Dear Dame Vera: A woman in her early twenties pays tribute to the wartime forces' sweetheart who is still a heroine today

I thought you were dead. Before last week I only knew you as an obscure reference in a Pink Floyd song and an optimist waiting for another encounter, some sunny day. But suddenly you are all over the media and, if you don't mind me saying, looking remarkably good for your age.

It was only when a Normandy veteran told me that your spirit had helped to keep him going during the war's darkest days that your full impact hit me.

You are still the forces' sweetheart after all this time. Life-worn soldiers hung on your every word when you were chosen to launch the D-Day programme in London last week. In an age lacking heroes, it is inspiring to see such an influential figure at work.

Icons shine and fade, but it seems your power to give hope to the nation will never be forgotten. The revival of your simple, moving songs has reawakened more fondly held memories of a past era. A time when the country pulled together to fight for a common cause. I can't think of any single present-day equivalent that has such a universal effect.

Your protests against the Government's planned anniversary celebrations made front page news. That's the kind of power politicians would kill for. On the television bulletins you came second only to reports of turmoil in Bosnia. Please beware of the advantage people could take of this. By now even John Major has cottoned on to your vote-potential.

I was born a quarter of a century after the end of the war, so white cliffs and blue birds seem pretty distant to me; but seeing the Prime Minister's feeble efforts to sing along to your songs in Grosvenor Square made me feel sick. Does he really think that by playing on your popularity he can boost his own? You really do deserve better.

Now that you have the toadying politicians at your mercy, play them at their own game. Hold out for at least equal billing with Bob Hope and a first-class cabin when you are on the QE2 crossing to France. I'm afraid that the changes in this country since the Forties mean you now have to look after yourself.

If you feel it is tacky to trivialise the D-Day hardships, please feel free to pull out of the Hyde Park event. It will mean much more than an embarrassment for the Government. It will be a sign to the D-Day veterans that their wishes are still respected and by someone who means so much to them. Even though I was not alive at the time, I am well aware that thousands died during the offensive and feel strongly that its anniversary cannot be commemorated by a jamboree. I couldn't agree more about the inappropriateness of spam-fritter-frying competitions and if you do decide to boycott such frivolous events, I want you to know that you will be stood by all the way.

(Photograph omitted)

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