Outrage at television's `glamorisation' of Oswald Mosley

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The Independent Online
Jewish activists have been critical since they first heard that Channel 4 was planning to dramatise Sir Oswald Mosley's life. Paul McCann, Media Correspondent, hears that they are no happier now they have seen the finished film.

A storm is brewing over Channel 4's dramatisation of the life of Sir Oswald Mosley which is to be screened next month.

Opponents of Mosley in the Thirties and Forties who have seen the drama believe that the four-part drama gives an overly sympathetic portrayal of the leader of the British Union of Fascists and waters down his anti- Semitism.

Fred Mullallay, a journalist in the Forties who wrote the first study of British fascism and who was once assaulted by a mob of Mosley's supporters, believes history has been twisted by the series.

"It is just how Mosley himself would have wanted to see himself," says Mr Mullallay. "Everything is portrayed in a glossy, warm way at the beginning so that by the time it starts to get into the nitty-gritty you have begun to warm to him."

"It makes him look like a charming and intelligent man, but there is no voice to tell you that he was a lunatic and an idiot. A man who tried to generate a following from the lowest levels of society and that he slavishly followed Hitler. There isn't even derision of him as an incompetent politician."

He is particularly upset by what he believes is an attempt to claim that unlike his supporters Mosley had nothing against Jews. In the drama, the fascist leader is seen saying: "There is no place for anti-Semitism in British fascism."

"He tried to maintain a certain credibility by not referring directly to Jews," says Mr Mullallay. "So instead he talked about `aliens'.

"But he still led his thugs into Jewish areas like Bethnal Green and he never expelled anybody for anti-Semitism. Instead he made it clear in his writings that he supported his followers' views."

Mosley was written for Channel 4 by the two comedy writers Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran who wrote Birds of a Feather. They are themselves Jewish and they deny distorting history.

"The accusation that we've made Mosley look attractive and glamorous is true," says Laurence Marks. "Because he was. He could not have achieved what he did without charisma and charm."

"But he was also deceptive and we don't believe any fair and intelligent viewer who watches to the end of the series will doubt that he was a monster."

Not only are Marks and Gran Jewish, but so too is the producer, Irving Teitelbaum and Michael Grade, the former chief executive of Channel 4 who commissioned the series.

Yet the channel still attracted criticism from Jewish commentators such as Bernard Levin and the Jewish Chronicle when it first announced that the series was planned.

"We always knew there was going to be an adverse reaction to the programmes," says a spokesman for the programme. "Some people have said the subject shouldn't be tackled because they fear glamorisation. But by the end he is clearly shown expressing anti-Semitic sentiments and it shows him personally and professionally to be a monster."

Mr Mullallay, who had to be rescued by Jewish ex-servicemen when he tried to address a Mosley rally, remains unconvinced: "The balance of it is putrid," he says.

Henry Morris, vice president of the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen, fought Mosley's men on the streets of London in the Thirties and Forties. He is also unhappy with Channel 4's portrayal of the fascist leader.

"There is too much emphasis on the period between 1929 and 1933," said Mr Morris. "A tremendous amount of time is spent on his social life. I'd have been happier of they had concentrated on his political career. It wasn't enough of a hatchet job on Mosley.

"In the first three episodes the only counter to his glamorous image is the portrayal of him as a womaniser. You get no hint of the thuggery and the violence in the East End from watching this film."