Published on 8 Nov 2006

Why I don't wear a poppy on air

A message from last night’s duty log is not untypical. It reads: “I’m disgusted at Jon Snow for refusing to wear a poppy. He interrogates those people sitting opposite him, but refuses to answer questions on why he refuses to acknowledge those who fought on his behalf.”

The poppy issue is an interesting one – opinions are much more bitterly divided and assertively put than on any other symbol.

Fiona Bruce is to be allowed to continue to wear a crucifix, or a cross-shaped item of jewellery. I am allowed to wear unspeakably bright ties. But there’s a world of difference there that we should be assertive about.

My ties are abstract – I do not believe in wearing anything which represents any kind of statement. You may say my ties, my socks are a statement anyway. But of what? A statement of rebellion? Joy? Absurdity? You see we don’t know what the statement is – if indeed there is one – and that is as it should be.

I am begged to wear an Aids Ribbon, a breast cancer ribbon, a Marie Curie flower… You name it, from the Red Cross to the RNIB, they send me stuff to wear to raise awareness, and I don’t. And in those terms, and those terms alone, I do not and will not wear a poppy.

Additionally there is a rather unpleasant breed of poppy fascism out there – ‘he damned well must wear a poppy!’. Well I do, in my private life, but I am not going to wear it or any other symbol on air.

I respect our armed forces, the sacrifice and the loss, and like others I remember them on Remembrance Sunday. That’s the way it is. I won’t be wearing a black tie for anyone’s death – I don’t for my own relatives, so why on earth would I for anyone else’s?

When the Queen Mother died, our coverage was not of dark grief but of a happy life remembered. 

In the end there really must be more important things in life than whether a news presenter wears symbols on his lapels.

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11 reader comments

  1. Stewart J Brownrigg says:

    Well said. There is a reason why your are so well respected.

  2. Tony Al-Naqib says:

    I entirely agree and respect your decision. It must be a personal choice to wear these emblems, surely that’s amongst the freedoms that others sacrificed their lives for? I’d rather see one presenter choose to wear a poppy than 99 compelled.

  3. J. Turner says:

    I have mixed feelings about what poppies represent- when the question of respecting the sacrifices of the armed forces arises, I would be more inclined to wear one if it didn’t feel like I’m perpetuating the idea that war is somehow noble and honourable. Whilst the men who fight often behave that way (but they are the exception), everything I’ve ever read about how conflicts are conducted by the protagonists describes very much the opposite.

  4. Anne, North London says:

    I notice that last night the Beeb’s Europe correspondent reporting from Rome was wearing a poppy – are they exported?? There must be a squad of Poppy Police operating in the media to enforce conformity.
    Also, I notice that X factor hopefuls et al are sporting flamboyant sparkly poppies; and a woman on the bus was wearing a large crocheted job. Surely, if you do choose to wear a remembrance poppy, it’s a symbol – I find the glitter versions pretty tacky and in poor taste.

    1. caute3 says:

      I have written a comment below (caute3) but I thought the whole point of buying, let alone wearing, a poppy was that the money went to an army charity like the Chelsea pensioners. Isn’t this the case? If so, to wear a crotcheted job kind of misses the point in quite a far out way

  5. reptile says:

    Everyone on television may be wearing a poppy but I think this is just the work of the BBC costume department.

  6. twitter.com/richardp1975 says:

    People have every right to suggest that they think you should wear a poppy, and you have every right not to wear one, and to assert your reasons for this (if you choose to).

    You cannot and should not be forced to wear a poppy or to enter into a debate on the subject. It is a matter for personal choice, plain and simple.

  7. Caute3 says:

    My mother, who is Dutch, was in Holland during the second world war. At the age of 14, left alone to defend for herself, she stood by the window in a house near Groningen station and watched as the English soldiers on one side of the bridge fired at the German soldiers on her side of the bridge. Knowing the danger she was in and only a few feet away, a German soldier stood up from his trench and shouted to my mother to get down, gesticulating with his hand for her to do so; at that moment two things happened; my mother ducked just as a bullet hit the window but not before seeing the German soldier shot dead. I exist because of the kind actions of a human being – not a Nazi, not a soldier, just a human being who was in a place he probably never wanted to be in, at a particular moment in history. I don’t wear a Poppy because, though I’m English, the very idea that I am supposed to remember his killers who ‘died for us’ is ludicrous.

    1. James says:

      Why would a soldier shoot an innocent civilian? Sounds a bit farfetched

  8. Anne J Butler says:

    I used to buy a poppy a few days before Remembrence Sunday – but now it starts weeks before and the “why don’t you have a poppy” is now standard comment.
    The whole point of all these wars was for freedom – when did wearing a poppy become mandatory? This was not what the ancestors fought for – they thought they were fighting for freedom. But now that it has become “almost mandatory “. My resistance is becoming stronger – this was absolutely not what my ancestors fought for – in fact in the Second World War this was definitely NOT what they fought for! It has now become a mass hysteria – wear a poppy or you are against us – dystopian or what !!!!

  9. John says:

    If the govt did the decent thing and properly rehabilitated and compensated those injured (and dependants of those killed) in its employ, then there would be no need for RBL charity and remembrance could be private. Poppy fascism – sums it up. Poppy chuggers have to be faced down.

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