I once wrote a strongly critical article about the late campaigning journalist Paul Foot in which I nonetheless quoted approvingly Foot's judgement, in his book The Rise of Enoch Powell (1969) that, on immigration, Enoch Powell “had embarked on one of the most dangerous and opportunist escapades in the history of British politics”.
Foot's book was in truth very good indeed. It made clear what many interpreters of Powell and his political career have since missed. Powell was an opportunist, whose demagoguery was tailored to, though scarcely attained, his political advancement. His eccentric interventions thereafter - his call to support Labour in 1974, owing to his hostility to the Common Market; his anti-nuclear stand in the 1980s - derived not from free-thinking heterodoxy but from a vain (in both senses) wish to be seen as a decisive influence on political outcomes. Powell's genuine influence on public life was toxic. The comments last week of a prospective Conservative parliamentary candidate, one Nigel Hastilow, that Powell had been right on immigration are a disgrace and - it seems redundant to add - untrue as well. I'm glad the man has stepped down, and I acknowledge that the Conservative Party probably has legal reasons to approach the issue strictly according to its rule book. That latter consideration, I infer, makes it better from the party's standpoint that Hastilow resigned sooner than be sacked.
But I can't understand why a Conservative spokesman concluded: "We have accepted Mr Hastilow's resignation and wish him well for the future." Politically speaking, I wish Mr Hastilow ill and hope he never resurfaces. I assume without argument that a rational and tolerant Conservative Party would feel the same way, and ought to have curtailed at the sixth word the statement I have quoted.