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26.04.18

“Genuinely Eager to Champion the Unemployed…”

Posted 26th April 2018

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Of all the striking things about Dennis Potter’s 1965 play Vote, Vote, Vote for Nigel Barton, one thing in particular stands out: its use of real news footage, of Nye Bevan’s speech on the Suez crisis, and an “interview” with Oswald Mosley1 on unemployment. Clips which aren’t included into the play in a diegetic fashion, but are merely thrown into the mix when a character mentions them.

This is the tale of how such unusual method of storytelling may have preserved a little piece of history. And although the world probably doesn’t need any more Oswald Mosley2, Nigel Barton nonetheless provides exactly that.

First of all then, let’s take a look at that interview with Mosley’s3, as featured in Vote:

INTERVIEWER: Are you going to talk about unemployment today?
MOSLEY:4 Why, of course. It is the one problem that really matters today. We live in a period in which politicians are not very popular. And believe me, you have my sympathy. We live in a period when Britain can only survive by vigour, and by action. I am not one of those who believes this country is down and out. I am also not one of those who believes that we can just muddle through. We have resources, of intellect, of energy, of craftsmanship, of skill, second-to-none in the world. But those resources must be mobilised, for a great effort of a united nation.

This footage is in fact from an old British Movietone newsreel, dated the 26th May 1930. This footage ended up being distributed digitally by the Associated Press, and they fully acquired the British Movietone archive back in 2016. So, let’s take a look at their official upload, shall we?

INTERVIEWER: Are you going to talk about unemployment today?
MOSLEY:5 Why, of course. It is the one problem that really matters today. We live in a period in which politicians are not very popular. And believe me, you have my sympathy. Politicians are regarded as people who have learnt to talk, but not to act. And you demand action, and rightly demand it, in dealing with unemployment. We live in a period when Britain can only survive by vigour, and by action. We have resources, of intellect, of energy, of craftsmanship, of skill, second-to-none in the world. But those resources must be mobilised, for a great effort of a united nation. To do that, government and statesmen must take their courage in their hands.

A quick comparison indicates a number of differences between the two clips. The clip from Nigel Barton removes a few sentences: “Politicians are regarded as people who have learnt to talk, but not to act. And you demand action, and rightly demand it, in dealing with unemployment” is gone, along with the final “To do that, government and statesmen must take their courage in their hands.” But this isn’t especially odd; it’s not surprising that Nigel Barton might want to cut the speech down a bit.

What is fascinating though, is that there is one section which appears in Nigel Barton, but is not present in the official clip uploaded by the Associated Press:

“I am not one of those who believes this country is down and out. I am also not one of those who believes that we can just muddle through.”

If you look at the footage uploaded by the AP, you can even see the visual jump where the edit removing this section of the speech takes place. What’s more, there is no transcript anywhere online of the cut part of the speech, despite the speech itself being pretty damn famous.

And this is a bit of a puzzle. Why the bloody hell does a Wednesday Play from 1965 include a section of this newsreel footage which isn’t present anywhere else?

There is an obvious question to ask. Did this section of the speech used to be in circulation back in the 60s, but was for some reason cut between then and it being uploaded to YouTube and the like by its new distributors? Luckily, there’s a way we can check this. Here’s the section of the script taken from the book The Nigel Barton Plays (Penguin, 1967) which includes a transcription of the Oswald Mosley6 interview:

17 • OLD MOVIETONE NEWSREEL

The highly stilted delivery of Sir Oswald7 is made worse by numerous cuts which make his hands jump up to his lapels in an alarming parody of the old-style and not quite defunct politician.

LADY INTERVIEWER: Are you going to talk about unemployment today?
MOSLEY:8 Why, of course. It is the one problem which really matters today…. We live in a period in which politicians are not very popular. And believe me, you have my sympathy. Politicians are regarded as people who have learnt to talk but not to act. And you demand action, and rightly demand it, in dealing with unemployment. We live in a period when Britain can only survive by vigour, and by action. We have resources of intellect. Of energy. Of craftsmanship, of skill… second to none in the world! But these resources must be mobilized for a great effort by a united nation.

The missing section of the dialogue is also missing in Potter’s script. Which means that the reference footage he clearly used when writing the play was also missing that section of dialogue. The only place where this section of dialogue actually shows up is in the finished play itself.

More research is needed on this, but I have a suggestion as to how it may have happened. Clearly, the BBC would have had to ask permission from Movietone to use their material in the play, and would have also had to request a physical copy of it. I suspect it is highly likely that instead of British Movietone supplying the final edited newsreel, they went back to the source and supplied the BBC with the original rushes of the interview, perhaps in order to give them the highest quality version possible. The production made a few edits, and shoved the footage into the programme… perhaps completely oblivious to the fact that it contained material which didn’t actually make an appearance in the original newsreel.

Without someone digging through the original Movietone archives for more information on this, we can’t know for certain. But however it happened, one thing is undoubtedly true: we seem to be in the bizarre situation where a BBC Wednesday Play from 1965 preserves part of an historically important speech of Mosley’s9 which isn’t publicly available anywhere else, and doesn’t appear to be part of the official public record.

Which is a fascinatingly odd situation.


  1. Cunt. 

  2. Cunt. 

  3. Cunt. 

  4. Cunt. 

  5. Cunt. 

  6. Cunt. 

  7. Cunt. 

  8. Cunt. 

  9. Cunt. 

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