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|Sir Oswald Mosley, Bt., in British Union uniform.|
|Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster|
7 June 1929 – 19 May 1930
|Prime Minister||Ramsay MacDonald|
|Preceded by||Ronald John McNeill|
|Succeeded by||Clement Attlee|
|Member of Parliament
21 December 1926 – 27 October 1931
|Preceded by||John Davison|
|Succeeded by||Roy Wise|
|Member of Parliament
14 December 1918 – 29 October 1924
|Preceded by||Harry Mallaby-Deeley|
|Succeeded by||Sir Isidore Salmon|
|Born||Oswald Ernald Mosley
16 November 1896
Mayfair, London, England
|Died||3 December 1980
|Political party||Conservative (1918–1922)
Labour / I.L.P (1924–1931)
New Party (1931–1932)
British Union (1932–1940)
Union Movement (1948–1973)
National Party of Europe (1962–1980)
|Spouse(s)||Lady Cynthia Mosley (1920–1933)
Diana Mitford (1936–1980)
|Children||Vivien Mosley (deceased)
(Oswald) Alexander Mosley
|Alma mater||• Winchester
|Service/branch|| British Army
• 16th The Queen's Lancers
• Royal Flying Corps
|Years of service||1914–1918|
|Battles/wars||World War I
• Second Battle of Ypres
• Battle of Loos
|Awards|| Victory Medal
British War Medal
Sir Oswald Ernald Mosley, 6th Baronet[n 1] pron.: // (16 November 1896 – 3 December 1980) was an English politician, known principally as the founder of the British Union of Fascists. He was a Member of Parliament for Harrow from 1918 to 1924, for Smethwick from 1926 to 1931 and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in the Labour Government of 1929–1931, a position he resigned due to his disagreement with the Labour Government's unemployment policies. He then formed the New Party which merged with the British Union of Fascists (which included the Blackshirts) in 1932. Although relatively well funded, Mosley often overemphasized intellectual fine points that appealed to few voters, opposed free trade and associated closely with Nazi Germany.
Family and early life
||This article may be confusing or unclear to readers. (December 2012)|
Mosley was the eldest of three sons of Sir Oswald Mosley (5th Baronet) (1873–1928) and Katharine Maud Edwards-Heathcote (1874–1950)[n 2] His branch of the Mosley family was the established Anglo-Irish family at its most prosperous who were landowners in Staffordshire seated at destroyed Rolleston Hall by Burton-upon-Trent. Reflecting a senior aristocratic Georgian intermarriage, his father was a third cousin to the Earl of Strathmore, father of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon who served alongside King George VI as Queen (of the United Kingdom) and later as HM The Queen Mother.
Mosley was born on 16 November 1896 at 47, Hill Street, Mayfair, Westminster. After his parents separated he was brought up by his mother, who went to live at Betton Hall near Market Drayton, and his paternal grandfather, Sir Oswald Mosley, 4th Baronet. Within the family and among intimate friends, he was always called "Tom". He lived for many years at Apedale Hall in the post town of Newcastle-under-Lyme also in Staffordshire.
On 11 May 1920 he married Lady Cynthia Curzon (known as 'Cimmie'), (1898–1933), second daughter of George Curzon, Lord Curzon of Kedleston, (1859–1925), Viceroy of India, 1899–1905, Foreign Secretary, 1919–1924, and Lord Curzon's first wife, the U.S. mercantile heiress, the former Mary Victoria Leiter.
Lord Curzon had to be persuaded that Mosley was a suitable husband, as he suspected Mosley was largely motivated by social advancement in Conservative Party politics and her inheritance. The 1920 wedding took place in the Chapel Royal in St James's Palace in London — arguably the social event of the year. The hundreds of guests included European royalty such as King George V and Queen Mary; and Leopold III and Astrid of Sweden, future King and Queen of Belgium.
He had three children by Cynthia:
- Vivien Mosley (1921–2002), who married on 15 January 1949 Desmond Francis Forbes Adam (1926–58), educated at Eton College and at King's College, University of Cambridge, by whom she had two daughters
- Nicholas Mosley (later 7th Baronet of Ancoats; born 1923), a successful novelist who wrote a biography of his father and edited his memoirs for publication; and
- Michael Mosley (born 1932), unmarried and without issue.
During this marriage he had an extended affair with his wife's younger sister Lady Alexandra Metcalfe, and with their stepmother, Grace Curzon, Marchioness Curzon of Kedleston, the U.S.-born second wife and widow of Lord Curzon of Kedleston. He succeeded to the Baronetcy of Ancoats on his father's death in 1928, which entitles the current holder to the prefix style Sir.
Cynthia died of peritonitis in 1933, after which Mosley married his mistress Diana Guinness, née Mitford (1910–2003). They married in secret in Germany on 6 October 1936 in the Berlin home of Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda Joseph Goebbels. Adolf Hitler was one of the guests.
By Diana, he had two sons:
- Oswald Alexander Mosley (born 1938), father of Louis Mosley (born 1983); and
- Max Mosley (born 1940), who was president of the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) for 16 years.
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Mosley spent large amounts of his private fortune on the British Union of Fascists (BUF) and tried to establish it on a firm financial footing by means including an attempt to negotiate, through Diana, with Adolf Hitler for permission to broadcast commercial radio to Britain from Germany. Mosley reportedly struck a deal in 1937 with Francis Beaumont, heir to the Seigneur of Sark, to set up a privately owned radio station on Sark.
He was educated at West Downs School and Winchester College. In January 1914 he entered the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst but was expelled in June for a "riotous act of retaliation" against a fellow student. During the First World War he was commissioned in the 16th The Queen's Lancers and fought on the Western Front. He transferred to the Royal Flying Corps as an observer but while demonstrating in front of his mother and sister he crashed, which left him with a permanent limp. He returned to the trenches before the injury was fully healed and, at the Battle of Loos, he passed out at his post from the pain. He spent the remainder of the war at desk jobs in the Ministry of Munitions and in the Foreign Office.
Member of Parliament
By the end of World War I Mosley decided to go into politics as a Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) at 21 years of age — due to the War leading to no university or practical experience — he had not fully developed his own politics. He was driven by, and in Parliament spoke of, a passionate conviction to avoid any future war and this seemingly motivated his career. Largely because of his family background and war service, local Conservative and Labour Associations preferred Mosley in several constituencies — a vacancy near the family estates seemed to be the best prospect.
Unexpectedly, he was selected for Harrow first. In the general election of 1918 he faced no serious opposition and was elected easily. He was the youngest member of the House of Commons to take his seat (Joseph Sweeney, an abstentionist Sinn Féin MP was younger). He soon distinguished himself as an orator and political player, one marked by extreme self-confidence — he made a point of speaking in the House of Commons without notes.
Crossing the floor
Mosley was at this time falling out with the Conservatives over Irish policy, objecting to the use of the Black and Tans to suppress the Irish population. Eventually he crossed the floor to sit as an Independent MP on the opposition side of the House of Commons. Having built up a following in his constituency, he retained it against a Conservative challenge in the 1922 and 1923 general elections.
The Liberal Westminster Gazette wrote that he was "the most polished literary speaker in the Commons, words flow from him in graceful epigrammatic phrases that have a sting in them for the government and the conservatives. To listen to him is an education in the English language, also in the art of delicate but deadly repartee. He has human sympathies, courage and brains." By 1924 he was growing increasingly attracted to the Labour Party, which had just formed a government, and in March he joined. He immediately joined the Independent Labour Party (ILP) as well and allied himself with the left.
When the government fell in October, Mosley had to choose a new seat as he believed that Harrow would not re-elect him as a Labour candidate. He therefore decided to oppose Neville Chamberlain in Birmingham Ladywood. An energetic campaign led to a knife-edge result — Mosley was defeated by 77 votes. His period outside Parliament was used to develop a new economic policy for the ILP, which eventually were known as the Birmingham Proposals; they continued to form the basis of Mosley's economics until the end of his political career.
In 1926, the Labour-held seat of Smethwick fell vacant and Mosley returned to Parliament after winning the resulting by-election on 21 December. Mosley felt the campaign was dominated by Conservative attacks on him for being too rich and claims he was covering up his wealth.
Mosley and his wife Cynthia were committed Fabians in the 1920s and at the start of the 1930s. Mosley appears in a list of names of Fabians from Fabian News and Fabian Society Annual Report 1929–31. He was Kingsway Hall lecturer in 1924 and Livingstone Hall lecturer in 1931.
Mosley then made a bold bid for political advancement within the Labour Party. He was close to Ramsay MacDonald and hoped for one of the great offices of state, but when Labour won the 1929 general election he was appointed only to the post of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (de facto Minister without Portfolio, outside the Cabinet). He was given responsibility for solving the unemployment problem but found that his radical proposals were blocked either by his superior James Henry Thomas or by the Cabinet.
Mosley was always impatient and eventually put forward a whole scheme in the 'Mosley Memorandum' to find it rejected by the Cabinet — he then resigned his ministry in May 1930. At the time, the weekly Liberal-leaning paper The Nation described his move: "The resignation of Sir Oswald Mosley is an event of capital importance in domestic politics... We feel that Sir Oswald has acted rightly—as he has certainly acted courageously—in declining to share any longer in the responsibility for inertia." He attempted to persuade the Labour Party Conference to accept the Memorandum in October but was defeated again. The memorandum called for high tariffs to protect British industries from international finance, for state nationalisation of main industries and a programme of public works to solve unemployment.
Dissatisfied with the Labour Party, Mosley quickly founded the New Party. Its early parliamentary contests, in the 1931 Ashton-under-Lyne by-election and subsequent by-elections were arguably a spoilt effort in splitting the vote and allowing the Conservative candidate to win. Despite this, the organisation gained support among many Labour and Conservative MPs, who agreed with his corporatist economic policy—among those who agreed were Aneurin Bevan and Harold Macmillan. It also gained the endorsement of the Daily Mail newspaper, headed at the time by Harold Harmsworth (later created 1st Viscount Rothermere).
The New Party increasingly inclined to fascist policies but Mosley was denied the opportunity to get his party established when during the Great Depression the 1931 Election was suddenly called — its candidates, including Mosley, lost their existing seats and won none. As the New Party gradually became more radical and authoritarian and critics of fascists in the Spanish Civil War emerged in the press, art and literature, many previous supporters defected from it. Shortly after the election, he was described by the Manchester Guardian:
When Sir Oswald Mosley sat down after his Free Trade Hall speech in Manchester and the audience, stirred as an audience rarely is, rose and swept a storm of applause towards the platform—who could doubt that here was one of those root-and-branch men who have been thrown up from time to time in the religious, political and business story of England. First that gripping audience is arrested[n 3], then stirred and finally, as we have said, swept off its feet by a tornado of peroration yelled at the defiant high pitch of a tremendous voice.
After his failure in 1931 Mosley went on a study tour of the 'new movements' of Italy's Benito Mussolini and other fascists, and returned convinced that it was the way forward for Britain. He was determined to unite the existing fascist movements and created the British Union of Fascists (BUF) in 1932. The BUF was protectionist, strongly anti-communist, and nationalistic to the point of advocating authoritarianism. It claimed membership as high as 50,000, and had the Daily Mail and Daily Mirror among its earliest (though short-lived) supporters. The Mirror piece was a guest article by Daily Mail owner Viscount Rothermere and an apparent one-off; despite these briefly warm words for the BUF, the paper was so vitriolic in its condemnation of European fascism that Nazi Germany added the paper's directors to a hit-list in the event of successful Operation Sea Lion. The Mail continued to support the BUF until the Olympia rally in June 1934.
Mosley had found problems with disruption of New Party meetings, and instituted a corps of black-uniformed paramilitary stewards, nicknamed blackshirts. The party was frequently involved in violent confrontations, particularly with Communist and Jewish groups and especially in London. At a large Mosley rally at Olympia on 7 June 1934 mass brawling broke out when hecklers were removed by blackshirts, resulting in bad publicity. This and the Night of the Long Knives in Germany led to the loss of most of the BUF's mass support. The party was unable to fight the 1935 general election.
In October 1936 Mosley and the BUF attempted to march through an area with a high proportion of Jewish residents, and violence resulted between local and nationally organised protesters trying to block the march and police trying to force it through, since called the Battle of Cable Street. At length Sir Philip Game the Police Commissioner disallowed the march from going ahead and the BUF abandoned it.
Mosley continued to organise marches policed by the blackshirts, and the government was sufficiently concerned to pass the Public Order Act 1936, which, amongst other things, banned political uniforms and quasi-military style organisations and came into effect on 1 January 1937. In the London County Council elections in 1937 the BUF stood in three wards in East London (some former New Party seats), its strongest areas, polling up to a quarter of the vote and Mosley made most of the blackshirt employees redundant, some of whom then defected from the party with William Joyce. As the European situation moved towards war, the BUF began to nominate Parliamentary by-election candidates and launched campaigns on the theme of Mind Britain's Business. After the outbreak of war he led the campaign for a negotiated peace, a stance popularly acceptable but after the invasion of Norway and the commencement of aerial bombardment (see The Blitz) overall public opinion of him turned to hostility. In mid May 1940 Mosley was nearly wounded by assault.
On 23 May 1940 Mosley, who was then mostly focused on negotiated peace advocacy, was interned under Defence Regulation 18B along with most active fascists in Britain. The BUF was later that year proscribed. His wife Diana Mitford was also interned, shortly after the birth of their son Max; they lived together for most of the war in a house in the grounds of Holloway prison.
Mosley used the time to read extensively on classical civilisations. Mosley refused visits from most BUF members, but on 18 March 1943 Dudley and Norah Elam (who had been released by then) accompanied Unity Mitford to see her sister Diana. Mosley agreed to be present because he mistakenly believed Diana and Unity's mother Lady Redesdale was accompanying Unity.
The Mosleys were released in November 1943, when Mosley was suffering with phlebitis, and spent the rest of the war under house arrest. On his release from prison he stayed with his sister-in-law Pamela Mitford, followed shortly by a stay at the Shaven Crown Hotel in Shipton-under-Wychwood. He then purchased Crux Easton, near Newbury, with Diana. He and his wife were the subject of much media attention. The war ended what remained of his political reputation.
After the war Mosley was contacted by his former supporters and persuaded to rejoin active politics. He formed the Union Movement that called for a single nation-state to cover the continent of Europe (known as Europe a Nation) and later attempted to launch a National Party of Europe to this end. The Union Movement's meetings were often physically disrupted, as Mosley's meetings had been before the war, and largely by the same opponents. This led to Mosley's decision, in 1951, to leave Britain and live in Ireland. He later moved to Paris. Of his decision to leave, he said, "You don't clear up a dungheap from underneath it."
Shortly after the 1958 Notting Hill race riots, Mosley briefly returned to Britain in order to stand in the 1959 general election at Kensington North. Mosley led his campaign stridently on an anti-immigration platform, calling for forced repatriation of Caribbean immigrants as well as a prohibition upon mixed marriages. Mosley's final share of the vote was only 8.1%.
In 1961 he took part in a debate at University College London about Commonwealth immigration, seconded by a young David Irving. He returned to politics one last time, contesting the 1966 general election at Shoreditch and Finsbury, and receiving only 4.6% of the vote. After this, Mosley retired and moved back to France, where he wrote his autobiography, My Life (1968).
In 1977, by which time he was suffering from Parkinson's disease, he was nominated as a candidate for Rector of the University of Glasgow in which election he polled over 100 votes but finished bottom of the poll.
Death and legacy
In popular culture
- Aldous Huxley's Point Counter Point features Everard Webley, a similar character to 1920s Mosley (published before Mosley left the Labour Party)
- "Sir Roderick Spode"[n 4] in P.G. Wodehouse's novels parodies Mosley.
Mosley's attempts to promote his views after the war resulted in continued critical reaction:
- Widespread approbative 1980 newspaper obituaries of Mosley were lampooned by the satirical television programme Not The Nine O'Clock News in the song "Baronet Oswald Ernald Mosley" by Peter Brewis, which featured Mel Smith, Pamela Stephenson and Griff Rhys Jones all dressed as Nazi Skinheads, singing his eulogy, interweaving some of the more positive remarks of newspapers from all sides of the political spectrum, including The Times and The Guardian.
- A part-fictionalized dramatization of Mosley, the BUF, and Battle of Cable Street appears in the BBC Wales-produced BBC revival of Upstairs, Downstairs (2010) — set in 1936.
- The original version of the Elvis Costello song "Less Than Zero" is an attack on Mosley and his politics, but US listeners assumed that the "Mr Oswald" referred to was assassin Lee Harvey Oswald — so Costello obligingly wrote an alternative lyric to refer to Kennedy's assassin.:74,84
In alternative history film and literature
- Works of Harry Turtledove:
- In the Southern Victory Series, Mosley and Winston Churchill lead a fascist Britain after the Allies lose the First World War and Britain therefore loses to Germany in one stroke the 1918 British Empire.
- The Colonization trilogy envisages racist and anti-religious legislation spearheaded by MP Mosley such as successfully persuading Parliament to pass legislation that revokes the citizenship of all Jews.
- In the Presence of Mine Enemies empowers Mosley as British leader in a scenario where Nazi Germany won World War II.
- In the 1966 film It Happened Here, which depicts a Nazi-occupied Britain in the mid-1940s, Mosley is never mentioned by name, but a British fascist leader strongly resembling Mosley is shown in faux documentary footage from the 1930s and Mosley's portrait can be seen alongside Hitler's in government offices. The fictional "Immediate Action Organisation" in the film also seems to be inspired by Mosley's British Union of Fascists, with members referred to as "blackshirts" and the symbol of the BUF appearing on their uniforms.
- In Guy Walters's The Leader, Mosley has taken power as "The Leader" of Great Britain in 1937. King Edward VIII is still on the throne after his marriage and Winston Churchill is a prisoner on the Isle of Man, and Prime Minister Mosley is conspiring with Adolf Hitler about the fate of Britain's Jewish population.
- In Philip Roth's The Plot Against America, a secret pact between Charles Lindbergh who has become President of the United States and Hitler includes an agreement to impose Mosley as the ruler of a German-occupied Britain with America's blessing after a ruse in which Lindbergh convinces Churchill to negotiate peace with Hitler, which deliberately fails — mirroring the dishonesty and repudiation of key Hitler-signed treaties, the Munich Conference Accord and Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact.
- In Kim Newman's The Bloody Red Baron, Mosley is shot down and killed in 1918 by Erich von Stalhein (from the Biggles series by W. E. Johns) and a character later comments that "a career has been ended before it was begun."
- In C. J. Sansom's Dominion, World War II ends in June 1940 when the British government, under the leadership of the Prime Minister Lord Halifax, signs a (fictional) peace treaty with Nazi Germany in Berlin. In November 1952, Mosley was serving as Home Secretary in the cabinet of Lord Beaverbrook who led a coalition government which consisted of the pro-Treaty factions of the Conservatives and Labour as well as the BUF.
- Mosley becomes Prime Minister after the Martian invasion of 1938 is defeated in Superman: War of the Worlds.
Notes and references
- A baronetcy is the lowest form of peerage that never entitles its present holder to a seat in the House of Lords. In this case (not forming part of the main title) follows a territorial designation: "of Ancoats in the county of Lancashire"
- Katharaine was the second child of Captain Justinian Edwards-Heathcote of Market Drayton, Shropshire.
- Arrested in the sense of stunned or gripped
- See spode, a generally expensive type of Staffordshire pottery
- Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Volume 39. Oxford University Press. 2004. p. 469.Article by Maurice Skidelsky.
- General Register Office Index of Births in England and Wales for October, November and December 1896 (Registration district: St George, Hanover Square, Middlesex), p. 399
- Jones, Nigel (September 2004). Mosley. Haus Publishing. p. 21. ISBN 1-904341-09-8.
- Amato quotes national archive document HO 283/11, which states that among the property seized following Mosley's arrest by the British government in 1940 was correspondence between Mosley and Beaumont dating from 1937. Amato, Joseph Anthony (2002). Rethinking home: a case for writing local history. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 278–79. ISBN 978-0-520-23293-8. 9780520232938.
- Barnes, James J.; Patience P. Barnes (2005). Nazis in pre-war London, 1930–1939: the fate and role of German party members and British sympathizers. Brighton: Sussex Academic Press. ISBN 978-1-84519-053-8. 9781845190538.
- Philip Rees. Biographical Dictionary of the Extreme Right Since 1890. University Press. Cambridge.
- The London Gazette: . 28 January 1919. Retrieved 2012-05-31.
- Mosley, Oswald (1968). My Life. London. p. 166.
- Mosley, Diana (1977). A Life of Contrasts. Hamish Hamilton.
- Sir Oswald Mosley, "My Life", Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1968, p. 190.
- "Daily Mail". British Newspapers Online.
- Cameron, James (1979). Yesterday's Witness. British Broadcasting Corporation, p. 52.
- Chris Horrie, Revealed: the fascist past of the Daily Mirror, The Independent, 11 November 2003
- "Darkness in the mirror". Tribune. 20 July 2010.
- World fascism:a historical encyclopedia, Volume 1 (Google eBook) Cyprian Blamires pages 288 and 435
- Mark Gould (22 February 2009). "Last reunion for war heroes who came home to fight the fascists". The Independent.
- The Times. 20 May 1940. p. 3: 'Disturbances at Fascist Meeting'.
- The Times. 1 July 1940. p. 2: 'Lady Mosley detained'.
- McPherson, Angela; McPherson, Susan (2011). Mosley's Old Suffragette – A Biography of Norah Elam. ISBN 978-1-4466-9967-6.
- Rules of the Game, Beyond the Pale by Nicholas Mosley p503
- Barberis, Peter; McHugh, John; Tyldesley, Mike (2005). Encyclopedia of British and Irish Political Organizations. London: Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 194. ISBN 9780826458148. Retrieved 1 May 2013.
- Mosley Packs Them In, Pi Newspaper, February 2, 1961
- Atkin, Nicholas (2009). Themes in modern European history, 1890–1945. Taylor & Francis. p. 260. ISBN 0-415-39145-8.
- "'Worst' historical Britons list". BBC News. 2005-12-27. Retrieved 2010-06-21.
- Not The Nine O'Clock News: "Baronet Oswald Ernald Mosley", Some of the Corpses are Amusing
- Thomson, Graeme (2004). Complicated Shadows: The Life and Music of Elvis Costello. New York: Canongate. ISBN 978-1-84195-796-8.
- Dorril, Stephen.Blackshirt: Sir Oswald Mosley and British Fascism, Viking Publishing (2006), ISBN 0-670-86999-6
- Farndale, Nigel. Haw-Haw: The Tragedy of William and Margaret Joyce, Macmillan (2005), ISBN 9780333989920
- Pugh, Martin.Hurrah for the Blackshirts!': Fascists and Fascism in Britain between the Wars, Random House (2005), ISBN 0-224-06439-8
- Skidelsky, Robert. Oswald Mosley, Holt, Rinehart and Winston (1975), ISBN 9780030865800
- Worley, Matthew. Oswald Mosley and the New Party, Palgrave Macmillan (2010), ISBN 978-0-230-20697-7
- Primary sources
- Mosley, Oswald. My Life, Arlington House (1968), ISBN 9780870001604
- Mosley, Nicholas. Rules of the Game: Sir Oswald and Lady Cynthia Mosley, 1896–1933 Secker & Warburg (1982), ISBN 9780436288494
- Mosley, Nicholas. Beyond the Pale: Sir Oswald Mosley and family, 1933–1980 Secker & Warburg (1983), ISBN 9780436288524
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Oswald Mosley|
|Wikisource has original works written by or about:
- Friends of Oswald Mosley, containing archives of his speeches and books
- Portraits at the National Portrait Gallery
- Mosley and the BUF: Exploring 20th Century London
- "The Problem of Mosley: Why a Fascist Failed" by Robert Skidelsky; Encounter (1969) Vol. 33, #192, pp. 77–88
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Oswald Mosley
- Metropolitan Police records of the BUF incident at Olympia, 1934 at the British National Archives
- BBC report on MI5 surveillance of Mosley
- Oswald Mosley on Balder Ex-Libris
- Oswald Mosley at the Notable Names Database
- Oswald Mosley at the Internet Movie Database
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
|Member of Parliament for Harrow
|Member of Parliament for Smethwick
The Lord Cushendun
|Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
|Baronetage of Great Britain|
Sir Oswald Mosley, 5th Baronet