Peaky Blinders is finally returning to our screens for its sixth and final season, and per usual, the Shelby family means business. In season five, among other adversaries, Tommy and his family met the controversial British politician Sir Oswald Mosley (portrayed by Sam Claflin). Though most Peaky Blinders characters tend to be fictional, sometimes the writers weave real people from history into the story. Mosley is one such character, a real historical figure who led Britain’s anti-Semitic fascist movement during the 1930s. And thanks to the official trailer released on New Year’s Day, we know he is 100 percent returning for the series finale.
Episode one of Peaky Blinders season five was set on Oct. 29, 1929, around the time the real-life Mosley was the chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, a private estate owned by Her Majesty the Queen. He was previously the MP for Smethwick, situated on the opposite side of Birmingham from the Shelby family’s stomping ground of Small Heath. Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight told The Guardian, “Given that we ended the last series with Tommy Shelby getting elected as a Labour politician, it seemed inevitable that he would come into contact with Mosley – and interesting to consider what both men might have in common as well as what marks them apart.”
As chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Mosley was tasked with finding ways to solve the unemployment crisis caused by the Wall Street Crash, but his proposals were continuously rejected, leading him to resign. Once Mosley left the Labour party, he formed the New Party, before starting up the British Union of Fascists (BUF) in 1932, “blending his economic programme with explicit anti-Semitism.” His party gained momentum rapidly, and with his army of violent street fighters (known as the “Blackshirts”), and close ties to Hitler and Mussolini, Mosley was seen as a major threat by authorities.
On Oct. 4, 1936, riots erupted in the East End of London when the socialists, antifascists, Jews, and greater London community united to force back a parade led by Mosley and the BUF. Known today as The Battle of Cable Street, the antifascists were successful, though it did little to quash Mosley’s popularity in some circles. It was World War II that finally put an end to his plans, and he was interned in 1940, before being released in 1943 due to illness.
Following the war, Mosley unsuccessfully attempted to revive his party (soon renamed the Union Movement) and was forced into exile in France in 1951. However, he returned eight years later and stood for parliament — unsuccessfully — on two more occasions. During that time, Mosley and his Blackshirts attempted to hold another rally on July 31, 1962 at Ridley Road in Dalston, East London, where he would speak to a crowd from the back of a lorry. A large crowd of antifascists, however, gathered to protest the meeting and managed to knock Mosley to the ground. The police closed the meeting within the first three minutes and made 54 arrests, one which was Sir Oswald’s son Max (who eventually went on to become the president of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, the governing body for Formula One). These events were recently depicted in the BBC One series Ridley Road, which was a fictional love story set during this time period and depicted the Ridley Road riots.
After his last failed attempt to run for parliament in the 1966 general election, Mosley retired to France. He died in Orsay, France, in 1980, at age 84.
Image Source: BBC