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Oswald Mosley as Entrepreneur

When money for Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists began to dry up in the late 1930s, he turned to novel schemes for fund-raising. James and Patience Barnes recount the intriguing story.

The flag of the British Union of FascistsIf the name of Sir Oswald Mosley means anything today, it is in connection with his leadership of the British Union of Fascists during the 1930s. If Mosley had had his way, he might also have earned a more enviable reputation and a considerable fortune in the realm of commercial radio. Why he embarked on this latter venture is the subject of this article.

Born in 1896, Mosley was just old enough to serve in the First World War, which he did with distinction. This in turn helped to pave the way for a seat in Parliament at the end of 1918. For the next dozen years he served in the House of Commons, first as a Conservative and later as a Labour member.

In 1931 he broke with Labour to found his own New Party, but this proved politically disastrous, and he never succeeded in returning to Parliament again. Instead he founded, in the autumn of 1932, a para-military organisation, the British Union of Fascists, with the expectation that it would eventually become a powerful political force both inside and outside Parliament.

By 1936 the fortunes of the BUF began to flag. Membership was down, and left-wing opposition growing. This was especially apparent in October of that year, when the BUF Blackshirts tried to march through the East End of London, but were thwarted by makeshift barricades and jeering crowds. At the insistence of the police, Mosley withdrew his forces, leaving the impression that he had lost the so-called 'battle of Cable Street'.

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