On the streets and in people’s minds, a ghost is rising: one we haven’t seen stirring with such menace for almost eighty years. The ghost of Oswald Mosley is walking amongst us and, like any good ghost story, it should send a chill down our collective spine.
Our beloved right wing press, UKIP and the noisy, ever-growing hard-line faction within the Tories do an excellent job of whipping up a storm of ill feeling aimed at migrants coming to the UK. Recently, the outpouring of hatred has been due to the lifting of restrictions stopping Bulgarian and Romanian immigration to the UK. Much of our Muslim community will almost be relived that right-wingers have a new bogeyman, for the time being.
In the 30s, Mosley’s racist rhetoric brought swathes of public support for the British Union of Fascists (BUF), which only dropped when the BUF became associated with violence. Racism, however, remained popular in the UK, with Mosley continuing to stir up racial tensions after World War II. After the war, Mosley’s stock declined so much that he lost heavily in his next two election campaigns and retired to France by 1966. Yet the xenophobic mantle was taken up by a new person, Enoch Powell, who stirred up racial tensions with his ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech.
Now, one must acknowledge UKIP are more Powell that Mosley in their ideas. Despite the anti-immigrant rhetoric, UKIP’s opposition is rooted in xenophobia, rather than out and out ideological racism. We have the EDL for that.
Yes, the forms of bigotry demonstrated by UKIP and the EDL are very different, but both tap into a frightening trend in British attitudes. Even amongst mainstream politicians, opposing immigration is becoming acceptable. Powell was thrown out of government for his xenophobia, yet Tory MPs are openly displaying similar attitudes today and gain public support. Public support for anti-immigrant, anti-foreigner ideas is reminiscent the era of Mosley. His ghost is haunting our political system once again, and we’ll need more than Bill Murray to get rid of this spectre.
Even our young people are spewing hatred. 44% of British youths said they felt Muslims did not share the same values as the rest of UK and a shocking 28% saying they thought the UK would be better off without Muslims. These bigoted attitudes suggest that the very common xenophobia and not so rare racism we see in the UK is being passed down generation to generation. All that is needed for a fresh wave of race riots, a resurgent EDL and the election of people in the vein of Powell and Mosley, is someone to harness this bigotry in society.
Until the 1934 Olympia rally, the Daily Mail openly and proudly supported Mosley. Lord Rothmere, the proprietor of the Mail, was exuberant in his support of the BUF, most famously entitling a lead article ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts.’ Today, our media is capable of the same hatred that drove Mosley’s movement. Most days, the Express, the Mail or one of the other hate rags splash headlines condemning immigrants as criminals and benefit scroungers.
Britain is haunted by a ghost from the past of the most terrifying order. Mosley’s legacy is one of hatred, xenophobia and racism. The ghost of Oswald Mosley is visible from the East End to Glasgow, and we need to fight back, reject such blind hatred, and once again move forward as a free, accepting and tolerant nation.