In his autobiography Mustn't Grumble, veteran surrealist DJ Terry Wogan describes the attachment that BBC Radio 2 listeners have to their weekday captains of the airwaves:
Radio 2 weekdays is a "personality" network. People don't listen to Sarah Kennedy, [now-retired] Jimmy Young or even me for the music. They listen because they've become attached to the person presenting the programme - and, because of the personal, very intimate nature of the radio, far more deeply attached than they would ever become to any presenter on television.It appears that the first of this trio, Sarah Kennedy, has been "spoken to" for remarking on her Wednesday 8 July early-morning show that the late Enoch Powell was "the greatest Prime Minister that Britain never had".
This is as close to a mortal sin as you can get in the radically secularist broadcasting monolith. Enoch Powell started World War II as a private and ended it a brigadier, and had a parliamentary career lasting 37 years. He had many high spots as an MP - for example, his Address to the National Association of Mental Health Annual Conference while Minister of Health in 1961, often referred to as "the watertower speech", which set out an agenda to integrate psychiatric wards into the general hospital structure. But stormtroopers of the liberal-socialist axis categorise Powell by a 20-minute speech made to the Conservative Political Central group in a Birmingham hotel in 1968. It's referred to - wrongly - as the "Rivers of Blood speech", probably because of a reference to Virgil's Aeneid: "like the Roman, I seem to see 'the River Tiber foaming with much blood'".
The speech was about the impact of immigration upon Great Britain. It was delivered in the idiom of another time. I don't endorse phrases like "'in 15 or 20 years' time the black man will have the whip hand over the white man'", of course - but it wasn't original Powell, it was a quote from one of his working-class constituents.
And there's the rub: the dirty little secret that Labour and the BBC conspire to keep between them is that much of the racism we see today comes from the group that Labour sees as its natural electoral fodder - white working class people. We recently suffered the national humiliation of seeing two BNP (British National Party) candidates sent to the European parliament on a slogan of "the Labour Party your grandfather would recognise", elected by abandoned working class people - like an abused daughter seeking out an abusive husband - in constituencies gerrymandered to produce a Labour winner with a ridiculous proportion of the vote.
The disciplinary action against Kennedy seems to have spread shockwaves of compliance through Radio 2. The evening after, Stuart Maconie delivered a bizarre apology at the end of the show he shares with Mark Radcliffe because his guest, fellow presenter Claudia Winkleman, had referred to Oasis as "the best band in the world".
What happened next, on Winkleman's own show, Hot Gossip, was instructive. In a comedy show based on rumours about showbusiness types where anybody is ostensibly fair game, one of the panel started telling a joke about lesbians - and was promptly shouted down by Winkleman, who sounded fairly desperate to change the subject.
Loony leftists like the BNP (deliberately misbranded as "far right") will not be defeated by running away from sensitive issues and shooting the messenger on the flimsiest of pretexts; Kennedy's remark sparked 25 complaints. Compare the 63,000 protests against the screening of Jerry Springer: the Opera by BBC2 in 2005, or the 38,000 against Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand's obscene messages on Andrew Sachs' answerphone about his granddaughter.
And what of enoch Powell? Having contributed decisively to the Conservatives' 1970 general election win, a 1972 opinion poll found him the most popular politician in the land. After having encouraged people to vote Labour in the 1974 election over Britain having joined the EEC (now the EU) under Tory Prime Minister Edward Heath, he returned as an Ulster Unionist MP after turning down an offer from BNP precursors the National Front to stand for them. I had always been puzzled as to why Labour hadn't taken on Powell in 1974, given the enthusiastic support shown by trade-unionists to his 1968 Birmingham speech. Professor Calculus provided an answer for me when he remarked that, had Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson welcomed Powell into the party, he would have been welcoming his successor.
So when Sarah Kennedy described him as the best Prime Minister we never had - something that's unremarked upon when said of, say, Dennis Healey or Iain Duncan Smith - she was doing nothing but stating the obvious.