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Ecclestone undermines his own success with alarming views on Hitler

Posted on 4 July 2009 | 2:07pm

It’s hard to see why Bernie Ecclestone chose to give an interview to The Times, which appears today under the headlines ‘Hitler? He got things done, says Ecclestone’ as a news story on Page 3, and, on pages 34 and 35, ‘Despots are underrated, says the supreme leader of Formula One.’

My hunch is that after the recent carve up which led to Max Mosley’s sidelining from the sport’s governing body, Ecclestone was looking to say one or two nice things about Mosley, and steady the Formula One ship.

Instead, he comes over as an eccentric with somewhat dangerous views. You get the flavour from the headlines above.

He says that Max Mosley would make a good Prime Minister. Mmm, I doubt it. And how’s this for thought through political philosophy, on the subject of the NHS. ‘I’d get rid of it.’ He says something similar about democracy.

He criticises the military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, saying Saddam and the Taleban should have been left well alone, but criticises lack of action to deal with poverty in Africa, on which, as it happens, this government has a better record than most.

It reads less like the leader of a successful global sporting brand than the ruminations of the famous Private Eye cabbie. ‘The benefits culture is completely mad. I would get rid of it.’ (no explanation as to how. Perhaps he is waiting for PM Max to tell us.) ‘There are plenty of jobs for people if they want to do them. These people (not clear whether this means all benefit recipients) are scroungers.’ Of his part ownership of Queen’s Park Rangers …’ we’ve always got the wrong players and the wrong manager.’ Now there speaks the cabbie, not the billionaire bankroller of the club.

But it is the majorly revisionist view of Hitler that takes the views from eccentric to alarming. He gives the impression that Hitler was led astray, possibly against his will, in trying to wipe out all Jews. He seems to criticise him not for what he did, but for the fact that he was not a proper dictator.

Unlike me and Max, seems to be the sub-text.

I have never been a motor sports fan. But you cannot take away from Ecclestone the fact that he turned Formula One into a genuine British and global success story. I’ve long thought that he is one of those whose donation to a political party, and the controversy attached to it, has stopped him from getting the kind of honour and recognition that otherwise would be his.

But it’s hard to honour someone who says the kind of thing that appears from his mouth this morning and, like I say, hard to work out why he wanted to see it in print.

Of course it may be that some bits have been taken out of context, or given more prominence than others, but there do appear to be quotation marks around the statements that most readers are likely to find offensive to greater or lesser degrees.

I’d love to know if he thinks the interview came out as planned, though I note the final quote of the main interview reads like this… ‘I am not a great planner. Even last week I had no idea what I would be doing today. You need to play things as they are.’

  • CPW

    Such views accord perfectly with a man that is 3’2 tall and looks as if he was shat from arse end of life.

    Oh and invading other countries and giving to Africa aren’t mutually exclusive foreign affairs policies as you seem to suggest here.

  • christine higginbottom

    Dear Alastair,

    Mr. Eccleston is in need or urgent NHS psychiatric treatment. He should then be placed on benefits (after a long, long battle to receive anything), to cover his very basic living costs. He should be transferred to a “care in the community” setting, designed by Government to not clog up hospital beds. He will find his local Council exceedingly helpful in providing his care, they will attempt to find any other relative or friend he may be lucky to have, to do this. If not, he could always of course look after himself. This is ALWAYS the best option.

    Thank you, Christine.

  • Frankie

    Surprised he didn’t say … say what you like about Mussolini but he got the trains running on time

  • Gareth Edmonds

    Business people always think they can do better than politicians, until they try it. Someone should remind him of Churchill’s words that democracy may not be perfect b ut it is the best we’ve got

  • Katharine T.

    There is the possibility that old Bernie is going a bit off the rails, what with his domestic life down the hole, his racing empire on the verge of collapse, and he’s, not lets forget 78 years old. I don’t recall too many people of that age making a whole lot of sense. I’m sure there are people of that age who are still somewhat engaged, but it’s pretty clear the most damage he did was to himself. Formula One is in big enough trouble right now without Bernie sounding like a senile pensioner.

    I know the only reason why you mentioned this article Mr.Campbell was because Bernie villified Messers Brown and Blair, (by your own admission it wasn’t because you, unlike me love motorsport), but I would not be too concerned that the comments of that article would do your party any lasting damage. Bernie is merely trying to deflect the glare from the disaster he and Max Mosely have found themselves mired in.

  • Alina Palimaru

    This man’s interview sounds like another instance of “empty can rattles the most”… I remember the uproar on this blog when AC praised Eddie Izzard’s political acumen. In my response at the time I noted that there are some celebrities, entrepreneurs etc who are tabula rasa on the issues and use their political involvement as a way to broaden their fan base and media exposure. At the same time, there are celebrities, comedians etc who have more common sense than most politicians, and sometimes know more about a given policy issue than some lawmakers. Mr. Ecclestone seems to belong to the former category. As such, he should just focus on what he does best with Formula One. Forays into politics will, as you note Alastair, undermine him.

  • Colin Morley

    Hmmm- I agree a thoroughly strange and potentially dangerous individual – Think the Labour party would have kept his money though had things been kept quiet at the time – double standards? Yes, yes and yes again. Sorry to have to say it of a party I once admired and respected.

  • Alan Quinn

    Yet another tax exile who we tolerate. Personally I was make all non doms enter the UK via the Shetlands.
    It’s unforgivable that he’s always threatening to take Formula 1 out of the UK, when we invented it and most of the cars are developed in this country.
    Regarding his comments on Hitler they are obnoxious.

  • Jeff

    Poison dwarf anyone?

  • Colin Hindley

    I understand the racing is on his agenda but if the only way he can get in the papers is to be outright nasty preposterous I think the public can again return him to his race course and let him do the maths of car racing instead of public finance.

  • Jane A

    I genuinely cannot get my head around what on earth he thought he was doing. But he has said odd stuff before (notably Lewis Hamilton & racism) so it doesn’t, sad to say, surprise me. And I adore F1.

    What’s the risk of the money generated by this huge global business making its way, next time around, into BNP coffers?

  • Em

    Alan Clark had similar views. Free speech shouldn’t mean allowing (quasi) Nazi sympathisers to hold positions of power. This really doesn’t reflect well on the British people.