Max Mosley’s past and present: why the public has a right to know

Image courtesy of Channel 4 News

Max Mosley’s past and present: why the public has a right to know

Nobody can choose their parents. And this is certainly the case with Max Mosley, the former president of Formula One racing and successful media victim campaigner. It is a severe cross to bear that his father, Sir Oswald Mosley, was the virulently antisemitic leader of Britain’s Black Shirt, fascist movement who was detained as a national security risk during the early years of World War II. Adolf Hitler attended the secret wedding of Max Mosley’s parents that was hosted in the home of Joseph Goebbels.

Mosley has also experienced that which any human being should never have to live through – the death of his talented adult son and PhD graduate, Alexander, from addiction illness. However much I may object to Mosley’s use of his wealth to campaign for legislation, case law and regulation of the UK’s press, my sympathy in this regard, will always be extended.

What could be described as a non-mainstream or unusual sexual proclivity, sadomasochism is also something that, in my opinion, should be a private matter and not subject to moral disapproval, ridicule or shame – particularly if no crimes are committed, and nobody is subjected to any form of harassment.

When Mr Justice Eady decided the expensive S&M orgy Mosley had financed did not have a Nazi-inspired theme in 2008, he ruled that this aspect of his private life was entitled to be protected by the developing media respect to the right of privacy.

Unfortunately for Mosley, his status as a public figure carries substantial baggage. This is not only the notoriety of his birth parents and indeed his private S&M peccadillo – somewhat iconised by the court ruling and his subsequent actions at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. There he attempted to win a judgment forcing newspapers to pre-warn any public figures of their intention to publish a story about them.

This all directly centres on his course of action as an adult and his political intervention in human society. The public interest here challenges so many aspects of his identity and presence in public life in a multiplicity of dimensions.

What anybody does as a young adult will always be relevant to who they are in later life if it is as awful and repugnant as being the legal publisher of a leaflet supporting a candidate for his father Sir Oswald Mosley’s Union Movement in a 1961 by-election.

This recently discovered leaflet, as reproduced in the media, issued the warning: “Tuberculosis, VD and other terrible diseases like leprosy are on the increase. Coloured immigration threatens your children’s health.”

Anything Mosley has said about this leaflet and his involvement in the Union Movement led by his father during the late 1950s and early 1960s will be a matter of public interest. The later man will always be judged on how he has represented what he did and what he was accused of doing, and, more particularly, the evidence of what he was doing.

How has he apologised and explained his behaviour? How does it relate to the factual evidence? How did he respond to questions about this leaflet when he was giving evidence under oath during his successful High Court privacy action against the News of the World in 2008?

That will be a matter of public interest par excellence if I may morph the rather exotic European legal term given to the higher echelon of public figures engaged in human rights litigation.

Digging up the past

This 1961 election document came to light as a result of investigative journalism by the Daily Mail and was reported on in great detail by Channel 4 News. How Mosley dealt with the issues arising during his interview with Channel 4 news anchor Cathy Newman is another matter of great public interest.

As is the decision by the Labour party to end receiving any donations from him.

Labour and Tom Watson will take no more donations from Max Mosley. EPA-EFE/Neil Hall

Mosley had already begun legal moves under the Data Protection Act to prevent newspapers from referring to the sex party reported in the News Of The World which prompted the 2008 court case. He also wants to erase references to the fact that his family trust is the main source bankrolling the state-backed press regulator IMPRESS, that not one major news publisher wants anything to do with.

His past connection with the xenophobic Union movement clearly haunts his present. Its participation in British elections exploited and sowed the winds of interracial conflict. It was associated with violence and it caused fear and anxiety for so many non-white British people.

Mosley is powerful because he inherited the substantial wealth of the Mosley dynasty that his father used so malignantly. There is now intense public interest in knowing how Mosley has been using this financial power to campaign for restrictions and controls on media publication.

Funding activism

What could Mosley have hoped to gain from donating half a million pounds to Labour’s Watson? Which other organisations have been receiving the advantage of his generous funding?

One of the criticisms of the media privacy law that Mosley has invested so much of his family’s millions in developing is that it gives powerful people the chance to hire the best lawyers expert in “reputation management”. It’s a law that primarily controls truth past and present by legally banning publication through prior restraint.

Mosley has complained that the views he held and actions he was responsible for more than 50 years ago are irrelevant. The Daily Mail disagrees and thinks we should know about his 1962 road trip in his father’s luxurious car to Dachau and an international conference in Vienna attended by former Nazis.

There will continue to be many more public interest questions about Mosley’s past and present – and indeed the people who support him and benefit from his wealth and generosity.