Why I’m not Wearing a Poppy

Why I’m not Wearing a Poppy
by D.J. Webb

Once again the annual row on the wearing of poppies is taking place. The powers that be are against patriotism on principle, although there is considerable contradiction in running a society and not being supportive of it. However, the issue has been rather muddied for me by Britain‘s habit of sending young men abroad into wars that have no conceivable connection to our national interest. I support our soldiers unconditionally, whether the wars are justified or not, as they are British soldiers. I also feel very sorry for those wounded, or killed, in wars staged for the convenience of the liberal elite. But I have not worn a poppy for several years now.

I know many conservatives will be pained to read a short article explaining why a poppy should not be worn. But to my mind, the wearing of a poppy is tokenism at its worst, considerably cheapened by the wearing of poppies by BBC correspondents and members of the political class–in most cases, people who are not remotely interest in Great Britain as a nation-state. I don’t watch television, and so I don’t know if David Cameron has been espied this year wearing a poppy, but I expect he has done so or will be doing so very shortly, and the juxtaposition of that with his decisions to support “the bringing of democracy to Afghanistan“, as well as similar campaigns in other countries, just illustrates to me the false nature of the whole thing. The Queen has often been spotted wearing several poppies at once, which seem to indicate that she is a more important patriot, or has a higher patriotic conscience than most of us. Yet, the whole point of poppies is the support of the nation as a whole for its war dead, and the wearing of outsized poppies or more than one poppy by anyone, including the Queen, is simply inappropriate. In the Queen’s case, as she does sign off on the sending of young men, without proper equipment, into wars that are not for the national interest, her wearing of a poppy is rather to be deprecated. “She has never put a foot wrong”, we are told; but I understand this to mean she has never challenged the liberal elite on anything.

Worst of all for me is the fact that the poppy seeks to depoliticise Britain‘s wars. After the First World War, when “lions were led by donkeys”, an accounting with those who had encouraged an unnecessary war would have been appropriate, including a public explanation by King George V as to why he, as commander-in-chief, had authorised Great Britain‘s joining of the war in the first place. Yet the bringing in of the poppy tradition has encouraged a non-political “commemoration”. What is the point of commemorations if our political class are committed to sending more and more young men abroad into “wars of choice” in the years ahead?

I would not want to show disrespect to Britain‘s war dead, but to me the greatest respect that can be shown is to mount a political discussion of Britain‘s role in the world and whether it should be attempting to remain a military power in the way it is and whether it should be continuing to intervene in distant countries in fatuous attempts to impose democracy. I cannot wear the White Poppy that is used to symbolise peace, as I would support war for the national interest (such as the Falklands War), but not the staging of foreign wars for the political convenience of British leaders where no national interest is at stake.

I welcome the charity work of the Royal British Legion, but why is the RBL not campaigning to stop British military interventions in countries thousands of miles away? What about the fact that Britain today is not the “land fit for heroes” that some people thought they were fighting for in the 1940s? Mass immigration, the state promotion of political causes such as multi-culturalism, feminism and ‘gay’ rights, the stymieing of so much political discussion in the UK by reference to the policy strictures imposed by our membership of the European Union, the way the vast majority of the population is left with a £100 a week state pension while required via the tax system to fund much more generous public-sector equivalents: all these things illustrate how “our glorious dead” died for nothing. If you feel any sorrow over the loss of young lives in foreign jaunts, forget the poppy and start campaigning politically, as otherwise more of our young people will be killed in the name of a political class that cares nothing for them and is rapidly effecting the disintegration of anything positive in British society.

14 responses to “Why I’m not Wearing a Poppy

  1. I dashed that missive off to Sean Gabb in a hurry, and after it went up on the blog, I had more thoughts on the subject that could have been apposite.

    Someone might say, with considerable justification, that some of these foreign wars are part of our alliance with the US, and part of the reason the UK joined the US war in Iraq was because we are America’s number one ally, and should not abandon them.

    My problem with this reasoning is that we seem unable to “cash in” on our relationship with the US. We are taken for granted. The US apparently supports Argentina’s claim to the Falklands. The US ambassador to London (Louis Sussman or some such name) has been very explicit that he expects the UK to remain part of the EU, and that that is US policy. Surprisingly–and I say this despite my general contempt for Gordon Brown–President Obama was very reluctant to meet the UK prime minister, and indeed behaved in a humiliating fashion towards him. When our soldiers are defusing bombs in Afghanistan by hand–by hand–when other nations are using remote machines–and doing so largely because of our alliance with the US, then I believe that US presidents should be rushing to meet our political leaders. And where they don’t do so, it means they are taking us for granted–which diminishes the best argument for Britain’s participation in these wars (ie, that doing so is a necessary consequence of our alliance with the US).

    The behaviour of Barack Obama towards the UK (his appalling stance at the time of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill springs to mind also) has played an important role in convincing me that the UK’s geopolitical position is not being enhanced by our being a US sidekick…

  2. I agree. I’d have supported the Iraq War if Tony Blair had got the following out of Washington:

    1. Offer of immediate NAFTA membership on the same basis as Canada;
    2. Access to American military technology on the terms enjoyed by Israel;
    3. An equal split between British and American firms of the rebuilding contracts.

    As it is, all this “Hands across the Water” makes me want to puke

  3. Under the terms of the US/UK Intelligence Agreement, Britain has better access than Israel has.


  4. I agree with George V, in that he said well after the event:

    “I cannot conclude what else, in the circumstances we found ourselves at the time, that we could have done”.

    He was, taking all into account, probably a better King than our present Queen, and through arguably more difficult times.

    I know this will irritate Sean and I’m sorry for that, but he knows I disagree with him to some extent about the underlying strategy of our involvement in foreign wars: I am a sort of jihadist-turned-upside-down. To me, all wars caused, or which need to be started by the sheer and mere existence of pre-capitalist-barbarians, warrant England’s specific interference as a simple matter of human obligation and duty. As a libertarian Principal-Sec-of-State-for-War, I would maintain an astonishingly enormous and potent military complex, possibly for many, many decades more – as long as it takes to obliterate socialism from the whole planet and the surrounding Solar System (it MUST NOT get out, ever – or we are f****d), and even the slightest memory of what it might have said, from the minds of Men..

  5. Libertarian Totalitarianism…


  6. The whole point of the poppy is to remember soldiers who died in or have been injured in our wars. Why the war was fought, why the soldiers were sent is immaterial to remembering them. It is a tribute to them as individuals who volunteered their lives. The commemoration is a non-political space for everyone to show gratitude that we have such individuals despite the rows over the rights and wrongs of any particular war. We will never ever have full agreement on whether or not a particular war was just. But we will, hopefully always have citizens willing to set personal politics aide and volunteer for war. To not wear the poppy for any reason beyond being a committed pacifist is to politicise the event-the opposite of what it should be.
    I didn’t agree with the Iraq war, I still don’t know whether we should have gone to Afghanistan;should we have involved ourselves in Libya? I don’t know. The service men and women didn’t ask these question when taking the oath. So, on Remembrance Sunday neither will I, and I will buy a poppy. One day there will be a war you will think just, and others will not, and you will expect the same sacrifice from them.

  7. “The Queen has often been spotted wearing several poppies at once, which seem to indicate that she is a more important patriot”
    In order to draw that conclusion, you would have to have considerably skewed judgement – shame that what could have been a valid debate uses such silly criteria. I imagine the Queen is sent poppies from various veteran associations and chooses to represent several at once – nobody with clear thought would surmise that HM was trying to be ‘holier than though’ by wearing extra poppies…
    I think there is a valid debate to be had on whether we are remembering war or remembering the fallen when we wear a poppy – but in order for the debate to be valid, it has to contain valid points IMHO.

  8. Concerned Briton

    I think that it is a good and considered article Mr Webb, covering a very tricky subject. I agree with what has been said – and I think it draws the right kinds of distinctions between different elements going on in the mix.

    When it comes to the drones in the Ministry of Propaganda, maybe I am mistaken, but was it not once the practice to wear it for the day instead of weeks in advance like they seem to do on TV today? I could well be wrong on that though!

  9. baloocartoons

    Very nice piece. I’ve reblogged it here with appropriate illustration.

  10. I tend to agree with the OP. In the last few years, it seems to me that Remembrance Day has been hijacked by the political class and a subtle change has been wrought upon it. It’s like it is now a glorification of war, rather than a time to remember the dead.

  11. “It’s like it is now a glorification of war, rather than a time to remember the dead.” Richard Carey, you seem to have misunderstood my original post of 2 years ago. My point was not to oppose the glorification of war, but to draw a distinction between wars in the national interest (which include imperial conquest where the country has a realistic chance of building an empire) and wars for some liberal grandstanding. We do have a glorious military history – think Clive of India, Rourke’s Drift and all that – and those who oppose “glorification of war” are simply trying to cheapen the genuine glory of our military history.

    • Okay, I expect I do misunderstand your view, so my comment should be edited to remove the first line, but the rest is my opinion which I hold to, that Remembrance Day should be a day to remember the dead, not celebrate war and military glory.

  12. I can perfectly well see the possible scenarios in which a classical-liberal, conservative-inclined Libertarian minimal-state might declare war. The obvious first one is when faced with a direct threat or even assault by less-free nations, bent on nipping-in-the-bud any emergence of a visibly-successful libertarian civilisation: this would be seen as an awful and real threat to more statist outfits who’d risk losing most of their populations and taxation-farm-base in free flight.

    Thus the possibility of expensive and maybe mortal war would face a libertarian state right at its beginning, but would recede as other countries lose their public revenues and populations, and go bust.

  13. I have only just come across this posting. I have been uneasy for some years now that the ruling classes have hijacked the wearing of poppies and the festivals of remembrance, to divert attention from their culpability for the millions of dead and maimed, military and civilian from all sides of conflict. How convenient to remember the ‘bravery and sacrifice’ of our fallen at a time when we should be dragging political leaders to tribunals to account for their misdeeds. I would suggest that very few soldiers willingly sacrifice themselves for the aspirations of our rulers. I don’t write this to diminish the heroism and fortitude of those who fight for King and Country, but you don’t hear very much about conscription and coercion at remembrance time.