THE 19 to 21 of November does not look like a good time to go to London to do the Christmas shopping. President Bush will be in town on those days and so will an unprecedented gathering of security forces. All police leave has been cancelled and one can assume that a huge military presence will be hovering in the background.

Scotland Yard said yesterday that it expected 50 to 60'000 protestors to take part in a demonstration against the President; the organisers of a rally in central London on 20 November said that they are anticipating 100'000 will join in. Whatever the number, it is worth asking whether this kind of thing is still the right way to get a message across to George W Bush. If the war were still in prospect or still in progress it might be effective, but would not empty streets and a silent London deliver a more telling message? Mr Bush must know by now in his own mind that the military action against Iraq was a mistake and that the follow-up is developing into a disaster. Big crowds waving offensive banners and shouting insults will only stiffen his determination to see the Iraq nightmare through at least until the Presidential election next November.

If the Stop the War Coalition wants to make its point it would be better to persuade its followers to line President Bush's route, wherever they can get access to it, and stand in total silence with heads bowed. Mr Bush is accustomed to noisy protestors wherever he goes. To be met by a massive silence from the British public would deliver a much more serious and profound message. It would also avoid unnecessary violence which might otherwise develop during his visit.