i Editor's Letter: Flicking a V-sign


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The Independent Online


Baroness Trumpington is to the left of this column in today's paper. She’s there, of course, because she flicked a V-sign in the House of Lords on Monday at Lord King of Bridgwater, in revenge for some gesture he made towards her to illustrate the age of World War Two veterans. She is not the first to have insulted Tom King in his long career, but the remarkable former Bletchley Park codebreaker should be thankful for her advanced years for having got off so lightly in the public discourse.

Imagine if, sick of the grandstanding at his media hearing last week, James Murdoch had flicked a V-sign at Tom Watson. Could Brodie Clark have got away with a V-sign at some partisan questioners in front of the Home Affairs Committee? What if, having scored the winner against the world champions Spain last weekend, captain Frank Lampard had flicked the V-sign at the Wembley boo-boys?

It’s unclear just how many people would be offended by a V-sign these days. It has become a gesture used often with irony, and exhibited with a smile rather than aggression. Today’s insulting gesture of choice is surely the flipping of the middle finger (yet another American import), or that home-grown stalwart the “w***er” angry waggle of the hand.

Remember last year’s furore after the BBC’s weatherman, Tomasz Schafemaker, was caught on camera “flipping one” at teasing colleagues? Do you recall George W Bush being caught and then trying to laugh it off, or Nelson Rockefeller in the staid old 70s doing it famously with some menace towards a bunch of hippies?

What offends one person, is a joke to someone else. It depends largely on the context, the intent behind the gesture, and whether you like the gesturer. And, if you don’t agree ... (that’s me stroking the underside of my chin, palm down, in a flicking gesture towards you)!