In the last couple of weeks, millions of people have been wearing poppies in advance of Remembrance Day, and once again it’s kicked off the same debate I see every year. The poppy debate seems to be a hugely divisive issue, with some outright refusing to wear one, seeing it as a symbol which glorifies conflict, and some people determined to make sure everyone wears one. I’m not convinced it’s quite as contentious an issue as it often appears in the press, but it is greatly worrying that Remembrance Sunday seems to become more and more about who wears a poppy and who doesn’t – and this attitude has to stop.
The poppy was never supposed to cause political controversy. Inspired by similar poppy wearing initiatives in France, the Royal British Legion launched the first Poppy Appeal in Britain in 1921 to commemorate those who fought and died in the First World War, but many have argued against this idea from the very start. The white poppy, worn to symbolise peace as a reaction against the red poppy, has existed since 1933, showing that this debate has been going on for an awfully long time. To this day, so many of us still wear the red or white poppy, but many choose not to, arguing over what they truly represent.