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The Mail on Sunday - 2021-10-10

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BBC twists our history to smear decent people as stupid fascist dupes

Qatar: The Toxic World Cup

Peter Hitchens Read Peter’s blog at hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk and follow him on Twitter @clarkemicah

THE distortion of the past is getting out of control. The truth is available to only a privileged few with good memories or access to crumbling, forgotten archives. So you can say what you like. The BBC’s new Sunday evening drama Ridley Road is a perfect example of this. At first sight it looks like a harmless paddle in the past, into the lost world of suspender belts and Britishmade cars. But it is carefully designed to give viewers the impression that Britain in 1962 was menaced by a major Nazi-style movement, led by a man called Colin Jordan. It begins with the on-screen claim that ‘public support across the country is on the rise’ for Jordan’s neo-Nazis. Then the drama makes a deliberate effort to suggest that people living in the Britain of that time, who were distressed by major changes in their lives, were easy prey for Nazi recruiters from this movement. Such people are portrayed as being rather dim and also as saying that they ‘want our country back’, in what looks to me like a crude and nasty attempt to make these fascist dupes sound like Leave voters of today. As far as the makers of this series are concerned, if you’re at all conservative you’re really a Nazi. There is lots of other rubbish in this programme. But the exaggeration of Jordan’s importance is ridiculous. He was a pathetic nobody and a national figure of fun, not a potential Fuhrer. Newspapers of the time called his outfit ‘Britain’s tiny jackboot-and-swastika Nazi party’. His greatest moment of fame, portrayed but not properly explained in the programme, was a pro-Hitler demonstration in Trafalgar Square on Sunday, July 1, 1962. It attracted almost no support, but thousands of hostile counter-demonstrators. The Times of July 2, 1962, reported: ‘Throughout the meeting the speakers, Mr Dennis Pirie, deputy secretary, Mr John Tyndall, national secretary and Mr Colin Jordan, leader of the movement, were continually shouted down and pelted with pennies, tomatoes and rotten eggs, by an overwhelmingly hostile crowd of some 2,000. ‘The few people who did raise their hands in an earnest Nazi salute looked distinctly nervous.’ The Daily Mail of the same date said: ‘Police struggled to keep the angry crowd, many of them Jews, away from the speakers. Hundreds of men and women chanted “Six millions! Six millions!”, a reference to the Jews who died under the Nazis.’ It is plain from the reports that Jordan had hardly any supporters then or later. In the end, one of his fellow Nazis was quite badly beaten, before the platform party fled in vans from the angry crowd. Jordan himself got away only because a phalanx of police protected him and blocked the entrance to the Underground while he escaped. Eventually the High Court ruled that Jordan had broken the Public Order Act of 1936, by using insulting behaviour, which he undoubtedly had. By that time he was already in prison, making TV aerials, after being convicted of a ludicrous attempt to set up a private army. He had also lost his job as a teacher in a secondary modern school. Later he embarked on a comicopera marriage with the leatherclad madwoman Francoise Dior, niece of the great fashion designer. Francoise liked to wear a swastika pendant, even though this got her into difficulties with many London taxi drivers. One ripped it from her neck, and refused to ‘chauffeur a stinking Nazi’. The pair held a ‘Nordic’ wedding at their unimpressive party HQ, not far from where Grenfell Tower now stands. While a crowd outside hurled bottles and eggs at the building, Jordan and his Nazi bride mingled dribbles of their blood in a grotesque ceremony, while listening to a record of the Horst Wessel song. It was not a happy or lasting union. NOT long afterwards Francoise denounced Jordan, saying: ‘I thought I was marrying a leader and a hero but found I had married a middleclass nobody.’ You can see why. Jordan, a dough-faced nondescript, lived with his mother Bertha in a suburban road in Coventry. Nazism was not on the rise again in 1962. Jordan was not a major figure. British people, then as now, were sensible, level-headed and humorous. The law found plenty of ways of restraining Jordan and people like him. The whole basis of the BBC drama is rubbish. The blatant effort to link normal patriotic conservatives with bigots and Nazis in the public mind is low and dirty. They tell these lies because they can and they want to use drama for propaganda. If the BBC will not stop doing this with public money, they do not deserve to survive.

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