Earlier today, Lance Corporal Matt Croucher was interviewed on BBC WM's Ed Doolan show. (The interview, by Steve Dyson, is available to listen again for the next 7 days).
In view of the controversy of the past week and the heat that has been generated by my actions, I must say that his remarks were very generous and dignified.
He spoke of his support for the mission that British forces are carrying out in Afghanistan. He made it clear that he thought protesting against individual soldiers was wrong, and I am sure he would rather my actions had not embroiled him in this political controversy.
But I was struck by his calm and measured approach.
In the interview, Lance Corporal Croucher expressed some understanding for the difficult position we were put in as councillors who are morally opposed to the war in Afghanistan. He was right to say that we were unaware the tribute was going to take place ‘until the last minute’, and that ‘we had to think on our feet’.
Indeed, if I had been aware that this situation was going to arise, I would have chosen to register my feelings in a different way. I would want to ensure that I delivered a snub to the cowardly politicians in a manner that could not have been construed as an insult to a soldier who had carried out an act of individual bravery.
But, perhaps more importantly, Lance Corporal Croucher volunteered the opinion that some of the responses to our action could be motivated by racism. He felt that we could have been targeted because we were Muslim, and commented that if it was “white Christian councillors that sat down, there would not be the hype that there is now”.
Unfortunately I think he is right. His dignified comments are in sharp contrast to the violently abusive tone struck by some of my opponents, and Councillor Martin Mullaney in particular.