Pop & Politics

May 15, 2010 at 6:05 pm | Posted in Historical | Leave a comment
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(Wikipedia) [British Prime Minister Harold] Wilson exhibited his populist touch in 1965 when he had The Beatles honoured with the award of MBE (such awards are officially bestowed by The Queen but are nominated by the Prime Minister of the day). The award was popular with young people and contributed to a sense that the Prime Minister was “in touch” with the younger generation. There were some protests by conservatives and elderly members of the military who were earlier recipients of the award, but such protesters were in the minority. Critics claimed that Wilson acted to solicit votes for the next general election (which took place less than a year later), but defenders noted that, since the minimum voting age at that time was 21, this was hardly likely to impact many of the Beatles’ fans who at that time were predominantly teenagers. It did however cement Wilson’s image as a modernistic leader and linked him to the burgeoning pride in the ‘New Britain’ typified by the Beatles. The Beatles mentioned Wilson rather negatively, naming both him and his opponent Edward Heath in George Harrison’s song “Taxman”, the opener to 1966’s Revolver—recorded and released after the MBEs.

One year later, in 1967, Wilson had a different interaction with a musical ensemble. He sued the pop group The Move for libel after the band’s manager Tony Secunda published a promotional postcard for the single “Flowers In The Rain”, featuring a caricature depicting Wilson in bed with his female assistant, Marcia Williams (later Baroness Falkender). Wild gossip had hinted at an improper relationship, though these rumours were never substantiated. Wilson won the case, and all royalties from the song (composed by Move leader Roy Wood) were assigned in perpetuity to a charity of Wilson’s choosing.

Was this scandal part of a plot to discredit Wilson and possibly overthrow the British government by coup?

(MirrorUK) Former arms minister Lord Chalfont agrees that a coup would have involved “very senior people.” To bolster their sordid case for ousting a democratically-elected government, MI6 invented a Russian lover for Wilson, and passed a “compromising” photograph of the pair in Moscow to MI5 – who fed it straight to the media. It was also claimed that Wilson had taken bribes, and supplied classified information to Soviet “moles”. A Soviet defector fingered the Prime Minister as a KGB agent, and claimed there was a Communist cell in Downing Street.

None of these preposterous stories were true, but they were also handed on to the CIA, whose leading operative James Jesus Angleton used them to discredit the Labour leader within the American administration. Wilson was thus suspected of playing into the hands of Communism when he began withdrawing British troops from Suez, even though it was in the nation’s best economic interests.

The conspirators reached a lunatic height in 1967, when the Queen’s uncle, Lord Louis Mountbatten, was sounded out as the possible leader of a military coup.

(Cross posted at From Laurel Street)

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