With the news that Metropolitan police are to be allowed to wear Union flag badges supporting British troops currently on action in Afghanistan, I was surprised to hear Eddie Mair on yesterday's BBC Radio 4's PM programme taking a hostile stance towards Stop The War's spokesperson, Chris Nineham.
Chris did a stolid job if a bit spluttery and tiresomely "Um" laden (brother of Bin) when taken by surprise by Mair's interview which consisted of "Who says!", cutting off his sentences, and ignoring his points of logic. I was baffled by the utter denial that "Support The Troops" is read by most people to mean support for the war.
Indeed, what does happen when police wear their opposing politics on their lapels at anti-war demonstration, perhaps in place of their ID numbers which some of them are so fond of leaving off? Wearing these "Support The Troops" badges, according to the police spokesman in terms reminiscent of something out of Kipling, does not compromise their independence, neither do previous badges supporting RUC widows and orphans, or the union flag itself which is "the symbol of our country". Some might question exactly who in this country the Union Jack represents: the policeman seemed to think it meant Her Majesty and all who sail in her.
Wrong-footed by Mair, I wish Chris had stuck to his strongest point which he only seemed to stumble across in the course of the interview: Fine, if the key issue is support for the troops and not the war, then will police on duty be allowed to support the troops by wearing Troops Out badges calling for our boys and girls to be brought back home to safety?