Sir Oswald Mosley was the nearly man of British politics. Born into the aristocracy in 1896, he went into politics being elected as the Conservative MP for Harrow in 1918 aged only 21. Aristocrat or not, Mosley had fought on the Western Front during the first great slaughter of the 20th Century, and was determined to do everything in his power to avoid future wars.
A fine orator, handsome and rich, it was hardly surprising that he soon built up a following, but good intentions aside, Mosley was impatient for social reform, and this led not only to a ping-pong type political career but to making bad judgments. In 1931 he formed the New Party, and when that didn't bring him overnight success, he formed the British Union of Fascists. Although the first British Fascist party had been established as early as 1923 by Miss Rotha Beryl Lintorn Lintorn-Orman (who borrowed the name and very little else from the Italian Fascisti), Oswald Mosley is generally regarded if not as the father then as the godfather of British Fascism.
Although Mosley's brand of Fascism was not strictly totalitarian, there was never any doubt who would be kingpin in the event of his winning power, but aside from winning a General Election there was of course the little matter of Herr Hitler's brand of anti-Semitic fascism which by this time had already seized power in Germany. Although Mosley greatly admired Hitler, he would have no truck with anti-Semitism, unlike other British Fascist organisations such as the Imperial Fascist League.
In the September 29, 1933 issue of the Jewish Chronicle, A. Herman, President of the Oxford University Jewish Society wrote "At the present time, our greatest supporters in our fight against the Imperial Fascists are the Mosley Fascists themselves".
Sadly, this love affair did not last, and when Mosley's organisation was attacked repeatedly by both Jewish "anti-Fascists" and the Jewish press, although still not and never an anti-Semite, he began running a series of crude Jew-baiting articles in his newspaper The Blackshirt.
During the Second World War, the man who had injured his leg while serving in the Royal Flying Corps and then fought in the trenches at the Battle of Loos found himself branded a potential traitor and interned without trial under the notorious Regulation 18b.
Mosley's post-war career was far less illustrious, and his Union Movement was often targetted by "anti-Fascist" thugs. In July 1962, the now quite elderly Mosley was viciously assaulted and knocked to the ground by "anti-Fascists", an incident fellow travellers still gloat over to this day. He died at Orsay, France in December 1980, but remains a cult figure for many on the far right in Britain in spite of his continued demonisation by the far left, and to some extent by the mainstream.
However, in 1998, two mainstream Jewish writers produced a four part dramatisation of Mosley's life which painted a surprisingly objective and sympathetic portrait of him. In spite of the predictable storm of outrage, it was evident that Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran - whose bailiwick is actually comedy - had done their homework.
It goes without saying that Mosley could not have expected the same consideration from Not The Nine O'Clock News; "Baronet Oswald Ernald Mosley" was written in the wake of his death by the show's parodist and songwriter Peter Brewis, who is said to have gone out and bought all the following day's newspapers to glean quotes to incorporate into his work. He slaved through the night on the song, which includes some of these - in retrospect embarrassing - quotes from Mosley's early career, and deliberately awful lyrics to be recited by suitably moronic looking Mosley supporters.
The lyrics originally included:
"He put the skids
On the Yids
In Cable Street"
"He put the screws
On the Jews
On the streets of London"
But someone at the Beeb decided they had to go.