A poignant, challenging and witty memoir by one of Britain's most senior journalists about the history of - and resistance to - immigration in the UK
In April 1968, Conservative MP Enoch Powell delivered a speech that was to frame the debate about immigration in the UK for the next 50 years. ‘We must be mad, literally mad, as a nation to allow the annual inflow of some 50,000 dependents,' he said. ‘It is like watching a nation busily engaged in heaping up its own funeral pyre.' Kamal Ahmed was six months old at the time of Powell's speech. Half English, half Sudanese, he was raised in 1970s London with a Raleigh racing bike, rainbow-coloured jumpers, Adidas Gazelle trainers and cords.
Yet the anti-immigrant sentiment behind Powell's infamous ‘Rivers of Blood' speech reverberated throughout his childhood. He grew up in a society that not infrequently told him, a Londoner born and bred, British down to his Marks and Spencer underwear, to ‘go home'.
Fifty years after it was first delivered, Powell's speech is not only of historical significance but has disquieting resonance. Ahmed illustrates that Britain's reaction to the influx of immigrants from the ‘new' EU countries is an all too familiar story, marked by passion, fear and social cost. Part memoir, part disquisition on a piece of oratory that has clanged discord through the decades, The Life and Times of a Very British Man is Ahmed's account of feeling like an outsider in the country he was born in.