Oswald mosley

The astonishing stories behind today’s culture wars: Radio 4’s Things Fell Apart reviewed

Martin McNamara, the writer of Mosley Must Fall, a play on Radio 4 this week, must have had a jolt when he opened the papers to find old Oswald back in the news. Oxford University is said to have accepted £6 million from a trust set up by the fascist leader’s son, the racing driver Max, using funds passed down through the family. Cries of ‘Rhodes Must Fall’ have been echoing down the High in Oxford for many years now. If Mosley must fall, too, then this play may prove particularly timely. Although set in Whitechapel, east London, in 1936, the story consciously teeters over live issues, including immigration, the

Britain can be as prone to fascism as any other nation

It’s easy to dismiss the fascistic ideologues who populate Graham Macklin’s book as reactionary cranks of no significance. It’s also a mistake. Fascists have edged uncomfortably close to the mainstream of British politics ever since the British Union of Fascists was founded in 1932 by Oswald Mosley, who two years earlier had been a government minister. In 2009, two British National Party candidates were elected to the European Parliament. The seats were lost in 2014 because the BNP votes transferred en masse to Ukip. If you doubt that the spirit of the BNP infused Ukip, you have only to look at what has happened to it since Nigel Farage decamped.

A solid costume drama but Dame Helen has been miscast: Catherine the Great reviewed

It’s possibly not a great sign of a Britain at ease with itself that the historical character most likely to show up in a TV drama now seems to be Oswald Mosley. But the week after his starring role in Peaky Blinders ended, there he was again, right at the beginning of BBC1’s next Sunday-night drama. World on Fire opened with Mosley addressing a 1939 Manchester rally, where he duly whipped up his supporters and reminded the rest of us of the dangers of extremism. Luckily, there were two people in the hall brave enough to protest: salt-of-the-earth northern lass Lois Bennett and her much posher and therefore much stiffer

Consumed by guilt

At the beginning of After the Party, Phyllis Forrester tells us she was in prison. While inside, her hair turned yellowy-white, ‘like the mane of an old wooden rocking-horse’, not out of shock, she reassures us, but because ‘one couldn’t get one’s hair dyed’. She thinks she deserved to be there: ‘What I did was terrible. Terrible. The shame of it will never leave me until my dying day.’ For a long time in Cressida Connolly’s chilling new novel, though, it’s not clear what she has done. The year is 1979, and middle-class Phyllis, who is bitter and alone (her family don’t talk to her any more), recounts her story

J.K. Rowling’s schizophrenic politics

On the face of it, there is nothing complicated about the politics of Harry Potter, who made his first appearance in The Philosopher’s Stone 20 years ago. Like his creator J.K. Rowling, who once gave £1 million to the Labour party, he is a left-wing paternalist in the Bloomsbury tradition — the love child of John Maynard Keynes and Virginia Woolf. He feels a protective duty towards the common man (‘muggles’ in the lexicon of the novels) and a loathing for suburban, lower-middle-class Tories like the Dursleys, his Daily Mail-reading foster parents. The arch-villain of the saga is Voldemort, a charismatic Übermensch who believes in purity and strength and in

Of hearts and heads

Like most trade unionists in the 1970s and 80s I worked with a fair few communists. Men like Dickie Lawlor, Jock Cowan and Maurice Styles, postal workers for whom all events were viewed through the prism of ‘scientific socialism’. Communism gave them a philosophy by which to live their lives, and they were respected as men of principle even by those who abhorred their politics. Marx may have disparaged religion as the opiate of the people (and, in an even more memorable phrase, the sigh of the oppressed), but it was difficult to avoid the term ‘religious zeal’ when describing the way men like Dickie, Jock and Maurice approached their

Family divisions

The geological title of this unhappy memoir is an apt metaphor for fissures in the relationships between individuals of David Pryce-Jones’s extended family. Emotionally and financially competitive but interdependent, benefactors and beneficiaries, Jews and gentiles of various sexual proclivities are depicted grinding away against each other like so many incompatible tectonic plates. Pryce-Jones offers a candid expression of filial impiety for which Eton, Oxford and the Brigade of Guards surely cannot be entirely to blame, although it is true that education far from home, from an early age, has been known to piss children off, as they say. Young boys banished to boarding school may feel tormented by Oedipal yearnings

The raffish toff with a winning Formula

Max Mosley’s autobiography has been much anticipated: by the motor racing world, by the writers and readers of tabloid newspapers, by social historians, and by lawyers, whom one imagines perusing it with nods, frowns and the occasional wince. Mosley is a barrister of Gray’s Inn, and it was as a lawyer that, with his friend Bernie Ecclestone, he came to dominate motor racing. Their association began in 1964, when Mosley was a pupil in Lord Hailsham’s chambers and Ecclestone was the country’s top used-car dealer, said to be able to value an entire showroom at a glance. Ten years later, when they had both made the transition from driving to

High life | 18 June 2015

When I founded the American Conservative 13 years ago — the purpose being to shine a light on the neocon shenanigans that led to the greatest American foreign policy disaster ever — Pat Buchanan and I held a press conference in the Washington DC Press Club to herald the event. There were reporters galore, and I could tell from their expressions that it wasn’t going to be a friendly session. Buchanan went first and held his own. Then came my turn. A hatchet-faced female hack in the first row asked me if Saudi money was behind me. ‘I wouldn’t accept Saudi blood money if it meant bedding Romola Garai,’ answered

What’s more disturbing than a group of discredited old Nazis? The Green Party

Yesterday’s Mail on Sunday had an interesting account of a meeting in London of Nazis, neo-Nazis, British National Party types and anti—Semites of various other hues. The paper infiltrated the meeting and exposed what was said – which is a very good service and deserves praise. But I challenge anyone to look through the photos and biographies of the few participants who gathered at Victoria station and then in a nearby hotel and not reflect that this is a gratifyingly washed-up and pathetic movement. During their deliberations they appear to have gone over the usual stuff about how they think the Holocaust was made up and been used by Jews for their own advantage and

‘You are always close to me’: Unity Mitford’s souvenirs of Hitler

The English aristocracy has had its fair share of misfits, and one of the most far-fetched was Unity Mitford. No novelist would dare invent the story of a young woman of 19 who settles in Germany in 1933, determines to captivate Hitler, and succeeds. Eva Braun, the long-term mistress whom Hitler married in the last days of his life, gives way in her diary to jealousy and spite. There is evidence provided either by Unity herself or Nazi officials that Hitler held her hand, stroked her hair and called her ‘Kind’ (child). During his preparation for world war in the summer of 1939, he found time to arrange for a

An ex-fascist or two isn’t the BBC’s problem. Its boss class is

We live in a recriminatory age, one in which we are only ever a step away from the cringing, self-abnegating apology. Take the case of BBC Newsnight’s latest appointee, as economics editor, a chap called Duncan Weldon. Duncan is doing the tail between the legs thing right now, desperately attempting to excise part of his past in case it puts paid to his promising career in a fusillade of political accusations and an appalled reaction from the general public. The problem is, in his younger days, it seems Duncan worked as an adviser for the deputy leader of the Labour party, Harriet Harperson. ‘It is embarrassing. I was young and

Shalom, I’m Santa — how to be Father Christmas in diverse North London 

Twenty of us are gathered in the management suite of a shopping centre to learn about benchmarking grotto deliverables, exceeding customer expectations and, inevitably, Elf-and-Safety. Most are tiny teenage girls; they will be the elves. I gravitate to the only other middle-aged man. ‘Santa?’ he asks, nodding in the direction of my stomach. I nod back towards his. It’s 1 November. It couldn’t have been any earlier, as some of the elves have been engaged as scary monsters until Hallowe’en. Not all of them — department store ghouls don’t drive sales quite like Father Christmas — although my fellow Santa had been a Cannibal Killer at a farm shop. He’s

This Boy, by Alan Johnson- review

This Boy is no ordinary politician’s memoir, still less a politician’s ordinary memoir. It ends where others might begin: when the author is barely 18, newly married and only just starting work as a postman. The trade unionism that he later took up and the career in politics that led to several cabinet posts in two Labour governments are not even hinted at. Yet however thrilling, their story, when it is told, will be dull by comparison with this. Alan Johnson had a childhood quite unlike most politicians’, and he describes it with a simplicity and power that make it easy to see why he came to be the potential