It’s that time of year again, poppies everywhere, almost every public figure, politician, sportsman and news presenter is wearing one. Those that don’t wear one though, are increasingly scrutinised and criticised in the media and on social media by the public.
The poppy is a symbol of remembrance and the annual coverage and debate in the lead up to armistice day could be seen as a sign that our collective memory is as in sync as ever. It’s estimated that this year around 45 million poppies will be bought by the public from the British Legion.
Despite that, almost without fail around this time of year, controversy of some kind surrounds the honouring of those that have sacrificed their lives through military conflict and this year has been no different.
As November approached, there has been increasing speculation as to whether the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn would wear a red poppy. In the past he’s chosen to wear a white poppy alongside the red. However, it has been confirmed that he will wear a red poppy only, when attending the Remembrance ceremony at the Cenotaph. Corbyn allegedly faced hostility from members of his own party after he initially refused to rule out wearing a white poppy too.
The white poppy has itself become a controversial symbol, as many see it to represent a show of dissent from supporting the armed forces. The Peace Pledge Union who produce and sell the white version of the poppy are a pacifist, anti-war organisation, who use the white poppy to represent and remember all of those who have died in war. However, it has been argued that the white poppy is disrespectful to the memory of fallen service people.
A blunder in the PR offices of No.10 also saw David Cameron come in for abuse on social media this year too, after a poppy was photo shopped on to the Prime Minister’s jacket, on his Facebook profile picture. Since the mishap, the photograph on Cameron’s account has been changed to a picture of him wearing a real poppy. However, this has not stopped a flurry of images poking fun at the PM doing the rounds on social media.
For others in the public eye though, the issues surrounding the wearing of poppies has some much more serious repercussions. West Bromwich Albion player James McClean has once again refused to wear a shirt featuring an embroidered poppy. In 2012, McClean received death threats after taking the same stance while a Sunderland player and he has argued that wearing the poppy would be disrespectful to those who lost their lives during the Troubles in Northern Ireland, given his heritage. While, ITV news presenter Charlene White has been the victim of racist abuse after taking a stance against wearing the symbol of remembrance, wanting to stay politically neutral.
This issue of abuse and threat was highlighted most prominently by the news presenter Jon Snow, who has in the past condemned what he calls “poppy fascists”, after his refusal to wear a poppy whilst presenting the C4 news. He and others, have argued that wearing a poppy in memory of war heroes should be a choice and pressure or threats should not be used to force individuals to support this or any other cause.
Will you be wearing a poppy this year? Or have you ever received pressure or abuse for your choice to not wear one? Equally, do you believe that figures in the public eye have a duty to support this cause?