Source: London Telegraph | Thursday 29 March 2001
I Refuse to Keep Quiet On Race, Says Rebel MP
By Andrew Sparrow, Political Correspondent
A TORY backbencher claimed yesterday that he was the victim of political
correctness as MPs from all parties denounced his views on immigration.
John Townend: ‘Illegal immigrants have a new ploy. They now call themselves
John Townend said he was right to say that Britain’s “homogeneous
Anglo-Saxon society” had been “seriously undermined” by mass immigration. In
a speech he made almost two weeks ago, the MP for Yorkshire East, who is
standing down at the next election, said that immigrants were partly to
blame for rising crime rates in some areas.
Tony Blair led the chorus of criticism after William Hague came under strong
pressure to punish Mr Townend by withdrawing the party whip. However, Mr
Townend, 66, whose speech included a tribute to Enoch Powell, said that
immigration “did change the character of Britain; nobody can deny that; it
is a fact”.
In an interview with Today on Radio 4, he said: “Having absorbed that wave
of immigration that basically was legal – and then we stopped it by the
Immigration Act – we now face another wave and the vast majority of people
in this country, including my constituency, are very worried. There is no
doubt in this country there is a great political correctness which tries to
push many of these things under the table.”
In his speech, he said: “If people had been aware that by the new
Millennium, London, our capital, would have over 25 per cent of its
population from ethnic minorities and that forecasts expect that by 2014
over half of the city will be non Anglo-Saxon, that Leicester and Birmingham
would be vying as to which city would have a black majority first, Enoch
Powell would have been prime minister.”
Mr Blair told the Commons that he would not allow any of his own candidates
to use racist language. He told MPs: “Britain benefits from being a
multi-cultural, multi-racial society. There’s virtually none of us that
don’t have some blood from other races or nations in us.
In this modern day and age, it is not merely a principle that is morally
right, but a principle in our self-interest, that anyone, irrespective of
ethnic background, is a full and proper member of our society.”
Two weeks ago the main party leaders signed a compact drawn up by the
Commission for Racial Equality promising not to let election candidates
issue material “likely to generate hostility or division between people of
different racial, national or religious groups”.
Mo Mowlam, the Cabinet Office minister wrote to Mr Hague saying: “Unless the
whip is withdrawn [from Mr Townend], it gives the green light to others in
your party to make speeches of this nature.”
In a statement, Mr Hague said that Mr Townend’s comments were “totally
unacceptable” and that they were in conflict with the compact on race
relations. However, the agreement covers only election candidates. Tory
sources said there was no need to take action against Mr Townend because he
was standing down.
The Commission for Racial Equality wrote to all MPs asking them to endorse
the pledge. It said yesterday that Mr Townend was so far the only one to
have written back saying that he would not sign.
Lord Taylor of Warwick, a black Tory peer, said: “Mr Townend’s comments
represent a nasty and ignorant element in our society which needs to be
In Leicester, which was identified by Mr Townend in his speech as a city
where blacks would soon be in a majority, Ross Willmott, the council leader,
said the MP’s speech would undermine race relations. “It is an affront to
this city, particularly in the run-up to a general election. There is no
question that Leicester’s diversity is a strength.”