The News of the World’s story makes a lot of references to ‘Nazi-style’ behaviour, but it’s not clear from the evidence whether that’s actually an accurate description. British tabloids do like to link anything even remotely unseemly with Nazism, as the Daily Star did with the Lewis Hamilton racism story. Given the fascist past of Mosley’s family, it’s an obvious connection to make.
But even the the ‘Nazi’ angle is fantasy, the other details (assuming they are true) will be considered by many to be sufficiently unpleasant to make Mosley’s position untenable.
Mosley has said he will not step down. Is this the right course of action for him – and for Formula 1?
Reading Mosley’s statement I am reminded of Eliot Spitzer’s words on March 13th. Spitzer, then the Governor of New York, had been connected to a prostitution ring:
I have acted in a way that violates my obligation to my family and violates my, or any sense, of right or wrong. I have disappointed and failed to live up to the standard I expected of myself. I must now dedicate some time to regain the trust of my family.
Four days later, Spitzer resigned. What will happen to Mosley?
In his statement Mosley suggests he’s been been the victim of character assassination: “a covert investigation of my private life and background has been undertaken by a group specialising in such things, for reasons and clients as yet unknown.”
There will inevitably be speculation about who is responsible. The FIA had brought a legal action against the Sunday Times, sister newspaper to the News of the World. Today another of its sister newspapers, The Times, printed a leader demanding Mosley’s resignation. Other major British newspapers such as the Daily Telegraph have given little coverage to the story with the Telegraph’s F1 correspondent Kevin Garside voicing support of Mosley.
However a controversial figure such as Mosley is never short of critics and enemies, and only last year clashed publicly with McLaren in the ‘spygate’ scandal. Any number of people might bear a grudge against him.
Whoever is going after Mosley knows this adage well: “If you throw enough mud, some of it will stick.”
Mosley strongly denied the ‘Nazi’ connotations in the News of the World’s reportage. But even ignoring this other highly visible figures have lost their jobs over less serious matters than what Mosley is accused of.
The News of the World is a nasty, grubby newspaper that often makes sensational allegations like this against people in the public eye. Many will ask what relevance its revelations of Max Mosley’s personal life has to his ability to do his job?
Possibly none at all. But that is not the point. Mosley is one of the most high profile representatives of international motor racing and he has brought the sport into disrepute.
Just the beginning?
If someone is working a plan to destroy Mosley, there will likely be more to come. To discredit someone in an era of 24-hour rolling news on television and online, you don’t play all your cards at once. There will be “shocking new pictures” and “tell-all stories” and who knows what else still to come.
Mosley is credited with a terrific legal brain – but the News Corporation lawyers will have trodden this path a few times before. Whatever the outcome, I doubt it will be a quick win, and in the meantime the story will drag on and on. As Bernie Ecclestone said today:
If he starts to sue, from what I understand, the chances of him winning would be slim and, the trouble is, it’s just a lot more ink for the press.
Ecclestone has already said Mosley should not visit Bahrain for this weekend’s Grand Prix.
Should Mosley resign?
At the very least, I think he needs to take temporary leave from his position while he takes care of the matter.
He has said in his statement that he intends to take legal action against the News of the World. He added:
You can, however be certain that I will not allow any of this to impede my commitment to the work of the FIA.
But I think he should devote his time fully to pursuing his course of action against the newspaper. Mosley should stand down, at least temporarily, and allow someone else to devote their entire time to the professional duties of the role of FIA president.
Mosley has said he has, “received a very large number of messages of sympathy and support from those within the FIA and the motor sport and motoring communities generally, suggesting that my private life is not relevant to my work and that I should continue in my role.”
Over the days to come we shall see if that support is strong enough for him to cling to power despite the storm of criticism his decision is likely to bring. But as Kevin Eason pointed out today, the team bosses could not kick him out of the sport even if they wanted to.