Forget about your heart on your sleeve – it's all about the badge on your lapel


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When politicians seem intent on doing satirists' jobs for them, it wouldn't be inconceivable for the pin to become the new poppy

We'll call it "lapel politics," when a simple chest adornment appears to symbolise so much about the feelings of public figures towards cancer, terrorism, war dead or – right now – running and jumping over things.

Eric Pickles was surprisingly quick out of the blocks in the race to back the troubled 2012 Olympics. The less-than-athletic Tory frontbencher was one of few MPs to wear an official Games pin at last week's Prime Minister's Questions.

Jeremy Hunt wasn't far behind, showing up the next day with his pin for a debate on Olympic security. Theresa May, the Home Secretary, was caught napping but had discovered her pin by Monday, when the Prime Minister also gave a speech alongside his similarly be-badged deputy, Nick Clegg. Poor show the Mayor of London and Hugh Robertson, the Olympics minister, however: neither man wore a badge at a torch relay briefing on Monday.

When politicians seem increasingly intent on doing satirists' jobs for them, it wouldn't be inconceivable for the pin to become the new poppy. Jon Snow, the Channel 4 newsreader, is the poster boy for poppy refuseniks (no MP would dare be seen without one before Remembrance Day), but when wearing has come to symbolise caring, not doing so can be politically problematic.

The obligation to wear stars-and-stripes pins after 9/11 was such that Barack Obama was criticised several years later, in 2007, when he ditched his on the presidential campaign trail. "My attitude is that I'm less concerned about what you're wearing on your lapel than what's in your heart," he said in his defence.

Mitt Romney, Obama's Republican rival in the current race to the White House, is a big pin man. He bragged at a fundraiser in May about commissioning "We Stand United" American-flag pins for the 2002 Winter Olympics at Salt Lake City, which he was in charge of organising, months after 9/11.

But the boast backfired as critics pointed out the pins, like those made for London, had been made in China (outsourcing jobs abroad is a big issue in the US campaign).

We can all be grateful 2012 designers were not inspired by Romney. As well as the 9/11 pins, he commissioned a collection featuring a chiselled version of himself drawn as a Superman figure draped in stars and stripes.