Bishop of Wolverhampton blasts planned blue plaque for 'racist' Enoch Powell

The Bishop of Wolverhampton, Clive Gregory, has spoken out against plans for an iconic blue plaque commemorating the controversial late Conservative politician Enoch Powell in the city.

Powell, who was a Tory MP in Wolverhampton from 1950 to 1974, was remembered for his notorious 'Rivers of Blood' speech warning of the dangers of immigration in 1968, which the bishop has described as 'racist'.

ReutersEnoch Powell arriving for a church service in central London in 1993.

Bishop Gregory and the Bishop of Lichfield, Dr Michael Ipgrave, have joined a petition opposing the move, signed by some 1300 people and instigated by the group Black Country Stand Up To Racism.

Bishop Gregory said: 'As President of Interfaith Wolverhampton, I speak on behalf of all the major faith traditions in this City, in strongly opposing the idea of a blue plaque to commemorate Enoch Powell. Our inspirational City motto "Out of darkness cometh light" is aptly applied to the response to Enoch Powell's attempts to stir racial hatred through his "Rivers of Blood" speech (described by the Times as "evil").

'Part of that response was the coming together of people across many faiths and races to work tirelessly for inter-cultural tolerance and understanding. That we have such a welcoming and harmonious city today, with strong and respectful bonds between our faith communities, owes nothing to the legacy of Enoch Powell but a great deal to many who will never be considered for blue plaques.

'It is disingenuous to suggest that the conferring of a blue plaque on such a divisive figure would be a "neutral" act. It would be widely interpreted as honouring Enoch Powell's racist views and would no doubt provide a focus for those who wish to exacerbate divisions within our communities and undermine the values that bind us together as fellow citizens.'

Powell's speech, which he called his 'Birmingham speech', was reacting to Labour's Race Relations Act. Powell, who died in 1998, argued that allowing mass immigration from the Commonwealth was 'literally mad' and quoted the Roman poet Virgil: 'Like the Roman, I seem to see the River Tiber foaming with much blood.'