Ivo Mosley, writer, ceramicist and vocal critic of his grandfather Sir Oswald Mosley – obituary

Ivo Mosley: he studied 'the themes of power and freedom, and in the unhappiness that is unleashed when the pendulum swings towards power'
Ivo Mosley: he studied 'the themes of power and freedom, and in the unhappiness that is unleashed when the pendulum swings towards power'

Ivo Mosley, who has died from motor neurone disease and dementia aged 72, was a grandson of the British fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley, of whom he was a vocal critic, and led a varied life as a ceramicist, poet, translator of Japanese poetry, journalist, playwright – and author of books ranging from political commentary to a short novel nominated for the Literary Review’s Bad Sex in Fiction award.

Ivo was the son of Nicholas Mosley, Sir Oswald’s eldest son by his first wife Cynthia, a daughter of Lord Curzon, the statesman and Viceroy of India. Nicholas became a distinguished writer but struggled with his father’s legacy, publishing a highly critical two-volume biography of him. Ivo did not meet his grandfather until his early teens.

As he told The Daily Telegraph in 2018, he did not like what he found: “He was just a horrible person, quite sadistic, with no charm at all. I don’t mind when people ask me about my surname. What does trouble me is when people say, ‘Your grandfather wasn’t really that bad.’ Because he was. He embraced evil.”

In 1976 Ivo was invited to attend the dinner for his grandfather’s 80th birthday. He was intending to turn the invitation down until friends persuaded him to go – for the benefit of history. During the evening he approached the old man and asked him what he was up to. “I’m waiting for the call,” Sir Oswald replied.

“What, the call of nature? The call of the wild?” asked Ivo. “No,” said Sir Oswald, “The call of the people. This country is descending into crisis. I will be required.”

Sir Oswald Mosley inspecting members of his British Union of Fascists in 1936
Sir Oswald Mosley inspecting members of his British Union of Fascists in 1936 - Central Press

His grandfather, Ivo Mosley concluded in a book review, “was intoxicated by visions of a state-run world. He dipped his finger in several before deciding fascism was the one... It is hard to deny there is some truth to Barbara Cartland’s simplistic assessment, ‘I am sure that when he stood at the crossroads, he took the downward path to hell.’”

Unsurprisingly, Ivo Mosley recalled growing up with “a strong interest in the themes of power and freedom, and in the unhappiness that is unleashed when the pendulum swings towards power”. In 2003 he published Democracy, Fascism and the New World Order, a polemical work in which he argued that modern populist democratic politics are not the direct opposite of totalitarian communism or fascism, but a continuation of the theme of tyranny by the majority with politicians encroaching on people’s freedom in the name of the greater good: “Politics has become not a conversation about the law to which we citizens must all subscribe, but games of deception, intrigue, management and power.”

In 2009, after his cousin Alexander Mosley, son of Max Mosley, was found dead aged 39 from a heroin overdose, Ivo spoke of the difficulty of living with the family name. “You are born with a kind of inheritance that makes people react to your name first before they react to you as a person,’’ he said.

Ivo Mosley
Ivo Mosley

Ivo Adam Rex Mosley was born in London on April 14 1951, the second son and second of four children of Nicholas Mosley (later Lord Ravensdale) by his first wife Rosemary, née Salmond. From Bryanston School he went up to New College, Oxford, to read Japanese.

After graduation in 1972 he travelled in Japan, where he became fascinated by Japanese pottery and porcelain, and returned home determined to make his mark in stoneware pottery. He bought a kiln and established a studio in Chelsea where for the next 15 or so years he made huge, brilliantly coloured, splash-decorated white stoneware vases, achieving acclaim both for his bold use of colour and for his exploitation of new firing and glazing techniques. His work was exhibited at Liberty’s, galleries such as the Gilbert-Parr Gallery, Chelsea, and sold through Designers Guild.

Mosley also had a passionate interest in Japanese poetry and alongside his ceramic work he translated work by Kakinomoto no Hitomaro, had his own poems published in magazines, and edited The Green Book of Poetry (1993), an anthology with an environmental theme. In 1999 he was appointed Poetry Editor at the Journal of Consciousness Studies.

His 2003 polemic Democracy, Fascism and the New World Order
His 2003 polemic Democracy, Fascism and the New World Order

As well as pieces for national newspapers and book reviews, from the late 1990s Mosley wrote a number of plays that were staged by small theatre companies, and a short thriller film, Personal Justice, the story of a girl sexually abused as a child by an uncle who sees a way to get even when his company’s anti anti-environmental policies lead to death threats. He also wrote the libretto for Mad King Suibhne, an opera composed by his son Noah, which was produced by Bury Court Opera in 2017.

When Auberon Waugh, editor of the Literary Review, shortlisted Mosley for the Bad Sex Award for what one journalistic wag called “something rather squelchy” in his 26-page Christmas in Africa: An Erotic Fable (1998), he told an interviewer that if he met Waugh he would “personally rip off his head and stuff it up his anal cavity”. Although he was in good company (the honour went to Sebastian Faulks for Charlotte Gray), it was, perhaps, not surprising that thereafter Mosley mainly concentrated on non-fiction.

His 2013 book In the Name of the People
His 2013 book In the Name of the People

Dumbing Down (2000) was a collection of essays and interviews on the theme, with contributions from Michael Oakeshott, Tam Dalyell, Adam Boulton, Claire Fox and others, prefaced with the claim that “Never in human history has so much cleverness been used to such stupid ends.”

He continued to develop the ideas explored in Democracy, Fascism and the New World Order in In the Name of the People: pseudo-democracy and the spoiling of our world (2013) and Bank Robbery: the way we create money, and how it damages the world (2020), described in the publisher’s blurb as “a remarkably clear and comprehensive examination of a system that supports unaccountable and destructive power”.

In 1977 he married Xanthe Oppenheimer, daughter of Sir Michael Oppenheimer, 3rd Bt, an artist and campaigner for the planting of street trees. She survives him with their four sons.

Ivo Mosley, born April 14 1951, died January 31 2024