Cristina Odone waves goodbye to Mrs Miniver

What a shock to the men in the war rooms: women no longer cheer them on

Mrs Miniver was one of the great national institutions, the epitome of British womanhood, unflappable, compassionate and patriotic. Greer Garson played Kay Miniver in the 1942 film, and she portrayed a winning mixture of charm and grit. The bombs might rain upon her idyllic village, and she might come eyeball to eyeball with a German pilot, but Mrs Miniver kept her cool, reading Alice in Wonderland to her children in the bomb shelter, and taking part in the village flower show as if the world were not falling apart around her. She was the perfect personification of the "home front" - those devoted wives and mums who cheered on our boys, respected rations, sewed bandages for the war effort.

Indeed, she proved so inspiring to her fellow citizens (soldiers and civilians alike) that Winston Churchill said that the film's propaganda value was worth a dozen battleships.

There is little trace of Mrs Miniver today. Even now that war has started in earnest, fewer than half of British women declare to pollsters that they support it. Unlike the men (61 per cent in favour), they refuse to rally in support. They are not sewing Red Cross bandages at home but folding anti-war leaflets and organising the next peace march.

The women who speak out about the conflict are not gung-ho armchair generals; they are not cheerleaders working up a lather of admiration for the speeches of the glorious leader. No, today we have mothers of soldiers killed in action who slow-handclap the Prime Minister on television.

We have women of every class and with varying links to soldiers at the front, talking of the evils of war, the moral equivalence of both parties in the war and, above all, the potential devastation wrought upon civilians in Iraq. We hear women voice their fears that this conflict will not result in a clear-cut winner but in a long and bloody terrorist campaign.

It must come as a shock to the men in the war rooms. In the past they could always attack a nation and storm a city and know that the little woman was 110 per cent behind them. Whatever they did, they were her knights in shining armour, protecting her, the family and the nation from the forces of evil. Now, they can't be sure that the woman they encounter won't boo or slow-handclap them as they adopt some martial posture or strike a trigger-happy attitude.

Goodbye, Mrs Miniver.

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