Politician, Orator and Scholar, 1912-1998
Enoch Powell was born in Birmingham to two teachers - their only child - and was raised there. His academic prowess quickly showed, and he went to study Classics at Trinity College, Cambridge. Whilst at University, he displayed true genius in his field. For example, in one Greek prose exam lasting 3 hours, he was asked to translate a passage into Greek. He walked out after 1 and a half hours, having produced translations in the styles of Plato and Thucydides.
After graduating, he took a post in Australia, at Sydney University as Professor of Greek at the unheard-of age of 25. He returned two years later to enlist for the War, joining the Royal Warwickshire Regiment as a private. He quickly rose up the ranks, and by the end of the war, was the youngest man to have held the rank of Brigadier in the British Army - a total of around 13 promotions.
After the war, Powell joined the Conservative Party. However, it took him five years to be elected as MP for Wolverhampton South-West, a seat he held for 24 years. In 1958, Powell showed his first signs of political rebellion - he resigned from his position in the Treasury due to a dispute over monetary policy. His belief in free market forces was seen as old fashioned. 20 years later, this policy was a driving force behind Thatcher's landslide victory.
Powell's most famous action, however, was his speech of 1968 to an invited audience in Brimingham, warning of apocalyptic consequences of continued immigration to Britain. His reference to Virgil's prediction of war, saying that the Tiber would foam with blood, is one of the defining quotations of 20th Century British politics.
Like the Roman, I seem to see 'the River Tiber foaming with much blood'"
Immediately after this speech, Edward Heath, erstwhile head of the Conservative Party, sacked Powell from the shadow cabinet, on the grounds that the speech was racialist. Before the general election of February 1974, Powell quit the Conservative Party because Heath intended to join the European Common Market. Instead, he joined the Ulster Unionists, and after the snap election of six months later, he was elected as MP for Down South, a seat he lost in 1992 because of a shift in political opinion in the constituency due to boundary changes. He died on the 8th of February, 1998, aged 85.
During one breakfast television interview with Anne Diamond, Powell was asked what he considered his greatest acheivement. He replied, to the bewilderment of all concerned, 'having an emendation to Vergil accepted by Housman.'