District Office, Beckminster Methodist Church, Wolverhampton, WV3 7BQ

Proposal to recognise Enoch Powell in Wolverhampton through a Blue Plaque:

A View from the Wolverhampton and Shrewsbury District of The Methodist Church

The new series of ITV’s popular police drama Endeavour is set in 1968; the same year that Enoch Powell, then Conservative MP for Wolverhampton, made his “Rivers of Blood” speech.  In a recent episode featuring arson attacks upon Kenyan Asian families recently arrived in the UK, the fictional Chief Superintendent says, “the River Tiber foaming with much blood.  Isn’t that it?”  The fact that the scriptwriter is confident that the majority of today’s TV audience will recognise the reference shows how Enoch Powell’s “Rivers” speech lives on in our cultural memory.  It also highlights the fact that the speech is associated with the worst kinds of violent racism.

We very strongly oppose erecting a “Blue Plaque” to commemorate Powell’s connection with Wolverhampton in the 50th year since his notorious speech.  We believe that to do so would risk damaging the city’s reputation as a place committed to the flourishing of all people regardless of their background.  It risks sending a message open to interpretation as supporting racist views whilst increasing fear and anxiety amongst black and minority ethnic citizens.

If the 50th anniversary of Enoch Powell’s notorious speech is to be marked in any way in Wolverhampton, we believe that this should be through a celebration of our city’s diversity, cohesion and unity.  There are many individuals whose contribution could be honoured as part of this, not least in connection with the building of the strong Interfaith community of which Methodists are proud to be a part.  The photo accompanying this statement marks West Park Primary School being the first in the city to be recognised as a School of Sanctuary.  This is worth celebrating!

We do not suggest that the history of Enoch Powell’s connection with Wolverhampton be not remembered or marked, alongside the many MP’s who have served the city over the years.  However, this should be done in a way which offers no opportunity for the support of racist views.

The Methodist Church believes that racism is a sin and contrary to the demands of the Gospel.  We recognise that racism exists, overtly and covertly, even in our churches.  Methodism sees it is a vitally important part of the church’s calling to be continually giving signs and signals which declares racism to be abhorrent.

Signed:

Rachel Parkinson; Chair of Wolverhampton and Shrewsbury District
Phil Hoar; Deputy Chair of District
Inderjit Bhogal OBE; former Methodist Minister in Wolverhampton
Chris Collins; Minister based at Darlington Street Methodist Church and Secretary of Interfaith Wolverhampton