did hold a very strong respect for the British constitution. That's more of a UKIP policy. And I suspect that it would be another thing the wets would kill, probably by holding a free vote. If not, the next Labour government would scrap it when they got into office.
    The key word is average. That hides some pretty considerable disparities between rich and poor. I'd refer you to this rather useful article in the Guardian:
    And bear in mind that this period has coincided with a huge rise in house prices too.

    So whilst a lot of people did benefit from Thatcher, they were disproportionately from more economically disadvantaged backgrounds and areas. It is rather telling that most of her flagship ideas are now being discredited by centrist or centre right think tanks and media outlets, and in a few cases, her policies are now being reversed by her own party.

    And that is probably where we would be now even if Powell had been as successful as Thatcher was in bringing in a new free market consensus. As I've said before, if he becomes during the mid 1970s (which is the most likely scenario) it's arguably more likely that his monetarist policies put the UK in recession and it doesn't make a significant recovery for the rest of his term, by which point the wets have ousted him, or maybe some enough of them have gone off to form an alt-SDP and trigger a new election. Basically, a disaster.
     
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  13. Milo Posh Geordie Donor

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    Quite a lot of what I would have brought has been however I think something people over look is Powell personally. He was a very much an introvert and was hard to work alongside. Thatcher also had high standards for people but she could be charming and work her magic in commons tea rooms. Powell would struggle to work with others and wet backbenchers which make it hard to pass legislation. Powell also seemed unable to comprise and would just leave if he couldn't get what he want, see his resignation from the treasury, backing Labour in 1974 and also joining Ulster Unionists. He's not some able to get anything truly radical done even if he got a majority.
     
  14. MickCz Well-Known Member

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    Yes I agree. In fact Powell's personality leads to questioning exactly what POD leads him to become PM. He was ultra dry on economics which was entirely contrary to the tide of opinion at the time.
     
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  15. ShortsBelfast Events, dear boy, events

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    A successful Operation Robot perhaps? It is remarkable the degree to which Britain's economic woes 1945-1979 were self-inflicted by poor policy formulation and poor industrial management.
     
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  16. ShortsBelfast Events, dear boy, events

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    Thatcher's key ideas were that exchange controls and very high levels of personal taxation impeded economic growth and needed to be removed or reversed. Both views shared by Powell. And both measures were triumphantly successful. HMRC income from income tax was around 75% higher (adjusted for inflation) in 1990 than in 1979. The only attempt to restore exchange controls (ERM membership under John Major) was a dismal failure and the Euro (which is essentially an exchange control mechanism rather than a common currency) has signally failed to benefit the majority of members of the EU.
     
  17. Politibrit Well-Known Member

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    That is one of Thatcher's key ideas- but you also have privatisation, right to buy, deregulation of the city of London, breaking the power of organised labour, etc. Those are the ideas with which she is most associated in the public consciousness, and on most of them, the consensus has shifted against her.
     
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  18. Derek Jackson Member

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    Overall in the 1980s the UK economy took a hit. There was a slump in the early 80s. This despite North Sea oil.
     
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  19. ShortsBelfast Events, dear boy, events

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    Very arguably. Not even the Corbynistas are arguing for a renationalisation of telecommunications, the car industry or British Airways or the repurchase of a majority shareholding in BP. Renationalisation of the railways (a post Thatcher privatisation) appeals to a generation too young to remember British Rail and who think nothing could be worse than the current chaos. At the age of 50, I am old enough to remember good old BR (which was worse and more expensive to run hard though that may be to believe) in which passenger safety was not an operational consideration as they could rely on Crown immunity. Union membership has continued to fall under Major, Blair, Brown and Cameron. Nor has there been re-regulation of financial services to anything like the extent of the pre-Thatcher era. I can remember my uncle having to wait for two years to get a mortgage because the local banks and building societies had a fixed monthly quota of allocations that they were not allowed to exceed. Nor are the rich advantaged to the same extent as being prepared to put down a larger deposit automatically moved you to the top of the queue.

    Based on family evidence (coming from a mainly working class family in one of the most deprived regions of the UK), living standards improved considerably under Eden and Macmillan, slightly under Wilson I, deteriorated under Heath and Wilson II, stagnated under Callaghan, significantly improved under Thatcher, improved slightly under Major and early Blair, stagnated under later Blair, Brown, Cameron and May.
     
  20. John Farrier Well-Known Member

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    Robert Shepherd's biography of Enoch Powell is a good read. One noticeable element was how much he loathed and distrusted Americans, going all the way back to World War II. He was convinced that the US was Britain's greatest enemy.

    It's been a couple years, so my memory is hazy. But I remember reading that Powell was a very effective manager. He streamlined the operations of the health ministry considerably. I'm less certain he would be an early Thatcherite as he was not enamored of the free market.