JULY 4, 2009

Hitler, Mosley and other stories

Bernie Ecclestone usually has a deft touch with the media, sending out subtle messages while providing journalists with a good story, often delivering a very different message as he does so. So one must analyse everything he says very carefully. Is there a message in what he has been saying about dictatorship or did he just get carried away with some rather bizarre views about Adolf Hitler?

And why, in any case, is a motor racing commercial mogul giving his views on autocracy?

The answer, of course, is Max Mosley, the president of the FIA, who has been accused of late of being dictatorial.

Ecclestone's view seems to be generally supportive. He says that Mosley would have made an excellent Prime Minister.

"Max would do a super job, he‘s a good leader," Ecclestone told The Times. "I don‘t think his background would be a problem."

Perhaps not now, but 30 years ago when Mosley was keen to get into politics he was told that there was no way he would ever be elected a Member of Parliament, because of his father's Fascist activities in the 1930s. Today, at 69, Mosley's future as a politician is limited. Some would say it is really academic. Forgetting his recent sex scandal - accepted by the FIA and by an English judge - but shocking for many normal members of society - the issue is really one of age. The oldest first term Prime Minister in British history was Lord Palmerston in 1855 (when he was 71) but he had been in parliament for 48 years and had served for many years as Foreign Secretary. The oldest Prime Minister of all was William Gladstone at 82, but he had been in parliament for 60 years at that point and it was his fourth term of office.

All the rising stars of modern British politics are in their 40s.

So the idea that Mosley might move from the automobile world to politics is a nice idea, but hardly the purpose of Ecclestone's comments.

Bernie's discussions of Hitler, Saddam Hussein and others really does Mosley no favours at all. And the suggestion that Hitler might not have been the man responsible for the Nazi outrages shows that Ecclestone has not read Mien Kampf which clearly laid out what Hitler intended to do and explained how he had become anti-Jewish. This was published in 1925, long before he came to power.

Inevitably Ecclestone's remarks about Hitler drew a strong reaction from Jewish groups and politicians on both sides of the house.

Stephen Pollard, the editor of the Jewish Chronicle, said that "Ecclestone is either an idiot or morally repulsive. Either he has no idea how stupid and offensive his views are or he does and deserves to be held in contempt by all decent people".

Strong words.

So what is it all about? Why is Ecclestone ruminating on the value of dictatorship. Is he trying to send a message of support to Mosley, or hint that it is time for him to give up and leave the FIA?

Having lauded Mosley as a brilliant politician he later mentioned in the same interview that "they have to lie, don't they? Politicians. The truth is not always good to hear". So is he hinting in a subtle fashion that Mosley cannot be trusted?

Who knows?

And, to some extent, for fans of the sport, it is also a question of who cares? None of this is good for the sport. It simply adds to the image that F1 is a tawdry business, run by very odd people. It does nothing for the good reputation of the sport. One might even argue that this is bringing the sport into disrepute, although it is hard to imagine that Mosley would level such a charge against Ecclestone.

A cynic might ask what would have happened if Ron Dennis or Luca di Montezemolo had ruminated on the same subject...

When all is said and done, if there is a message in these statements for Mosley then he will presumably understand it. The rest of us will be left wondering what on earth is going on - and what relevance this has to 20-odd cars lining up on a grid to go racing.