The late comedian Frankie Howerd was well known for saying, “it’s wicked to mock the afflicted”.
It has long been tempting not only to call the rightwing quasi-historian David Irving a liar, in the words of the judgment in his failed libel action against Dr Deborah Lipstadt, but also to question his grasp on reality, particularly about his past and present political associations.
I admit I have a personal axe to grind. In 1964 I pleaded guilty with a colleague at Middlesex Sessions of entering Irving’s north London flat “by artifice” (not burglary as the far right insist). I also admitted stealing by finding a GPO telephone engineer’s pass. Charges against a third defendant, David Freedman, were dismissed, but for the past 44 years Irving has insisted that Freedman was also guilty. Well let’s not let the facts get in the way of Irving’s warped thinking.
Around ten years ago Irving said I had made his life a Holocaust for the previous 30 years, an accusation I happily accept. Now in his dotage Irving appears to be making a late bid to gain fame in place of his infamy – which brings to mind another Frankie Howerd phrase, from Up Pompeii!: “Infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it in for me”. Too right.
Some years ago Irving threatened to sue me and the publisher Pearson Longman over a chapter I had written in a book on the far right in Europe. I was able to provide documentary evidence of the truth of each of the points he claimed were defamatory of him, and demonstrate that he was associated with the extreme right in Britain.
What puzzled our libel lawyer was another reference to something Irving claimed I had written. It was at this point we wondered whether he was suffering from early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, as the passage complained of did not exist.
Irving is keen to distance himself from the BNP and claims on his website that he has “no point of contact whatever” with Nick Griffin, the BNP leader, or the BNP itself. Yet when he last tried to take the country by storm with a speaking tour in the early 1990s it was the BNP that made the arrangements for his meetings in London and Brighton.
One of Irving’s rallies was to be at Chelsea Old Town Hall. He had invited the US Holocaust denier and all-purpose fruitcake Fred Leuchter despite a ban on him entering the country. Leuchter claimed to have proved there were no gas chambers in the Nazi death camps in Poland. The meeting was packed with leading nazis from around the world, including John Tyndall, then the leader of the BNP. It broke up after a few minutes when Home Office officials and several police officers entered to remove Leuchter. He was deported a few days later.
Video evidence shows Griffin with Chris Marchant, a former Balkans War mercenary, telling Thames TV’s This Week that Irving had hired their new security firm to protect the meeting.
Irving’s failed attempt to hold a meeting at the Royal Warwicks Club in Coventry on 21 September in the wake of a small meeting in Rugby shows that he still has dealings with far-right extremists. The Rugby meeting was organised by Steve Kerr, a long-time nazi, as was the Coventry meeting booked under the guise of the “Military History Book Club”.
Irving’s speaking tour was set to continue with a meeting in Birmingham on 26 October followed by a second attempt in Coventry on 14 November, Liverpool on 26 November and Halifax. His website does not advertise that he has been invited to take part in a “free speech forum” at the Oxford Union on 27 November, to which an invitation to Griffin has already been withdrawn.
Irving recently moved into a ten-bedroom house in large grounds in Windsor, where he has already held a meeting and garden party for the rich suckers who continue to support this liar.
Irving’s position on the Holocaust has become a movable feast. He has threatened to sue The Jewish Chronicle if it calls him a Holocaust denier, though he reproduces on his website without comment a recent Guardian article that does just that. He now says he is not sure of the numbers killed. Our view is that to minimise the Holocaust by claiming that “only” two million died, or whatever number he plucks out of the air, is just another version of Holocaust revisionism. And two million in a planned genocide would still be two million too many.
I am sure all decent people will oppose this apologist for Hitler wherever he goes. Watch the Searchlight websites for news of his movements.