Leading article: Back from the edge

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A group of retired military leaders, including the former Chief of Defence Staff, Lord Guthrie, have complained that the good name of the British armed forces has been "hijacked" by extremists. They seem to have the BNP in their sights, but do not name it.

This is needless timidity. If they mean the BNP, they should say so. However justified their grievance, though – that revered national symbols, such as Sir Winston Churchill and the Spitfire, are being harnessed to a reprehensible political campaign – banning certain uses of these images may not be the best way to proceed.

No one has a monopoly on national symbols. If the military had been less reluctant to vaunt its heritage as an asset for the nation as a whole, such symbols might not have been consigned to the margins. The "smart" solution now would be to rescue them from the far right by reclaiming them for the mainstream – as was done successfully with the St George's Cross.

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