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Sunday 20 July 2008

Mosley's racy sex life has no place in public arena 

The Formula One boss may have odd habits, but his sex parties are his own business, says Ruth Dudley Edwards

A VISIT to Amsterdam many years ago was so instructive that nothing afterwards could surprise me about other people's sex lives.

My then husband and I indulged our prurient curiosity by assessing the charms of the ladies exhibiting themselves at their windows, visiting a live sex show (whose male performer seemed so stoned as to be almost asleep), and leafing through the literature in a pornographic-magazine shop.

I did no more than raise an eyebrow at the stuff about clothes fetishes, nodded understandingly at the discovery that some successful men like to be dressed in nappies and bonnets and crooned to in a cot, and though I worry about unkindness to animals, was not unduly disturbed by the nuns and donkeys.

However, the magazine entirely devoted to a young lady defecating (it's a fetish called coprophilia and James Joyce was partial to it) made me feel slightly queasy. As I put it back, I looked at the next section and saw it was labelled 'bizarre'. It was about then that I made my excuses and left.

Since then I've written a dozen crime novels and often hang out with truly delightful people whose work is writing about paedophilia, rape and sadism, as well as murder. So when the News of the World announced gleefully that Max Mosley had hired five prostitutes to beat him and be beaten, I wasn't surprised.

I wasn't even shocked that his orgy allegedly had a Nazi theme. Mosley was just 11 weeks old when, in 1940, his loathed fascist parents, Oswald and Diana Mosley, were imprisoned. He was a three-year-old when they were released and his childhood was disturbed as the family moved between France and Ireland.

Max was sent to school in France and then Germany, then went to Oxford and was caught up in his teens in his father's new political party, the Union Movement. On one occasion, as a group of opponents began beating up Oswald, Max dived in to save him and was arrested to cries of, "Down with Mosley!" and, "Germany calling!"

A trainee barrister, he defended himself in court and won against the charge of threatening behaviour. Later, Mosley wanted to be a Conservative politician, but his surname made it impossible. However, by then he had found a world in which he was happy and accepted.

In one of the first motor races he ever took part in, he wrote: "There was a list of people when they put the practice times and I heard somebody say: 'Mosley, Max Mosley, he must be some relation of Alf Mosley, the coach builder.'

"And I thought to myself: 'I've found a world where they don't know about Oswald Mosley.' And it's always been a bit like that in motor racing: nobody gives a darn."

He had guts. As a Formula Two driver, he was undeterred when both his team mates were killed -- but when he was 28 he retired because he realised he wasn't good enough to be a world champion, and instead went into racing car manufacture.

In tandem with Bernie Ecclestone, he became heavily involved in the international politics of motor sport, and in 1993 became President of Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), which controls all international motorsport. Under his leadership, Formula One has become much safer and he's been working on greening it: France made him a member of the Legion of Honour.

When the articles, photographs and video footage of two of his sex parties were published, he admitted his sado-masochism, denied any Nazi trimmings, issued writs demanding exemplary punitive damages for gross invasion of privacy, and faced his critics in the FIA down, winning a vote of confidence by 103 to 55.

The News of the World, which produced no evidence whatsoever on the Nazi front, was reduced to bleating that his behaviour was "truly grotesque and depraved".

Look, I have every sympathy with Jean Mosley, his wife of almost 50 years, and maybe even more with his two sons, whose father has become as much a joke as their grandfather was a monster. It is certainly rather odd to want to be caned to the point of drawing blood (88 times? Ouch!), but that's what it is. Odd. Rather-you-than-me odd. The women were adults, keen on S&M and were well paid.

A lesser man could have been destroyed by a childhood of being treated like a pariah. He came out of it brave, tough and effective, if with some peculiar habits. Mosley's sex life is none of our business: he works for Formula One, for God's sake, not the Church of England.

If, as seems likely, the judge finds for him, the implications for privacy law in the UK will be worrying for investigative journalism.

I should think caning would be the least of the indignities other editors would willingly queue up to perpetrate on Colin Myler -- the News of the World editor whose bluff Mosley has called.

Ruth Dudley Edwards

© Ruth Dudley Edwards