Wealthy and charismatic British populist politician who ultimately became a fascist
. Mosley retains some notoriety as a cult hero to England's neo-Nazi
Mosley became the youngest MP in the House of Commons in 1918, winning a seat for the Conservative Party. By 1922 he was disillusioned with the Conservatives over the Irish question and took his seat as an Independent. Just two years later he was committed to the Labour Party. In 1929-30 Mosley briefly served in the Labour government of Ramsay MacDonald, but when his Keynesian economic plan for reducing unemployment met with resistance he resigned.
Mosley then formed his own political party - the New Party. When the New Party failed to win any seats in the 1931 elections it was disbanded and Mosley formed another party - the British Union of Facsists, also known as "the Blackshirts." The BUF arose out of Mosley's admiration for Mussolini.
In the pre-World War II years Mosley became outspokenly anti-semitic. As stated by Mosley, the BUF's mission was " to challenge and break forever the power of the Jews in Britain." BUF marches and rallies often led to riots -- predominantly in the Jewish sections of London's East End.
Mosley and his thugs suffered a major defeat in 1936 in the "Battle of Cable Street." Their activities were also severely curtailed with passage of the Public Order Act of 1936. The BUF lauded Hitler and cheered each German foreign policy success. When war broke out with Germany the BUF leaders were not immediately rounded up, but by the time France fell Mosley and other BUF leaders were interned and remained so for the duration of the war.
After the war, Mosely attempted several times to regain a seat in Parliament, but was never again successful.
Elvis Costello penned Less than Zero in response to seeing a documentary on Mosley. The following is from a September 2, 1982 Rolling Stone interview :
Greil Marcus: Your first single was "Less Than Zero". When did you write that?
Elvis Costello: Earlier in the year [ 1977 ]. I saw a program with Oswald Mosley, the leader of the British fascist movement of the Thirties, and he was on TV saying, "No, I'm not anti-Semitic, of course I'm not - doesn't matter even if I was!". His attitude was that time could make it all right! It was a very English way of accepting things that really used to irritate me, really annoy me. The complacency, the moral complacency there - that they would just accept this vicious old man: not string him up on the spot!
Greil Marcus: This was the time when the National Front and the British Movement were recruiting with great success - and they of course derived directly from Mosley's old British Union of Fascists.
Elvis Costello: They were the same old bastards, the same old weirdos like Colin Jordan that kept appearing and denying they had any fascist overtones, and then there would be pictures taken of them dressing up in pervy Hitler Youth uniforms. They're really sick people. If there wasn't a danger that some people would take them seriously, they'd be sad and you'd feel sorry for them. But you can't. There are people gullible enough and there are enough problems - the same way as you've got here. You can point a finger and say, "These are the people who are the source of all your problems: it's the black people." It's the same thing as saying, "It's the Jews..." I'm English, but my ancestry is Irish, and they used to say the same about the Irish as well. My wife's Irish. Sooner or later, we'll probably have to leave England - because I'm sure the people of England will try to send the Irish back.