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At the recent Churchill commemorations David Cameron said the quality he admired most about the war time leader was his patriotism. Mr Cameron frequently talks about patriotism, but it is sometimes difficult to understand what his idea of being patriotic is.
On the eve of the European elections, patriotism – or at least politicians' appropriation of that condition – is much in the air. I shall refrain from any temptation to refer to scoundrelly tendencies and consider instead, the gentler, and what I believe to be the more fruitful concept of a 'sense of place.'
It is an instantly recognised and powerful image which has endured for over a century. The foreshortened pointing finger, extravagant moustaches and braided military cap of Lord Kitchener have been utilised across a wide range of advertising since they were first employed to tell young men that their country needed them.
Writing in the Observer on 14 October, the paper's chief political correspondent Andrew Rawnsley presented readers with a composite of the speeches given by the leaders of the three main parties at their recent conferences. It is an amusing swipe at the banalities and dog-whistles of political rhetoric, which you can read here: http://bit.ly/UVtj78 but it is also a reminder of something ugly and delusional which underlies that rhetoric.
Almost thirty years ago, I went to the Yorkshire Dales with a group of friends to undertake an ascent of the Three Peaks. Penyghent, Whernside and Ingleborough make for a stiff day's walking. But we were very young and the challenge of quantity was more significant to us than the quality of more leisured ascent.