Newsnight's incoming economics correspondent Duncan Weldon revealed in a blog post on Saturday that he had flirted with far-right politics as a 16-year-old after being questioned about his past by the Mail on Sunday.
News of Weldon’s appointment prompted a letter of protest by Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen MP to the BBC earlier this month questioning whether he will be objective given his current job as an economist for the TUC.
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Now The Mail on Sunday has uncovered an article Weldon wrote in 2002 for the Oxford University student newspaper Cherwell headlined: “I was a fascist”. Under the pen-name Sam Healey, he wrote about attending BNP events and handing out racist leaflets as a 16-year-old.
In a blog post headlined: “My teenage mistakes”, Weldon said on Saturday: “… as an unusually geeky, politically-interested 16-year-old, I had a brief and misguided flirtation with the ideas of the far right. It began when I read Robert Skidelsky’s biography of Oswald Mosley and found myself feeling some sympathy with the ‘early Mosley’, the idea of a politician who seemed to grasp the need to tackle unemployment where other politicians did not.
"There has been much academic debate over the years over whether this early incarnation of Mosley’s 'New Party' – which attracted interest from the likes of Harold Macmillan and Nye Bevan – can be separated from the later blackshirted British Union of Fascists. It took my curious, naive 16-year-old self a year or so to conclude that it could not.
"In my second term at Oxford, I told a student journalist friend about my teenage flirtation and he asked me to write about it for the student newspaper, Cherwell. Socially awkward and keen to impress, I obliged, even gilding the lilly to make my far right adventure sound more dramatic than it had been. I was 19."
He added: "Reflecting on the last week it’s hard to escape the irony that I have been accused of being a dangerous leftie and also a fascist within 48 hours. I hope I’m neither. I think I’ve got a long track record – from the Bank of England to the TUC – of examining the economic facts and letting the chips fall where they may. The BBC is full of journalists from a wide range of backgrounds who left their political baggage at the door the day they started work. I’m confident that once in the job I’ll be able to do just that."