Patriotic Alternative's obsession with Oswald Mosley
Can you admire Mosley without being antisemitic?
Hello to all our new subscribers who joined after we wrote about Anthony Allen, the first elected official in Laurence Fox’s Reclaim Party. If you missed his interview with Scout, in which he claimed Muslims are trying to “take over” this country, check it out here. This week, Reclaim put up Martin Daubney – the former editor of Loaded magazine – in the North Shropshire by-election. He didn’t nail it. Daubney got 375 votes, or one percent of the ballot.
Today’s article looks at Patriotic Alternative, or PA for short. This group is one of the biggest forces in the British far-right, and tries hard to tone down the nastier elements in its ranks. PA uses Oswald Mosley as a figurehead, and we wanted to explore what that means. Can you really claim that your group isn’t antisemitic if you idolise the man who got married in the house of Joseph Goebbels and had Adolf Hitler as his guest of honour?
Patriotic Alternative, the far-right activist group, has a thing for Sir Oswald Mosley.
They worship the fascist campaigner. Mark Collett, Patriotic Alternative’s leader, has praised Mosley for being “very bold”. Laura Tyrie, the deputy leader, calls Mosley her “greatest national idol”. Patriotic Alternative’s office address is even registered on Mosley Street in Manchester (named after one of Oswald’s ancestors), although Collett and Tyrie live in Leeds.
Tyrie – who goes by Laura Towler – likes Mosley so much that she has made memes of him, cutting out pictures of the fascist agitator in his Blackshirt uniform, pasting him against a Union Jack, and splashing over it one of his anodyne quotes about the virtues of Englishness. She has jumped on the Mosley bandwagon that remains active in corners of the far-right internet and enjoyed a boost from his portrayal as a handsome villain who shags around in Peaky Blinders.
In pro-Mosley groups on Telegram – the secure messaging app – memes appear depicting him as a dashing cartoon character with cool sunglasses. There are also stylised video clips that show Mosley throwing the fascist salute, soundtracked by trendy synthwave music. His books and speeches are shared with loving tributes.
Patriotic Alternative – PA for short – is one of the most alarming far-right groups to recently emerge in the UK. It claims to have around 15,000 members, although the real figure is likely in the low hundreds. According to Hope Not Hate, the antifascist campaign group, PA is significant because it has been able to attract new activists and unite disparate bands of neo-Nazis and far-right vloggers. Since it was created in 2019, PA has tried hard to present itself respectably. Not so long ago, when the leader Mark Collett was head of the British National Party’s youth wing, he would openly praise Hitler and welcome AIDS “because blacks, drug users and gays have it”. Now when Collett wants to positively reference Mein Kampf, as he did in a livestream this summer, he calls it “that book”, and says things like: “So many things that were discussed in it were absolutely relevant to today.”
PA calls itself a “family-focused organisation” that “gives young nationalists a positive direction in life”. They hold camping trips in the Peak District, harvest festival get-togethers, and run fitness clubs to give off a veneer of healthy legitimacy. But behind the smiley photos, PA’s member groups on social media are filled with “extreme racism, Holocaust denial and open veneration of fascism”, according to observers. PA believes in the Great Replacement conspiracy theory – that white Britons are existentially threatened by non-white immigrants – and call for anyone descended from migrants to be deported.
Mosley is a small but significant part of PA’s propaganda output, and using him as a mascot reveals an enormous amount about the group. PA hopes most Brits today see Mosley as an edgy but acceptable historical figure. Their leaders call him “the greatest Englishman of the last century”, declare that he was “respectful of all peoples and cultures” and say he enjoyed widespread adulation. But not one of these claims is true. Mosley was a committed antisemite and a lackey of the Nazi party whose principal talent when it came to public engagement was losing elections.
Newspaper articles examining PA occasionally mention the group’s admiration of Mosley but ignore what this really means. It’s important to understand the implications of picking Britain’s most famous antisemite as your figurehead. PA’s leaders deny being extremists. But given that some of Mosley’s antisemitic record is detailed on his Wikipedia page, the most generous interpretation of anyone who cites him as their idol is that they are historically illiterate. The most likely interpretation is that Mosley fans know he hated Jews, and are all for it. The evidence makes this abundantly clear.
Mosley’s problem with Jews
The well-known fact that Adolf Hitler attended Mosley’s wedding to Diana Mitford as a guest of honour is surely enough to make anyone question whether the founder of the British Union of Fascists was indeed “respectful of all peoples and cultures”, as Tyrie says. The wedding was also held in the Berlin home of Joseph Goebbels in October 1936 – a year after the Nuremberg Laws were passed, excluding Jews from German citizenship and forbidding their marriage to gentiles – which might make anyone wonder about Mosley’s capacity for tolerance.
A telegram that Mosley wrote to Julius Streicher, the editor of Der Stürmer newspaper, lays bare what he thought about Jews. “I value your advice greatly in the midst of our hard struggle,” Mosley said in May 1935. “The power of Jewish corruption must be destroyed in all countries before peace and justice can be successfully achieved in Europe. Our struggle to this end is hard, but our victory is certain.”
On the eve of the Second World War, Mosley’s newspaper, Action, the official publication of the British Union of Fascists, carried articles under his byline denouncing “the jackals of Jewish finance”. “Shall Jews Drag Britain to War?” asked one of his headlines. After the war, the newspaper of the Union Movement – Mosley’s equally unsuccessful party – claimed immigration from former colonies was being coordinated by “Old Uncle Shylock” who also masterminded the “usury racket”.
So today, when Tyrie writes that the truth about Mosley is being suppressed by “our rootless, foreign-controlled media who hate the English”, who do you think she means? What could “rootless” refer to, if not the antisemitic slur that Jews are “rootless cosmopolitans”? What could “foreign-controlled media” refer to, if not the antisemitic conspiracy theory that Jews control the media?
When Tyrie’s husband Sam Melia, a PA leader and former member of the banned terrorist organisation National Action, talks about the “problem with usury”, what does he mean, if not the antisemitic trope that Jews are in charge of global finance? Collett is even less subtle. On a livestream where he reviews a book about Mosley, he jokes about Ed Miliband being unable to eat a bacon sandwich because of his faith, and discusses the Olympics being a “ZOG and pony show”, referring to the “Zionist-Occupied Government” conspiracy theory that believes Jews secretly control Western states.
Mosley was a Nazi lackey
PA’s leaders like to present Mosley as a true patriot. Tyrie describes him as a man who wanted “real, decisive action for the people of England”. A member of one of PA’s Telegram groups said he was “the best OG British Nationalist”. This ignores how Mosley was a willing stooge of foreign powers. PA’s concerns about the pernicious effects of “international finance” would be better placed examining the Nazi funding of Mosley’s fascist campaigns.
“Mosley needs money,” Goebbels wrote in his diary in June 1935. “Has already had £2,000… £100,000 necessary. £60,000 promised. Must submit to Führer.” Mosley’s British Union of Fascists group changed its uniform to match the SS, and adopted the Nazi song, Horst Wessel Lied, for their own cat-strangling anthem.
In Action and Blackshirt, two of the BUF’s official publications, Mosley repeated Goebbels’s propaganda and ran adverts for Nazi books and newspapers. Mosley was so faithful to his Nazi paymasters that an MI5 assessment of his publications wrote that it was hard to believe “that one is reading a British newspaper and not some organ of the German press”. It went on: “Only in the German press do we find this same slavish adulation of the German Government and completely uncritical approval of every act of the German Führer.”
When the news broke last month that an Oxford college was in trouble for accepting donations from the Mosley family, Tyrie railed against critics of her idol. She said:
“You’re not even fit to say his name. Mosley is one of the most lied about Britons ever to have lived. The majority of British people will only know of the fictionalised Mosley from Peaky Blinders, or they’ll have read about him in articles like this which are full of lies. If people were ever allowed to find out the truth about him, you wouldn’t like the response.”
The truth about Mosley is that he was a Nazi money grubber. As war in Europe loomed, Action newspaper wrote that it was the duty of every Englishman to “support the forces of light, the forces of the new world, against the dark forces of Jewish capitalism”. That’s not patriotism – it’s sedition.
Mosley was a failure
PA’s senior figures tell their members that Mosley was a popular figure in his lifetime. The Mosley memes and pictures and videos all hark back to a time when it felt like the British far-right had momentum, and it was acceptable to be antisemitic in public. By aligning itself to Mosley, PA is attempting to show that it is his successor and that the uniforms, the crowds, and the victory are all within reach.
But the British public was thoroughly apathetic towards Mosley. He began his political career as a Tory MP, then moved to Labour before emerging as a fascist in charge of his own party in 1932. From that point on, he failed every election he contested for 34 years.
A glimpse at his dismal electoral record shows just how unpopular Mosley was. In the London council election of 1937, Mosley’s party only took 15,000 votes out of 910,000 cast. Two by-elections in 1940, in Silvertown in East London and North East Leeds, saw Mosley’s candidates earn just hundreds of votes out of the tens of thousands cast. In the 1959 election, in which Mosley stood as MP for Kensington North, he won a paltry eight percent of the vote, a failure that according to one observer reduced his followers to floods of tears. His final loss was in the 1966 election, where he took 4.6 percent of the vote in the Shoreditch and Finsbury constituency, after which he retired. “In everything I have recommended to the British people for many years past I have been defeated and frustrated,” Mosley said. “And therefore I have been a failure.”
PA ignores all of this, and tries to portray Mosley as a hero of the masses. “Mosley was loved by the public back then”, Tyrie said on a PA podcast, saying he was only thwarted by “the banks, the financiers”. Her husband Melia claimed: “We saw with Mosley, he brought about a feeling with the populus that leaders nowadays couldn't possibly hope to bring about.” If Mosley ever enjoyed widespread support, it would have been reflected in three decades of elections.
The truth is that he was an electoral irrelevance and PA is trying to gloss over Mosley’s own wasted life with memes to make him look cool, and livestreams to reframe him as a success. There is some comfort in this. Mosley’s own strategy failed for him, despite three decades of trying. By aligning itself with one of Britain’s greatest political losers, PA is doomed to the same fate.