Few people would deem a tough stance against racism to be a political own goal, but when your career is propped up by hard-line right-wingers that is precisely what it seems to be.
At least, that is how Jacob Rees-Mogg might feel after he was lambasted for posting a Times column written by his father criticising Enoch Powell’s infamous Rivers of Blood speech.
Powell’s Birmingham speech made predictions of societal collapse on the back of open immigration policies, even going as far as saying: “In this country in 15 or 20 years’ time the black man will have the whip hand over the white man”.
Prominent Brexiter Rees-Mogg tweeted a response by his father which described it as an “evil speech”, but has since felt the wrath of his supporters who say they are “betrayed” by his stance.
One tweet, which was written by Real Christianity and has been picked up by Breitbart, read: “I am surprised at you, Jacob. Enoch Powell was a great man and his speech has been vindicated by events. Tragically he will be vindicated even more fully in the years ahead as the scourge of Islam spreads throughout the U.K”.
Another said: “I really did think we had found a true Conservative leader in you, but unfortunately not. Again the English are to be subjugated by the invading minorities”.
My father’s view which has stood the test of time about Enoch Powell’s famous speech pic.twitter.com/WoHQPnogLP
— Jacob Rees-Mogg (@Jacob_Rees_Mogg) April 14, 2018
It would appear that they are not isolated beliefs.
A new poll commissioned by HOPE not hate has revealed anxieties around immigration and integration continue to cause concern for many people.
The study revealed that the British public remains pessimistic about the state of multiculturalism and integration, with significant anxiety raised towards Muslims.
However, the poll also shows that there is a significant gulf between people’s negative perceptions and the more cordial reality, with many other indicators suggesting that Britons today feel happy in their communities, well integrated, and mix well with people of different ethnic backgrounds to themselves.
HOPE not hate chief executive Nick Lowles said: “Fifty years after his apocalyptic vision, it’s clear that society has not collapsed as Enoch Powell predicted. However, multiculturalism has been an uneven success, leaving some areas of Britain more integrated than others.
“There have been huge advances in race relations, thanks to governmental and non-governmental action and the growth of closer connections between different communities. But many challenges remain across and between our communities, and also in some specific areas of the country.
“The gulf between people’s daily experiences and interactions with people of different ethnic and religious backgrounds, and their view of integration with society overall, is partly a result of an overwhelmingly negative narrative around immigrants and Muslims in the media and especially on social media. Countering these narratives must be a priority.
“With anxiety about British Muslims and Islam in particular replacing immigration as the main area of concern 50 years since Powell’s speech, challenging anti-Muslim prejudice and creating a more positive narrative around British Muslims will be central to the continuing advancement of race relations in the UK.
“As when Powell spoke, a huge amount of work was needed to provide alternative messages of hope, and real action from government and communities to stop Powell’s vision from becoming reality. We need action today to stop a slip towards hardening attitudes and to rebuild public trust. Powell’s speech prompted action, the anniversary must do the same.”