Labour peer aims to bar historic ‘rivers of blood’ speech

Enoch Powell, pictured electioneering in Dundrum, Co Down, in 1983
Enoch Powell, pictured electioneering in Dundrum, Co Down, in 1983

Lord Andrew Adonis has asked Ofcom to intervene and instruct the BBC not to broadcast Enoch Powell’s “rivers of blood” speech, which he describes as “incendiary and racist”.

The BBC announced the controversial anti-immigration speech will be read in full on Saturday for the first time ever on UK radio, on Radio 4’s Archive on 4 programme.

The speech was delivered to Tory party members in Birmingham in 1968 by Mr Powell, who went on to become an Ulster Unionist MP for South Down several years later.

In a letter to Ofcom chief executive Sharon White, Labour peer Lord Adonis called on the media regulator to “instruct the BBC to cancel its proposed broadcast on Saturday of Enoch Powell’s infamous 1968 speech predicting ‘rivers of blood’ and ‘the black man having the whip hand over the white man’ because of immigration.” He said it was “extraordinary that one should have to make the argument” against broadcasting it.

The BBC said: “Many people know of this controversial speech but few have heard it beyond soundbites.

“Radio 4’s well established programme Archive on 4 reflects in detail on historical events and, in order to assess the speech fully and its impact on the immigration debate, it will be analysed by a wide range of contributors including many anti-racism campaigners.”

The broadcast sees actor Ian McDiarmid read the speech in its entirety, while the BBC’s Media Editor Amol Rajan examines the influence the speech had since it was first delivered.

Ofcom has been contacted for comment.