UK’s immigration panic: History repeats itself in 2023 debate – Andrew Kenny

Fifty-seven years ago, the British Labour Party, fearing an electoral backlash, hastily passed the 1968 Commonwealth Immigration Act to curb black immigration. In a disconcerting echo, current immigration laws in 2023 reflect the same apprehension. Recent parliamentary chaos surrounds a bill proposing to send illegal black immigrants to Rwanda. The bizarre scheme aims to deter African migrants, yet its impracticality and exorbitant cost raise questions. The enduring panic over black immigration persists in Britain, highlighting the unresolved tensions surrounding the issue.

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UK panic over black immigration

By Andrew Kenny*

Fifty-seven years ago, the British Labour Party government panicked over black immigration to Britain. It passed the 1968 Commonwealth Immigration Act. An immigration expert commented, “This extraordinary piece of legislation” was passed in “a parliamentary atmosphere reminiscent of emergency measures passed in the shadow of war”. It was passed because the black government of Kenya was making life difficult for Asians living in Kenya and the Labour Party was terrified they would flee to the UK. A previous Tory government had explained that such laws were necessary to “prevent the arrival in this country of many people of wholly alien cultures, habits and outlook”.

This was happening at the same time as British political leaders were giving sanctimonious lectures to the white governments of Rhodesia and South Africa on their treatment of black people. Yes, but the black people of Rhodesia and South Africa had been there long before the whites and greatly outnumbered them. True, but the white people of Rhodesia and South Africa had not spent centuries in invading and conquering black countries around the world and dealing with black slaves on a massive scale.

And more than half a century later, Britain is still panicking about black immigration. This week, the British parliament was in turmoil about a bizarre bill to send illegal black immigrants to Rwanda, a small African country in the Great Lakes region, ruled by a brutal super-apartheid dictatorship with the worse racial problems on Earth – although, thanks to massive oppression, it is stable and quite successful economically.

The idea was that illegal African immigrants in France, leaving in small boats for Britain, would be so frightened of the prospect of being returned to Africa that they would cease trying to come to Britain. There is logic in that, since black African emigrants hate the idea of going to Africa; they want to go to Europe or America. But otherwise the scheme is preposterous. It would cost a fortune to send people to Rwanda, and so few could ever be sent that it would hardly make a dent on the massive influx of illegal black immigrants. This year the British government had also passed laws to prevent the families of legal immigrants accompanying them.

The reason behind the 1968 immigration laws and the 2023 laws are the same. In both cases, Labour and Tories were panicking about being wiped out in the next election over the issue of too many black people coming to Britain. It now seems to be the biggest election concern there. Black immigration, legal and illegal, is also going to be a big issue in the 2024 election in South Africa. In Britain, the white people, especially working-class white people, hate black immigration. In South Africa, the black people, especially working-class black people, also hate black immigration. In South Africa, white people are not bothered about black immigration and black people are not bothered about white immigration but black people are mightily bothered about black immigration.

Not intended

I had not intended to do this column on this subject. I had thought of doing it on the farcical COP28 in Dubai, but only if something interesting or unusual happened there. So far, nothing has. It is the same old rubbish, completely devoid of science. Contrary to the climate alarmists, there is no climate crisis. Rising CO2 is having no effect on the climate but a wonderful effect on plants. The present slight warming is completely natural. There has been no increase in weather extremes. The usual things happened before the COP.

Rich green activists tried to fly from Germany in their private jets to condemn air travel and warn about global warming; the trouble was that it was so cold that some airports froze over and planes could not take off. Yawn. The wretched nonsense goes on until 12th, and maybe I’ll write about it after that. Meanwhile I got distracted by watching a friend’s TV over events in England.

We do not have TV at home in Cape Town but I was staying with friends in Jo’burg, who do. I found myself watching a lot of Sky News. Apart from being slightly mesmerised by Kay Burly, I was drawn into British affairs and concerns. There is an official enquiry into the government’s handling of Covid-19. The enquiry ignores all the important issues, such as why there was a terribly damaging lockdown for children and healthy young adults long after it was clear that they were hardly affected by Covid at all, and why the whole country was stampeded into dangerous, untested and not very effective vaccines. Instead it dealt with peripheral issues such as the behaviour of political leaders at the time. Boris Johnson was interrogated for two days. But all this was swept away by the fiasco over the new immigration measures. It was this that made the headlines in most of the British newspapers. I watched the parliamentary debates in amazement.

I was born in Glasgow in 1948 when Clement Attlee was PM. I have lived most of my adult life in South Africa but ten years in England, and I know a little about every British government in the last 75 years. Never have I known such a useless bunch as now. Their incompetence is unique. Not only do they not know how to do what they want, they do not know what they want.

Tory government

This Tory government is utterly useless and deserves to be wiped out at the next election. The trouble is that the Labour Party is not much better, and has equally stupid ideas, if it has any ideas at all. Both parties are panicking about black immigration, and Labour is too scared to say that it opposes the Tory bills on it, since it mainly agrees with them and does not want to be seen to be opposing any measure to stop blacks coming to Britain. However, the latest bill to waive EU human rights regulations to allow illegal black immigrants to be sent to Rwanda was so absurd that Labour attacked it forcefully and successfully in parliament. Strangely enough, the three Tory politicians I heard shouting the loudest against black immigration, Suella Braverman, James Cleverly and Rishi Sunak, are all themselves black – or would be classified “black” by the ANC, under its Employment Equity Act. This makes things rather complicated and confusing, which I suppose is better than the simple, unconfusing hatred black South Africans feel towards black immigrants.

In the debate, I did not hear the Tory Minister of Immigration, a white man, Robert Jenrick. That is because he was not in parliament to hear the debate on his own portfolio. And that was because he opposed the bill completely – not because it was farcical but because “it doesn’t go far enough”. It will not “stop the boats”. He resigned that night.

Stopping the boats is the top priority of Tory and Labour politicians. The boats are precarious, overloaded little vessels run by criminals who get paid by illegal black immigrants to ship them from France to England, where they believe they will receive full benefits and privileges at the expense of the British taxpayer. Some of them are desperate refugees; some of them are just looking for a more comfortable life.

My own views on immigration are conventional. There must be immigration and it must be controlled and lawful. Uncontrolled and illegal immigration to Britain is a huge problem, which is causing great damage to British society. I think the answer is to be clear and ruthless in enforcing the law. All potential illegal immigrants must know that they will not be allowed in, that their boats will be impounded and that they will be sent back to Africa or wherever they came from. Then they can try to apply as legal immigrants. But British governments must stop dithering. They have dithered for over sixty years.

Enoch Powell

I was in England in the 1970s when Enoch Powell was the most popular politician in the country, and when Idi Amin kicked the Asians out of Uganda. Powell was a phenomenon. He was probably the cleverest, most learned politician in British history, He was a wonderful linguist, a poet, and a professor of classics at the age of 24. He had a brilliant war (WW2), rising to be brigadier. He was Tory Minister of Health in 1960.

In Birmingham, in 1968, he made his famous “Rivers of Blood Speech” against black immigration. “As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding. Like the Roman, I seem to see the River Tiber foaming with much blood”. Part of the speech was scholarly and thought provoking. Part of it was crude racism. The speech earned Powell expulsion from high office in the Tory party and made him the most popular politician in Britain – by far. A poll showed that many British people felt that Powell “was the first British politician who was actually listening to them”. Powell caused the greatest class divide I have ever seen in England. The white working classes supported him overwhelmingly, and were overwhelmingly opposed to black immigration. I heard this over and over again on the factory floors I worked on in England.

The middle classes, the journalists and politicians, the superior people with university degrees, overwhelmingly opposed him. Around Europe right now I see a similar divide. The ruling classes in Britain dithered and took no firm steps to control black immigration. Often, in fact, they encouraged it, trying to bring in black nurses, for example, to make up for the chronic shortage in England. (It seems Powell had done the same when Minister of health.) Many other blacks came as well as the needed nurses.

Under both Labour and Tory governments from the late 1990s on, black immigration, legal and illegal, has soared. Hence the panic.


The fact that this stupid bill proposes to expel illegal black immigrants to Rwanda particularly riles me. I am obsessed with Rwanda and Burundi, which have the worst racial problems on Earth. I have been so obsessed since 1972, when I heard about the appalling events there. Each country contains about 14% Tutsi, a Nilotic people, and 85% Hutu, a Bantu people. The two races hate each other.

The Tutsis consider themselves racially superior to the Hutu and ruled over them in pre-colonial times. In 1962, the departing Belgian colonialists, to the horror of the Tutsis, allowed a free election in Rwanda, which the Hutu won. In both countries, each race committed atrocities against the other. In 1972, the ruling Tutsi in Burundi slaughtered about 300 000 Hutu (which is when I first heard of the race crimes there). In 1990, a Tutsi army, eventually lead by Paul Kagame, invaded Rwanda with the intention of overthrowing the majority Hutu government and imposing a Tutsi government. The Hutus faced a choice: be killed, like the Hutu in Burundi, or be enslaved. The Hutu became filled with fear and hatred.

In 1994, when their president’s plane was shot down in Rwanda, they exploded into a frenzy of terror and rage, and killed about 800 000 Tutsis. But the Tutsis are much better soldiers than the Hutu and eventually Kagame’s forces beat the Hutu army and seized power. Kagame has ruled Rwanda ever since in a brutal, racist dictatorship – which is much admired by the West because it maintains order and is economically successful. It is to this racist tyranny that the British government wishes to deport illegal black immigrants. Will the prospect of being deported to Rwanda scare the life out of prospective illegal black immigrants?

It would certainly scare the life out of me. But since so few, if any, will actually end up in Rwanda, maybe they will not be scared at all.

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*Andrew Kenny is a writer, an engineer and a classical liberal.

This article was first published by Daily Friend and is republished with permission.

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