24/10/2012 10:40 BST | Updated 24/10/2012 11:24 BST

Poppy Appeal: Has It Become Political To Wear The Red Symbol Of Remembrance?

As the British Legion launches its poppy appeal it seems wearing the little red flower has lost none of its potency.

Political, patriotic, a sign of principle or a duty, it seems wearing the symbol signifies much more than remembrance in many minds.

A secondary school teacher in Islington called Jonathan made headlines earlier this week after he said he was making a point of wearing a poppy after being asked to remove it by the deputy head teacher two years ago.

He told LBC Radio: “They said they had had a couple of complaints and asked me to stop wearing it for the sake of parent-teacher relationships. They didn’t think I should be promoting my views to young children.

“I thought maybe there was something in it and I removed it. Last year I bought one but I didn’t wear it to school.

"This year I am going to wear it and I am not going to take it off because we pander to too many of the minority views of small, narrow-minded people and we do this at the cost of our own feelings."

Feeling protective of the poppy is not unusual, but as a symbol of patriotism it is certainly highly charged. In past years the flower has being hijacked by both far-right and extremist groups to promote exclusion and exploit community tensions.

Young poppy sellers in Bradford have been sent out with chaperones this year after three girl cadets, two of them Asian, were spat at and abused whilst selling the charity flower in 2011.

The assault followed a ban on militant group Muslims Against Crusades by the home secretary after the group burned poppies at an anti-Armistice Day protest.


The EDL protested outside the trial of Mohammad Haque and Emdadur Choudhury, accused of burning poppies

There's been a push in recent years to reclaim the poppy, cleansing it of the political and social meanings it has developed insome quarters. Prince William even waded into last year's poppy row after Fifa banned footballers from wearing the 'political symbol'.

After the Duke described it as a "symbol of remembrance, which has no political, religious or commercial connotations", the ban was lifted.

Yet the poppy watchers are already out in force this year on Twitter, with users highlighting the perennial sinners and saints on the front benches during PMQs.

Ed Miliband hadn't pinned a poppy on as he appeared for PMQs on Wednesday, but got in there early with a tribute to the forces on Twitter, prompting a flurry of pro-poppy profession. George Osborne was one of the few wearing one but even the poppy didn't seem to garner him any popularity.


Even the poppy couldn't boost Osborne's flagging popularity

As the political poppy debate took hold on Twitter, the British Legion began its free concert in Trafagalar Square, fronted by Alesha Dixon and Pixie Lott.

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Singers Alesha Dixon and Pixie Lott performed at the event

Politicians and 'B-list celebrities' have been accused of using the poppy in thinly-veiled bids for attention by author Dr Ted Harrison, who created a giant poppy display at St Paul's Cathedral last year.

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Susan Boyle helped launched the Scottish poppy appeal

Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme, Teresa Greener of the Royal British Legion defended the Trafalgar Square concert, saying: “Yes we do have Alesha Dixon and Pixie Lott, but we also have the Military Wives Choir, and the band of the Grenadier Guards.

“I’m sorry, but whether you think they are B, A or Z-list it doesn’t mean they can’t feel strongly about remembrance and wear a poppy.”

For some people the purchase of a red poppy simply glorifies the ugly act of war. Instead they opt for the white poppy, designed to mark the suffering of those who went to war while stressing the importance of peace.

Whatever it means to people, funds raised through poppies continue to rise. This year the target is 42 million, up from the 40m last year and almost double what was raised five years ago.

What does the poppy mean to you? Will you be wearing one? Leave your comments below.