Leading Article: A sound unfit for heroes

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The Independent Online
OURS could not have been the only hearts that sank at the sight of John Major grasping at the hand of Dame Vera Lynn last week. Mr Major was making an unadvertised appearance at the official announcement of 'a huge national programme' to mark the 50th anniversary of D-Day. It is an exceptional, unpopular politician who does not play the patriotism card, and Mr Major, as he has proved, is not exceptional. Stronger men would find it difficult to pass up the chance of a restorative bask in the shadow of Dame Vera, whose cheap and potent music remains the most poignant reminder of the last time this ordinary little nation knew exactly what it was doing. The Dame deserves better.

On the day itself she will, apparently, be in mid-Channel, a guest of Cunard, on the QE2, although the Government is supposed to be making feverish exertions to provide a place of even greater prominence. Other plans include 'a massive family day in Hyde Park', a parachute display at Kempton Park, street parties, fireworks, galas, concerts. Mentions of D-Day will be written into soap operas. Meanwhile, there is discussion and dissension about a part for the Princess of Wales and the Germans in the proceedings, and the French have been showing their usual sensitivity in the matter of hotel accommodation for the returning British liberators. We are in the midst of yet another news event, with its accustomed attendants of row and hype and saturation.

But there is another way. Ludovic Kennedy, calling for commemoration rather than celebration, has suggested that events be confined to a one-minute silence and standstill, followed by a peal of bells from every church tower in the country. This is a splendid idea, completely out of touch with modern methods, and about as likely as blue birds over the white cliffs of Dover. But next year, perhaps, for the V E Day anniversary?

(Photograph omitted)