On the streets and in people's minds, in modern Britain, a ghost is rising, one we haven't seen stirring with such menace for nigh on eighty years. The ghost of Oswald Mosley is walking amongst us in Britain, and like any good ghost story, it should send a chill down our collective spine.
Our beloved right wing press, alongside 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 thirties, Mosley's racist rhetoric brought swathes of public support for the British Union of Fascists (BUF), support that only dropped when violence became associated with the BUF. Racism, however, remained popular in the UK, with Mosley continuing to stir up racial tensions after WW2. 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, and the anti-foreigner movement had a new leading light, 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. Unfortunately, we have the EDL for that. Yes their leadership officially rejects racism, but amongst their rank and file membership racism is rife. Even Tommy Robinson, former EDL leader said we should 'send the black c***s home' in a speech at a Tyneside rally.
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 immigrants 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. This is frightening, these bigoted attitudes raise the fear that the very common xenophobia and not so rare racism we see in the UK is being passed down generation to generation. All we need 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.' Such significant support for the BUF means the Mail must have supported the anti-Semitic immigration policies Mosley espoused.
Today, our media is capable of the same hatred that drove Mosley's movement, and by extension, the Mail's support. Most days, the Express, the Mail or one of the other hate rags splash headlines condemning immigrants as criminals and benefit scroungers, or Muslims as anti-British and labelling all Muslims as terrorists and Islamists.
Britain is haunted by a ghost from the past, one 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 as a society and reject such blind hatred and once again move forward as a free, accepting and tolerant nation.
Thanks to the Quiet Loner for inspiration for the title of the article.
This article was originally published in the Oxford Student, albeit after heavy (non consensual) editing.