Pin doctors: The art of 'lapel politics'

Forget wearing your heart on your sleeve – for today's politicos, it's all about the badge on your lapel

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. Pins are conspicuously absent, meanwhile, along the opposition benches.

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 called out 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 about a "phony issue", only to restore the flag to his chest five months later.

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, just 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).

Pin politics recall the explosion of coloured charity ribbons in the Nineties, when Ian Hislop refused to wear one on an episode of Have I Got News For You shown on World Aids Day. Instead he wore a cardboard "L" to represent leukaemia, which had just claimed his friend.

A government spokesman yesterday denied MPs had received any "pin memo", while the Mayor's office said Boris usually wore his.

Whether or not politicians show their support on their chests, we can all be grateful 2012 designers were not inspired by Romney. As well as the 9/11 pins, he commissioned a collection featuring Olympic mascots saying: "We love you, Mitt". In another, a chiselled Romney was drawn as a Superman figure draped in stars and stripes.

Imagine it – Seb Coe hero pins. If only Mitt's badges, which deserved medals for vanity, could have punctured his ego as well as his lapel.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager / Media Sales - OTE up to £30,000

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award-winning company, whi...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Software Developer

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique & exciting opp...

Recruitment Genius: UX Consultant

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be working with a 8 st...

Recruitment Genius: Part-time Editor

£8000 - £12000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A unique opportunity has arisen ...

Day In a Page

Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border