The Devil, as we all know, is a gentleman. Fatally attractive, he is clever and intelligent, possesses a boisterous, if rather coarse, sense of humor, and is such good company that you scarcely catch a glimpse of the horns beneath his curly locks. He and his minions take many shapes—Milton identified five of them taking part in the Infernal Debate in Paradise Lost—and each spreads his own special virus of evil with which he tries to infect human souls.
Sir Oswald Mosley bore such a marked resemblance when he was a young man to Mephistopheles that the Devil must have determined to infect him with the particular sin that brought about his own downfall. Lucifer fell through pride; and though that word has now a slightly old-fashioned ring and is seldom used about people today, the word egoism, which has replaced it, is certainly one of the sins that beset Mosely. His egoism is gargantuan. To describe it as a cancer would be to underestimate its size and malignancy. It is like the body in the Ionesco play which grows so enormous that it finally expels the owner of the apartment and brings everything down in ruin. He is never wrong, has never been wrong—over a detail here perhaps, or in making an underestimate of someone else’s stupidity, duplicity, or treachery occasionally—but throughout all the events in public life, he and he alone has consistently seen what was the right thing to do.
Whatever else Sir Oswald Mosley may be, he is not a violet and he does not shrink from any of his former actions or beliefs. Other men were wrong; other men betrayed by their excesses or their folly the causes he fought for. But he remains in his own view the one man who might have rescued the world from the enormous crises of the years between the wars and saved it from the disaster of the Second World War.
What truth is there in this myth which Mosley has been at such pains to propagate, and why do so many English political commentators and historians from left as well as right nod sagaciously at the mention of his name and declare that he was potentially the savior of his country and his times? They do so partly because the British still grieve over their share of the guilt for the Second World War—over their supine conduct in the face of fascism in the Thirties and their inability in common with all other European countries to eradicate the vast unemployment which rotted parliamentary democracy and drove so many into political groups dedicated to violence and revolution. To the British the years between the wars are years of extraordinary cultural achievement and fascination: but they are also a time of political shame in which the one politician of genius, Lloyd George, disqualified himself from office, in which none of the three political parties emerges with credit, and when good intentions destroyed each …