Without the war in Afghanistan, I would never heard of Wootton Bassett. The announcement by the group 'Islam4UK' that they wish to stage a march through the town has provoked disgust in many quarters, including a huge facebook group. Needless to say, I disagree with the group's politics and think their planned protest, in the unlikely event that they were ever serious about going ahead with it, is crass in the extreme.
But pretending that the repatriations of the British war dead are usually apolitical events is nonsense. In today's Guardian, the local Tory MP expresses disgust that a group may have the nerve to bring a political message to the town. In the same breath, he manages to mention that he has personally attended two-thirds of the ceremonies. Why would this be worth mentioning, except to score political points? And, predictably, the odious Nick Griffin rocked up at a ceremony there recently to get his party in the public eye.
The question ignored in the mainstream media is this: who gave Wootton Bassett its significance? Most repatriations from the Afghan war come through the town from nearby RAF Lyneham. But the dead soldiers come from all over the country. Someone made the decision to turn Wootton Bassett into a focal point for national grief, and this was a political decision.
In other news Reuben over at the Third Estate comments on the appearance in court of some men arrested at a similar protest in Luton.