The multi-millionaire former Formula One tycoon and occasional tax exile, who died of cancer this week aged 81, was in his younger years a revolting racist and enthusiast for apartheid, as well as a zealous supporter of his father, Oswald Mosley, the erstwhile leader of the British Union of Fascists.
In later life, he notoriously spent thousands of pounds staging a sadomasochistic orgy in which he whipped prostitutes dressed in striped pyjamas while counting in German — and then spent millions more trying to stifle the Press for daring to expose his past and present.
So why did the BBC, normally so keen to highlight any hint of historical racism, report Mosley’s death as if it marked the passing of a paragon of virtue?
Listening to some of the great and good being encouraged to lionise Mosley on Radio 4’s Today programme yesterday, you might have imagined that a major cultural figure had died, rather than a Formula One suit with a distasteful reputation.
Max Mosley with his mother Lady Mosley and his father Sir Oswald Mosley in 1962
The historian Professor Robert Skidelsky — who wrote a biography of Sir Oswald and once admitted a ‘calf-like’ love for Max’s Hitler-devoted mother Diana — waxed lyrical to presenter Martha Kearney about the young Mosley he had known at Oxford.
‘He had striking good looks,’ trilled Lord Skidelsky. ‘Bright Titian hair . . . terrific fun to be with . . . lots of charm, full of pranks and schemes . . . an excellent mimic.’
Could this dashing character, seemingly drawn from the pages of Brideshead Revisited, possibly be related to the student Max Mosley who fiercely defended apartheid in South Africa during an Oxford Union debate in 1960, and again in the university newspaper?
Surely it wasn’t the same Mosley who was arrested and fined in 1961 for his part in a disorder in Trafalgar Square, when his father’s far-Right thugs clashed with an anti-apartheid vigil held to mark the first anniversary of a massacre in which South African police had shot dead 69 unarmed black demonstrators?
Or who was arrested again a year later, when his father provoked violent scenes by staging a neo-fascist rally in a Jewish area of East London?
Asked in cursory fashion about Oswald’s ‘fascism’, Skidelsky insisted that the Max he knew ‘was not a fascist, in no way’. So perhaps it was some other Max Mosley who, in 1962, sat alongside Oswald at the top table at a conference of leading European neo-Nazis and far-Rightists in Venice, where they agreed fantasy plans for a white-supremacist European super-state.
Max Mosley in the paddock during the practice session at Silverstone, Northamptonshire, 2009
At this conference, Max even met two of Hitler’s favourite Nazi officers, Otto ‘Scarface’ Skorzeny and Hans-Ulrich Rudel. On the way to Venice, he stopped off to visit the Nazi death camp at Dachau along with others, including a convicted Holocaust denier.
Earlier, the BBC had wheeled on Bernie Ecclestone, Mosley’s former ally at Formula One. The billionaire revealed: ‘We were like brothers . . . We were close enough that we didn’t ever row over a difference of opinion.’
The sports reporter prompted Ecclestone: ‘So in many ways he was a man of profound principle?’
‘Absolutely!’ agreed Bernie.
There was no time, it seemed, for the BBC to mention the ‘principles’ behind a racist leaflet published by the Union Movement in a Moss Side by-election in 1961. It warned Manchester voters that ‘tuberculosis, VD and other terrible diseases are on the rise. Coloured immigration threatens your children’s health.’
At the bottom was printed: ‘Published by Max Mosley.’
During a 2008 case in the High Court, Mosley denied that such a racist leaflet ever existed. When a seminal Mail investigation unearthed a copy ten years later, he tried to sue this newspaper for daring to ask whether he had committed perjury in the High Court and for passing the damning pamphlet to the police. This spurious case was decisively thrown out.
Even in Mosley’s obituary on the BBC Sport website this week — which found time to praise his ‘dizzying intellect’ —the Corporation still had the nerve to report that Mosley denied publishing the leaflet, despite this paper’s incontrovertible proof that he did.
Mosley’s 2008 case in the High Court was against the News of the World, which had claimed his sadomasochistic session with prostitutes speaking German and variously wearing German military garb and striped, prison camp-style pyjamas was a ‘sick Nazi orgy’. Mosley won, the judge holding that the ‘Nazi’ claim pushed it too far
While the BBC led the hagiography for Mosley, other liberal elitists echoed the message. Labour MP Chris Bryant tweeted wistfully: ‘I don’t think I have ever met a gentler soul.’
Well, this ‘gentle soul’ threatened and sued anybody who crossed him, and tried to have reports of his orgy expunged from the internet. But what did that matter, compared to the £500,000 he funnelled to Labour’s then-deputy leader Tom Watson, who shared his fanatical hatred for the Press?
Of course, the BBC and its fellow travellers have not treated Mosley with such kid gloves because they are racists. Instead, they are ‘Mosleyite’ in another sense: they, like him, want to suppress uncomfortable truths and hobble the newspapers that they despise.
Mosley’s 2008 case in the High Court was against the News of the World, which had claimed his sadomasochistic session with prostitutes speaking German and variously wearing German military garb and striped, prison camp-style pyjamas was a ‘sick Nazi orgy’. Mosley won, the judge holding that the ‘Nazi’ claim pushed it too far.
For those who thought BBC hypocrisy and double standards could not sink any lower after the Martin Bashir scandal, its coverage of the death of Max Mosley was something of an eye-opener
After that case, Mosley devoted millions to restricting press freedom. It was not just that he predictably wanted to distance himself from his shameful past: he wanted to erase its history altogether.
Ever since, the campaign for privacy laws in Britain has been galvanised and enhanced. Mosley’s hatred of a free media was also shown in his fanatical support for harsh new press regulators.
He poured money into the coffers of Hacked Off, the campaign for media regulation led by celebrities including Steve Coogan and Hugh Grant.
During the phone-hacking scandal, Mosley pressed Prime Minister David Cameron to set up the 2011 Leveson Inquiry and gave evidence at what became a show trial of the popular press.
After Leveson, Mosley stumped up millions, via a family trust, to fund Impress, Britain’s first statute-backed regulator of press freedom since Crown licensing of the printing press was abolished in 1695.
When our national newspapers rightly refused to sign up to this scheme, Mosley and his pals in Hacked Off demanded punitive new laws be passed to force them to submit to state-backed regulation — laws which would have been enforced already had Labour come to power.
Through all this, the publicly funded BBC acted as cheerleader for the crusade to tame the tabloids.
What would the UK media look like now had Mosley & Co succeeded? We would have been left with a media sanitised and neutered: state-approved and Left-leaning journalism delivering all the news that the elites considered fit for plebs.
The first time I met Mosley, when we debated regulation around the Leveson Inquiry, he told me something remarkable. He had never heard my arguments for press freedom before because, as he put it: ‘Everybody I know agrees with me.’
What a narrow-minded world he lived in, one no doubt reaffirmed by the echo chamber of Radio 4.
Ecclestone’s last thought on the BBC yesterday was to complain that his friend Max would be remembered for ‘the wrong reasons . . . all that nonsense from the News of the World’, and because ‘his dad was Oswald Mosley’.
Despite the best efforts of our state broadcaster, history should ensure that Max Mosley, the scourge of press freedom, is remembered for far more serious offences.