[image added by this
the great adventure, better
the great attempt for
England's sake, better defeat,
disaster. . .
London, Sunday August 17, 2003
Mosley was a fascist and an anti-Semite.
But our obsequious culture still tolerates
If the word 'culture'
famously had Goering
reaching for the handle of his revolver,
then the word 'charming' does the same for
me. A person can be dishonest, amoral and
corrupt, but as long as he or she is
'charming' then you are entitled to like,
and in some way forgive, them.
Diana Mosley, who died last week,
was invariably described by her visitors
as 'charming', as well as being 'witty'
and 'intelligent'. These attributes were
regarded as an entertaining paradox in the
wife and chief supporter of Britain's very
own would-be Führer, Sir Oswald
Mosley. Her only slightly qualified
admiration for Hitler (great man,
shame about the anti-semitism and the
tendency towards violence) was partly
offset by her also being one of the
fabulous Mitford sisters, and the friend
of many a poet, artist and novelist.
The indulgence shown towards her is
itself revealing. Her autobiography, A
Life of Contrasts, was first published
in 1977. Leaving aside the 'We lunched
with Violet Trefusis in Cannes' type
demi-Bloomsbury bilge, which makes up the
bulk of the book, there are also some of
her reflections on that great puzzle: how
could someone as essentially wonderful as
Hitler, leader of such a civilised nation,
the attempt to wipe out an entire race of
Diana's answer, broadly, was that it
was the Jews'
own fault. What had happened was that,
due to pogroms in other less-enlightened
East European countries,
Jews poured into Germany from the East,
and made an acute Jewish problem there'
(Diana did not go into detail about
what this problem was. Was it
overcrowding? Cooking smells? Klezmer
music replacing Wagner? A proliferation of
beards?) '...nothing much was done, either
by the League of Nations or by world
Jewry, and they were left to their
The Jews went to Germany, the other
Jews did nothing, the Jews met their fate.
Not that the Germans wanted bad things to
happen. No, most of them, 'probably hoped
that (the Jews) would remove themselves to
some other part of the globe. World Jewry
with its immense wealth could find the
money...' This was, after all, just part
of a natural process of separating warring
ethnicities, in which (thought Diana)
group should have been offered rich
inducements to move to its own mother
country. Those who refused would do so
with their eyes open. The same should
have been done for the Jews'.
But it wasn't, partly (though she
doesn't mention it) because there wasn't
any such place for Jews (though,
interestingly, in her book Diana manages
at least three or four digs at Israel).
Meanwhile, by belly-aching about such
things as the Nuremberg Race Laws, their
co-religionists being made to scrub
pavements, or occasionally being murdered
by storm-troopers, 'the Jews who left did
not make things easier for those left
Even so (she argues), anti-semitism
per se was not something that she
or Sir Oswald was attracted to. Far from
it. In fact, they would have been content
for there to be lots of Jewish members of
the British Union of Fascists, if only the
Jews hadn't (misguidedly) attacked the BUF
first. No, the Mosleys were much more
interested in their great intellectual
plans first for the Empire and then
Europe, and for the new corporate Britain.
Racism was a little vulgar.
Trevor Grundy was the son of BUF
members (including a virulently
anti-semitic mother who, in the classic
manner, turned out herself to be Jewish).
In his fascinating Memoir of a Fascist
Childhood, he recalls that
anti-semitism and racism were central both
to the BUF and to its postwar successor,
the Union Movement. When Mosley returned
to politics in the late 1940s it was to
the sound of the chant, 'The yids, the
yids, we've got to get rid of the yids'.
Members saluted each other with code
letters 'PJ', standing for Perish
Grundy became active in the Mosleyite
youth movement, and went to see The Leader
in Le Temple de la Gloire, the Mosleys'
house in Paris. He contrasted how the poor
old foot-soldiers of British fascism were
treated, compared with the collaborating
glitterati who wrote for Diana's
semi-fascist intellectual rag, the
European. One lot stood and were
not fed or paid, while the others were
fêted and dined. At one meeting he
told Lady Diana that people in Britain did
not have enough paraffin for their oil
heaters. She turned her 'large, cow-like
eyes' on him and asked: 'What is an oil
Lady Diana was a hostess who read
Schiller, Goethe and Nietzsche in German
and Sartre and Aragon in French. In her
book all her acquaintances are fabulous,
being 'amusing and high-spirited'
(Waugh), 'witty, intelligent,
sarcastic' (Goebbels), or capable
of 'imitations of marvellous drollery,
which showed how acutely observant he was'
She charmed Augustus John,
adored Lytton Strachey,
commiserated with Carrington, and
her aristocratic friends patronised
Mosley's fascist January Club. Lady
Ravensdale, the Prince of
Wales's aide-de-camp 'Fruity' Metcalf,
the Count and Countess of Munster, Sir
Charles Petrie. Lord Lloyd
of Dolobran, Lord Erroll (later to
be murdered in Kenya and who wore the
fascist symbol on his sporran), Lord
Erskine, Lord Scott, the
brother of the Duke of Buccleuch,
What they had in common, these people,
was a fashionable contempt for democracy,
associating it with dullness, inertia and
the bourgeois. Mosley, said Diana, was the
only man with the dynamism, the intellect,
'the force' (whatever that was) to push
aside 'the deadweight of the Baldwinites
on the Right', the Macdonaldites in the
Centre and the Attlee Labour Party on the
Left. Her favourite words of her husband's
were from a passage beginning: 'Better the
great adventure, better the great attempt
for England's sake, better defeat,
disaster...' And so on. There are plenty
out there today, writing or speaking, who
seem to have a similar preference for the
impatient gesture over the daily, grubby
struggle of democratic politics.
Diana described her husband as a man of
generosity, lacking in the 'cant' of
democratic politicians. Beatrice
Webb thought he was a cynic. In the
1959 general election and following the
race riots in Notting Hill, Mosley stood
for Parliament. Trevor Grundy went to most
of the Movement meetings. At one he
describes The Leader 'shouting and ranting
and raving' that West Indian men captured
English girls, locked them in flats and
then repeatedly raped them. Then Mosley
quipped: 'Lassie for dogs, Kitekat for
wogs.' You will not find this episode
recorded in A Life of Contrasts.
Too much of a contrast, I daresay.
I do not find Diana Mosley 'charming'.
Her book is both evasive and rather
stupid. Had she not been a member of the
aristocracy and rather beautiful, no
writers would have patronised her
drawing-room, and no silly journalists
would have been seduced by her 'charm'.
But then that's the trouble with our
obsequious cultural relationship to the
titled and the blue-blooded - the
admiration is all one-way.
Diana's leftist sister, Jessica,
thought that Diana might just have led the
Führer astray too, with her
suggestion of noble support for his cause
in Britain. 'Hitler got it all wrong,' she
said later. 'He thought that automatically
anyone who was Lord somebody must be very
important. He didn't get the point of it
And some of us still don't.
Irving: A Radical's
of Lady Mosley]
Daily Telegraph and other
Mosley - The last bright young