by Steve Payne
Author says: Tory Party Leader Enoch Powell sees "Rivers of Blood" when England pick the "coloured" cricketer Basil D'Oliveira for the 1968 tour of apartheid South Africa. Please note that the opinions expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of the author(s).
In 1967, on this day the leader
of the British Conservative Party, Reginald Maudling stepped down in favour of
his controversial colleague in the Shadow Cabinet, Defence Spokesman the Right
Honourable Enoch Powell, or more precisely "that fuc*er Enoch" as he
was known to indiscretely refer to him in private.
In which Basil D'Oliveira takes the most important wicket of his fine career
Unfortunately, and despite being elected in a free vote, Maudling himself was no more in touch than Douglas Home with the "swinging sixties", accused of various slurs such as "Reg had no edge", that "Maudling was dawdling". Of course the real issue was that the Tory Party itself was hopelessly out of touch with the times, and undecided as to how to respond to the British obligations to the Commonwealth, honourably, or perhaps not. Maudling's already extensive alcoholic intake increased markedly and colleagues noted he was "never the same again"; he would leave politics altogether in 1974.
Traditionally, November is a dangerous time for Conservative Party Leaders. And so as the 1967 Tory Party Conference arrived, a man with some real "edge" came to the fore. Because Enoch Powell (pictured above with Ted Heath) had convinced the Conservative Party (if not the Shadow Cabinet) that THE burning issue of the sixties was immigration, or rather repatriation, which he increasingly believed was necessary following a trip to the United States.
"In full flight, with arms waving, body crouching, eyes burning, voice hissing, he is one of the great sights of contemporary Britain; his body and mind seem united in animal intensity". ~ Anthony Sampson A Greek Professor by the age of just twenty-four, and a Brigadier in the British Army, Powell was an animated politician of logic and vigour that succeeded in making both Maudling, and Edward Heath look decidedly ordinary.
In fact many people feared that popular support would enable Powell to overthrow the constitution and rule as a dictator. Riding this wave of hatred, in the run-up to the Party Conference, Powell introduced two questionable examples from his own constituency in the West Midlands, where immigration was indeed taking hold as a genuine issue of concern to white voters.
Allegedly, Powell fell into conversation with a "quite ordinary working-class man" who wanted his children to emigrate because "in fifteen or twenty years the black man will have the whip hand over the white man". Similarly, he claimed to receive a letter about a "little old lady" persecuted by West Indian neighbours, who went so far as to push excreta through her letterbox.
However, during Powell's short spell as Leader of the Opposition, another, indisputable, example, arose that was to destroy his leadership. The background to the issue was that Powell had consistently refused to criticise South Africa for the racist policies of her apartheid government.
"As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding. Like the Roman, I seem to see "the river Tiber foaming with much blood".During the summer of 1968, the England Cricket Selectors picked Basil D'Oliveira (pictured right). Born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa, he was classified as "coloured" under the apartheid regime, and hence barred from first-class cricket. South African prime minister BJ Vorster had already made it clear that D'Oliveira's inclusion was not acceptable and despite many negotiations the tour of South Africa was cancelled. Wrongly believing that the defining moment had arrived in the great debate, Powell delivered his infamous "Rivers of Blood" speech.
In a suitable reposte to both Powell and Vorster, four white South African cricketers (Eddie Barlow, Mike Proctor, Graham Pollock and Barry Richards) joined the great West Indian batsman Gary Sobers in conducting a rebel "Rest of the World" tour of England, demonstrating that they had absolutely no issue in sharing a dressing room with a black man.
Imagine what would be, if history had occurred a bit differently. Who says it didn't, somewhere? These fictional news items explore that possibility. Possibilities such as America becoming a Marxist superpower, aliens influencing human history in the 18th century and Teddy Roosevelt winning his 3rd term as president abound in this interesting fictional blog.