The Poppy as a Fig Leaf and Other Observations

Last Thursday found me entertaining visitors from the USA in Rhuthun, a pleasant town I’m rather fond of, where I was amazed to see a few people still wearing poppies. Even stranger, there were large poppies fixed to lamp-posts! (This, remember, was November 20th.) This reminded me that the of wearing of poppies may originally have honoured The Glorious Dead, but nowadays the poppy is used to relentlessly promote British unity and patriotism. Understandable, I suppose, for social cohesion is always desirable, but the growing economic disparities defeat that object, leaving the poppy exposed as a fig leaf behind which a corrupt and increasingly reviled elite seeks to hide.Cameron poppy

A political elite supported by a media that is looked upon by the rest of the world’s journalists with a mixture of awe and revulsion. Led of course by the BBC, the State mouthpiece that played such a prominent role in seeing off the threat of Scottish independence in September. Following behind is the print media, those newspapers that have hacked phones, paid bent coppers, etc., then denied doing anything wrong before – after being exposed – arguing that everything they did was in the public interest.

As I say, events in Scotland have played a big part in influencing the recent behaviour of the UK media and the output of the ‘entertainment industry’. In the final year of the Labour – Lib Dem coalition in the Scottish Parliament (to May 3, 2007) there were just 25 separate programmes that had ‘Britain’ or ‘British’ in the title. Between January 2013 and January 2014, with the SNP in power and the independence referendum looming, the number of ‘Britain’ / ‘British’ programmes had risen to 516! Yet we are supposed to believe that the threatening political situation in Scotland had nothing whatever to do with this upsurge in patriotic productions south of the border. Read more about it here.

This discredited elite and loathsome media also promote ‘Remembrance’ with a considerable degree of coercion, one only has to watch television in the weeks leading up to November 11th to realise that no one is allowed to appear on UK television without a poppy. The poppy must appear everywhere, from footballers’ shirts to newspaper front pages. (There’s something rather odd about seeing German and Argentine Premier League footballers with a poppy on their shirts.) The only Premiership player I’ve seen with the courage to refuse was James McClean, when with Sunderland (now with Championship side Wigan). Something else I’ve noticed is that the commemoration of ‘Armistice Day’ now seems to start around mid-September.

I make that observation because when I was a boy people would wear poppies on November 11th (or the Sunday nearest to that date), these were then either placed on graves or left on the mantlepiece, perhaps for next year; but now, like Christmas, the whole thing starts earlier every year. And just as sybarites of your acquaintance insist they wouldn’t really bother with all the over-eating and getting steaming drunk “if it was’t for the kids’, so the sinister and discredited elements I’m referring to want us to believe that the poppy cult is motivated solely by respect for The Fallen. I say cult because that’s what it has become. If anyone doubts what I’m saying, then just recall the Tower of London display this year and the crowds turning up to worship at the ‘shrine’.

Stepping back from that exercise in overkill we can see the bigger picture and the poppy cult as just one tactic in a wider strategy. For with the unity of Britain beset by threats as diverse as the SNP and jihadism, yet with nothing in modern Britain able to serve as the focus for a unifying loyalty, a discredited establishment is forced to employ the past, and to exploit those beyond all criticism. (The wisdom of which is questionable, given that those who died on the Western Front can be seen as victims of the same discredited establishment.)

poppy fig leaf

Of course, this promotion of an unquestioning patriotism that tolerates no criticism has its risks. Such as encouraging those on the uglier fringes of English / British nationalism into believing that this State-sponsored nationalism shows approval of their stance on various issues – not least immigration – which then results in the kind of behaviour we saw in George Square, Glasgow the day after the independence referendum. By waving Union flags on every conceivable occasion, by making endless programmes with ‘Britain’ or ‘British’ in the title, the British elite and its media encourage the extreme Right to think its beliefs are being endorsed or gaining acceptance. Which leads on to another problem.

For many of these SuperBrits are Nazis, and admire the army that killed so many British soldiers. I have never quite understood the reasoning at work here, does the English extreme Right think Britain should have made common cause with the Nazis in World War Two, maybe fought alongside them against the RusWhite vansians? It’s obvious there are many who see no contradiction in being a Nazi and a British patriot, as we saw in George Square, with people bawling out Land of Hope and Glory before yelling Sieg Heil! This confusion probably explains the nutter who gave a Nazi salute at the Remembrance Day service in Wrecsam. He may genuinely have believed that a Nazi salute is an acceptable way to show respect for Britain’s war dead. Think about that.

This ‘confusion’ presents a dilemma for our masters. Because I believe there are sinister forces within the establishment who think that in a shit-hitting-the-fan scenario, with Muslim neighbourhoods becoming no-go areas, Scotland declaring independence, social unrest among the English underclass, the thugs of the BNP and Britain First, Rangers fans and assorted other misfits would make ideal foot-soldiers, so we mustn’t be too hard on them. But it’s playing with fire.

Another problem for the British establishment presented by White Van Dan and his ilk is that while the Unionist elite desperately seeks ways to defeat Scottish nationalism, to combat the alienation of ethnic and religious minorities, and hold the UK together, the English Right is circling the wagons. It wants as little as possible to do with foreigners of any description or complexion, and the ‘scrounging’ Celts can also sod off if they so wish. How far can the British Unionist establishment go in appeasing those who want nothing less than an English England, and are as ready to see Britain dismembered as any Scottish nationalist? It’s a circle that cannot be squared without convincing English nationalists that Scotland and Wales are little more than subject territories, with the predictable consequences . . . in Scotland, anyway.

This dilemma almost certainly explains the swift removal from the shadow cabinet of Emily Thornberry last week. You may recall that during the Rochester and Strood by-election (won by Ukip) Ms Thornberry tweeted a photograph (shown above) with the caption, ‘Image from Rochester’. She was accused, among other things, of being “snobbish”. It would be difficult to prove in any court of law what Ms Thornberry meant by that tweet, it all depends on what you read into it, but Mrs Thornberry’s party leader, and the media, decided she had insulted the patriotic English working class and so she had to go. A curious decision for a political party that no longer understands the working class; but then, with Ukip on the rise Ed Miliband must pretend he’s a soul-mate to car dealer and cage fighter Dan. Incidentally, Dan says he put up the flags for the World Cup and just forgot to take them down. Reminder: England started packing their bags to come home on June 24th.

poppy fig leaf

Something that must be ignored by the establishment is that The Glorious Dead of previous generations were prepared to die for a country they loved and an establishment they believed – despite a few black sheep – was basically honest and doing its best for the country. They even believed what they read in their newspapers, and heard on the ‘wireless’. None of this applies today, which is why so many people are searching for political, religious and other alternatives, and why the poppy has become a fig leaf behind which a discredited elite tries to hide its obvious and multiple failings. And when it’s not poppy time then it’s sport, or royal weddings / pregnancies, or any other Great British Bollocks.

Britain today displays many of the features associated with civilisations in a state of terminal decline. The imperial family is not respected as once it was, too many have brought on it shame and ridicule. Few pay any attention to organised religion, other than ‘subversive’ faiths from the farther reaches of the empire. The political elite is distrusted as never before, perceived by the masses to be liars interested only in lining their own pockets. The money-lenders are crooks and the merchant class avoids paying taxes. With the result that the gulf between rich and poor grows year on year. The capital still prospers while provincial cities decline, and one of the more important provinces threatens to break away altogether. The masses grow restless and look to new leaders, back-slapping populists who can be found in the taverns and the wine shops. These are clearly dangerous times for the established order, so it must pretend to listen to the masses, promise to be strong against the foreigner, provide bread and circuses, while recalling the days of glory and urging the restless masses to be more like their unquestioningly loyal fathers.

That paragraph could have been about the decline and fall of imperial Rome (or France just before its Revolution) but I am of course writing about modern Britain, and I didn’t need to make up anything. As we know, things turned out badly for Rome and they’ll turn out badly for Britain’s discredited elite. The Britain I grew up in is disappearing before my eyes, and as with Rome, the collapse is not due to the barbarians at the gates (or indeed within the walls), it is due entirely to a corrupted, self-serving elite having become divorced from, and contemptuous of, the great majority of the population (though there’s some irony in the Daily Mail reminding us of this). This situation can persist only until enough of the ruled realise the true nature of those PX*2956596ruling them. We have almost reached that point.

The more one looks at modern, shyster-run Britain, with its never-ending scandals that must result in splurges of ever more contrived and unconvincing calls to patriotism, the more we should appreciate Dr. Johnson’s prescience in making the constantly re-forged link between patriotism and scoundrels.

And what of Wales? There will be those who argue that everything is fine, relax! chill out! while others will tell us we can all be rich and happy by replacing the incumbent shysters with a different crew of shysters. Of course we can. Others may pretend that devolution will save us. Well, we’ve had fifteen years of devolution and unless you’re a property developer in Cardiff or a Third Sector grant-grabber then you haven’t seen any benefits. Next year could give us a coalition government with the Tories linking up with the friendly face of fascism. Isn’t that something to look forward to? Wake up, the only hope for Wales is to start disentangling itself from the disaster unfolding before our eyes. That disaster is England.

I would readily honour the memory of those who lost their lives in combat if doing so hadn’t become politicised by those for whom I have no respect. Perhaps Wales should have a different poppy, one to honour the dead without being associated with those seeking to exploit the dead.

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Tripped over this link earlier today Counter Terror Expo 2015 – WELCOME TO COUNTER TERROR EXPO 2015

Very much the growth industry. if you can’t sell defence or military goods then repackage them as security and counter terror goods. Hey ho !! see you there next April.

Red Flag

As an ex-soldier I stick to the rules we used in the Army regarding poppies – you wear them from 01 November until Remembrance Sunday or 11 November whichever is later. It really hacks me off to see people wearing them before then.

As for Thornberry and the flag issue, wasn’t that photo taken around the time Scotland played England just before the by-Election and that’s why he had the flags up?

The Earthshaker

Off topic you and your readers might be interested in Chapter 1 of ‘How the BBC stole the Scottish referendum’ from a Scottish journalist on the YES side, the full book is to be published in full before the General Election, it contains some interesting snippets

Anne Greagsby

I agree with Jac and I too would honour the memory of those who lost their lives in combat if doing so hadn’t become politicised. Great idea for Wales to have a different poppy, one to honour the dead without being associated with those seeking to exploit the dead. Yes – like Lockheed Martin, the world’s biggest arms company, is the main sponsor of the British Legion Young Professionals’ Poppy Rocks event. Unfortunately this is far from the first time that the Legion has taken money from the arms trade.
The UK’s biggest arms company, BAE Systems, has been a long-standing ‘supporter’. In the past it has sponsored national poppy appeals and donated to fund-raising drives. It’s influence is still there, but now it keep a lower profile. This year they will be sponsoring the annual Poppy Ball white tie dinner, and specific offices and arms factories will be hosting their own local events. From
Then the Tower of London accused of “crass insensitivity” by hosting a £240-a-head networking dinner for arms manufacturers days after its hugely popular sea of poppies made it the focus of the First World War commemorations.

green dragon

Looks as if dear Cerys has let us all down 🙁

And being a mere strapling at 45 – and given its likely dame vera wont be available – there’s every prospect Cerys will be around in 3 decades time to lead the beeb’s ‘celebrations’ of the carnage of the d day landings…she may even be ‘dame cerys’ by then.


A younger Cerys said “stick your OBE” in one of her songs – and that truth remains, but it’s up to her where she chooses to stick her gong. Fortunately she remains quite irrelevant to determination of priorities here in Wales, but like so many before her serves as a reminder of how easy it is to sell out on the cheap.


Hywel Teifi led an excellent series on WW.1 trench war and its horrors some years ago accompanied as I recall by Iolo Williams. I remember my dad, who served WW.2 from D Day onwards being complimentary, but took exception to Iolo wearing shorts at some of the sites, cos he ( my dad ) thought it showed a lack of respect !
Like the older vets he talked very little about the fighting though he had funny stories about the lighter moments. Went to Normandy in June 1994, and cried his heart out when visiting graves, bought things back like they happened the previous day. Despite hatred of Nazism, he questioned the value of sacrifice cos he had witnessed it, not spouted about it from some platform.
Whenever I hear likes of Cameron, and Blair before him, refer to Churchill it makes me want to puke. Although Winston was in many ways a nasty piece of work, at least he had been in the thick of it earlier in his life and knew the score ( even though his prism was a bit distorted ). Our modern day “leadership” is cultivated on a bed of “thought leadership” and “political research” with little exposure to the real world, let alone the extremes of war.
Is there a person involved in Welsh, or wider UK politics today who can be identified as a man or woman matured in the conduct of real work of any kind. D Wigley came from industrial management but at a relatively young age, while Johnson the labour guy was a postman but seems mildly uncomfortable with it. The rest are hacks, researchers, management consultants, city wonks, academics, part time lawyers, social workers and probably undisclosed pimps and rent boys.

Spotted my first TV poppy on the 23rd October. There may have been others sooner as I don’t watch a lot of live TV.

I wonder how many are scared not to be seen wearing them, I see so few of them in normal everyday life that its bizarre to switch on the telly and every single person is wearing them. It’s not about respect if the people wearing them are doing it because they have to.

Also, the Scots have their own poppy. It’s time we had one too. The Welsh poppy has 4 petals, it could be one for those killed by the Romans, the Vikings, the English and of course fighting for the English.

Keith Parry

Sadly as you say the poppy and November 11th have little to do with remembering the dead and a lot to do with Union Flag waving and singing British National songs. No one asks why or who sent forty thousand Welshmen to their deaths !914-18.


These past few weeks I’ve had the sad task of clearing the house of my late sister in Swansea and one of the family treasures I uncovered was a small casket of possessions belonging to my Tadcu.

Besides the 1914-18 service medal was a number of telegrams reporting the loss of his brothers. Also contained were some letters written home to his mam. Most of the comments, which I assume to be references of affection, were written in the Welsh language. They were redacted, crossed out, and signed off as such by a staff officer in London prior to sending home. Also contained is a letter and medal of commendation, from, and written in French. It was for performing remedial assembly of dysfunctional shells in the trenches at Ypres, which I assume to be a rather brave and dangerous task.

From what I remember my Tadcu never wore his medals, both French and British after the war, nor did he wear a poppy. I had assumed it was an experience he best thought left forgotten. What I only recently found out was amongst the relics were some notes which my Tadcu had kept as he had used his shillings to pay for doctors to treat his mother who had also suffered in the form of lead poisoning from assembling the same designs of shell at a factory near Morriston. Her sacrifice is also recorded in Y Gymraes journal of the time, also contained in the casket.

Perhaps the experience of my family is something Huw Edwards wish to consider when he presents all that fawning and pomp on the BBC. He will know well the chapel where both are buried along with the man who wrote this…

My Tadcu’s mam did not speak English, so it is quite apparent that those letters home had been written in a language which the recipient could not read, and those notes of love and affection had been crossed out. Will Huw ever tell this story on the BBC? Fat chance.


post script – I see Cameron is about to start spouting more of his silly drivel about immigration – talking tough, blah blah ! yet in an area where he could act without breaking EU or any other treaty he’s inactive, inert, probably comatosely blissfully unaware !
His lackeys keep laying out funds for the relocation of dysfunctional Anglos ( mostly white so they don’t show up unless inspected closely ) into under funded Welsh local authorities who remain ignorant of the longer term toxic effects of this pollution.
“No social housing for recent immigrants” is likely to be one of his bleats, well let’s apply that in the towns and villages of Wales where misfits are regularly dumped causing mayhem in primary schools, petty crime, drug use and dealing etc etc. I would sooner welcome a Pashtun Afghan, if one was dull enough to come to this part of the world.

John Henry

“… this pollution”, your para 2.

Do I assume my wife and daughter would be classified as pollutants in this green and pleasant land ?


John, sorry about the delay in reverting to you .

If that description – “…….dysfunctional Anglos ( mostly white so they don’t show up unless inspected closely) ……causing mayhem in primary schools, petty crime, drug use and dealing etc etc.” fits you & yours then you would be seen rightly as a polluting influence. However, I suspect that given your interest in discussions such as this that you fall some way outside that “social group” but retain an interest in defending their right to foul up whatever area they are parked in. Why ? . Decision makers/budget holders need to wise up, these sorts of experiments don’t work no matter how well meaning they may have been at the outset they are now a horrific act of aggression towards the targetted settlements.


From both perspectives it’s appalling. Do you think any of these families and individuals want to be rehomed hundreds of miles away in another country? Many are being left with no choice – either pay market rates (triple what they had been paying) or move on.


crabb, smith & jones ? what do you expect from a firm of estate agents ?

On a serious note I find the current political “conversation/dialogue” quite distressing because it’s all about dependency really. Barnett, barnett, or not to barnett ? Any independence minded person needs to think far beyond the handout/ cake sharing nonsense and plan how this country of ours can evolve into statehood and beyond. All the brains seem to be looking at new ways of engineering a carve up based on the amount available from the centre i.e London and assuming it all flows there in the first place. That means a de facto recognition that real power is vested there and only there. Everything, including decentralised/devolved power becomes a handout, a gift from the centre.

Now Nigel & his merry men see losing/cedeing power to EU is a big threat to identity, yet UK Central retains that same view of its vassals in Wales, N Ireland & Scotland. Scotland may talk independence but appear in some cases to be content to be a “better class of vassal” en route to that independence. Against this backdrop, which is fluid, the Welsh political class ( and us ordinary folk out in the country ) need to take a long hard look at our condition – not just materially, but that mix of emotion, instinct, pride, humour etc that adds up to our identity. Failure to appreciate this bigger picture of ourselves may lead to a settlement which gives marginal material gains but does permanent damage to our identity, which would condemn us to an eternity under the control of UK Central.

Y Cneifiwr

I just switched on the radio to hear that no sooner had the poppy display reached its climax than the Tower of London hosted a hush-hush £240 a head dinner for arms manufacturers, with Chief of Staff General Sir Nicholas Houghton as guest of honour.


Jac, you’ve highlighted in teh past Carwyn the puppet Jones’s utterings about not implementing anythings in Wales which would be to the detriment of England. Here we have his masters’ view on such things. Specifically, Air Passenger Duty in this case:


……….and now the US military-industrial axis is recruiting their biggest rivals for an intensification of “just war” programme which will fill coffers of major defence corporates well into next decade.


about the only type of person that can stop this abuse of the memory of the sacrificed lives is a person with a totally clean sheet above reproach, and the UK media would make sure that his story would not see the light of day !

2014 has been a horrific reminder of the twisted minds amongst us because for a while it looked like a national carnival to celebrate 1914 !! Bloody hell, it was the kick off for the most horrendous conflict, just cos a bunch of dying empires were vying for supremacy as they began to fade. To make matters worse they contrived to botch the peace settlement giving rise to Adolf and his cronies, Mussolini, Mosley et al, and that other ghoul Stalin whose excesses remain not quantified accurately.

I would be tempted to engage in a bit of subdued commemoration when 2018 comes around, but only out of respect for the rank and file lives lost and maimed in that 4 year period and in subsequent wars. That’s why I wear a new poppy every year and disregard the pompous bullshit coming from the collected orifices of politicians and other “opinion formers”. If only we could put them in the front line for a few days, not flying into Helmand for a quickie, but walk down an alley with risk of Taliban IED’s at every step. You wouldn’t be able to move for brown stuff !


It really is shameful. Let’s not also forget the government campaign to install commemorative paving slabs in the birthplaces of Victoria Cross recipients. ( This celebration of military valour / heroics as opposed to paying respect to those who died goes completely against the immediate post war feeling. You will see most war memorials from the time simply listed those who died with no special regard to rank and file. They weren’t concerned about the ‘legacy of local heroes’ at the time, they were mourning the friends and neighbours they had lost.

Not to mention the sponsorship of Royal Legion events by major arms manufacturers. (

It was supposed to be the ‘war to end all wars’, now increasingly its memory is used to justify current and ongoing wars (amongst other contemporary concerns).

George Orwell’s famous quote is never more pertinent: “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.”


I realise that, I wasn’t being critical merely an observation that it’s an image both critics and supporters like to use. If anything can be learnt from Ukip it’s that image and perception is everything in contemporary politics!

Fair points, although I’d say the ongoing situation in Russia and Eastern Europe could be classed as collateral damage. But I don’t want to quibble, I agree with most of what you’re saying and am trying to seek common ground. I guess I’m a leftie at heart though, and would say that the real disaster is neo-liberal capitalism. By your definition, a lot of people in England would want to disentangle themselves from England.


Some really interesting thoughts there Jac. Many would agree with your ‘falling empire’ interpretation, and it could apply equally to America, to capitalism, to the two-party political system. Print media even. History shows us that falling empires don’t tend to fall without a fight and without dragging others down with it.

But there is reason to be hopeful and people are becoming more aware of the situation and looking away from the mainstream media for their information. The rise of UKIP has as much to do with disillusionment with centralised politics than anything else, the only tragedy is that people are misguided enough to believe that UKIP actually present an alternative. It is interesting that you use one of the many pictures available of Farage raising a glass of ale. Critics like to use such images to ridicule him but it is also popular with supporters and helps perpetrate the ‘man of the people’ myth which makes him so popular (unless you have the rather excellent Ukitten plug-in installed, which replaces all images of Farage on your browser with an image of a kitten!)

As for poppies, a lot of people are uncomfortable with their increasing misuse for various reasons. Many are choosing to use the white poppy to pay their respects (Caroline Lucas diplomatically wore both white and red, there were also a group of veterans who laid a white poppy wreath). But this has modern day political connotations of its own.