The Prime Minister vs The Move

It was on Wednesday 11th October 1967 that Prime Minister Harold Wilson received an apology in the High Court from a pop group called ‘The Move’.

He had taken out a libel action against them claiming a “violent and malicious personal attack” after a postcard was published, promoting the group’s new record Flowers in the Rain. It featured a caricature of the Labour Prime Minister in the nude.  Speaking for Mr Wilson, Quentin Hogg QC described the publication as making use of “malicious rumours” concerning his character and integrity. As part of the libel settlement, the band and their manager Tony Secunda agreed to devote all royalties from their record to charities of the Prime Minister’s choice.  The defendants also included the card’s artist, the advertising agency and printers. All apologised for their involvement and agreed to pay the costs of the proceedings estimated at £3,000.

Mr Hogg had labelled the card “scurrilous” and criticised the decision to send it to journalists, television producers and music publishers.  Meanwhile representing the group’s manager, members and the artist, Richard Hartley said his clients wished to express their “profound regret” for what had happened.

Members of The Move had not arrived at the High Court in time for the proceedings, but appeared in high spirits. Asked about their political standpoint they joked: “We’ve no faith in any political sides at all. We’d vote for people like Frank Zappa, Jimi Hendrix, you know.”  They had recorded and published ‘Flowers in the Rain’ in August, and Mr Secunda circulated copies of the promotional postcard to coincide with the record’s release.  He denied the publication was a publicity stunt, suggesting the resultant libel action had created that impression. “Wilson started legal proceedings, we did it as a cartoon, remember that. It wasn’t intended to be anything but that,” he said.

Worldwide sales of the record, of which an estimated 200,000 copies had already been sold, were expected to generate about £10,000 in proceeds.  Mr Wilson nominated the Spastics Society and the Amenity Funds of Stoke Mandeville Hospital for the benefit of paraplegic patients to receive the royalties.  Mr Hogg said that Harold Wilson had never intended to be “harsh or vindictive” and he warned that in any future incident Mr Wilson might not be so lenient.

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