Poppy pressure: Are we too obsessed with who wears poppies and who doesn’t?

Today marks 96 years since the armistice to end the First World War and Remembrance commemorations marked the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the conflict this weekend.

However, people such as ITV News presenter Charlene White have faced backlash for choosing not to wear a poppy in support of the country’s fallen heroes.

Last year, the broadcaster defended her decision by saying that she was ‘uncomfortable’ giving one of the many charities she supports more on-screen time than others.

A more serious incident occurred earlier this week when Manchester schoolboy Callum Watkins was left with burns from an attack after selling poppies for the Royal British Legion.

In light of the increasing debate and controversy surrounding the issue, MM took to the streets of Manchester to find out where the public’s stood on wearing poppies.

Is there an excessive amount of pressure on people to wear poppies?

Yes No
36% 64%


Jessica Walsh, a 36-year-old park worker and 58-year-old painter and decorator Charlie Scanlon believe there is no obsession or pressure surrounding the wearing of poppies.

“I think people are quite patriotic and commemorate it because they want to,” said Jessica.

 “I didn’t wear a poppy but I respect people who wear them because they want to.”

Mr Scanlon added: “I don’t believe that there’s an obsession surrounding poppies. Wearing them all boils down to people wanting to show their respect.”

30-year-old software designer Ben James agrees with this view, stating: “I don’t think there’s any pressure at all, I think it’s a personal opinion as to whether you wear one.

“The whole idea is lest we forget yet we’re still at war all over the world. People can form their own opinions from that, but I wear one.”

IT’S TIME TO MOVE ON: Builder Paul thinks the Poppy has lost its significance 

In contrast, 53-year-old builder Paul Jensen believes that the time may be coming to move away from the wearing and displaying of poppies for Remembrance.

“I wore a poppy but I think it may be time to begin moving away,” he said.

“The war was a hundred years ago now, there’s nobody left alive.

“It’s alright saying ‘remember this’ but it’s not for our benefit, it’s for the pomp of the occasion, that’s how I see it. The royalty and dignitaries put wreaths down and the public follow.

“Why don’t we celebrate the Crimean War or the Boer War? It’s a show. People are definitely under pressure to wear poppies.”

Although he disagrees with Ben’s notion that there is pressure on people to wear poppies, Niall McCoy, a 19-year-old student, believes that the message they stand for may be being diluted.

POP-ULAR TREND: Niall thinks poppies are treated as accessories rather than symbols 

“I don’t think there is any pressure but I think it might be becoming a bit of a fashion statement with the different designs that are coming out,” he explained.

“It should be a choice for anyone who is a believer in the cause, but once pressure is applied to make people wear poppies, a bit of a line is crossed.”

With broadcasters such as Channel 4 News’ Jon Snow having previously rejected attempts to enforce poppy-wearing on air, the image of wearing a poppy was much-debated by the Manchester public.

38-year-old Barry Jackson believes that although there has been controversy surrounding the issue, the message of wearing a poppy should be paramount.

“I do feel that recently it has become sort of a talking point, but it shouldn’t be,” he said.

“I know politicians have been lambasted for wearing poppies and trying to enhance their own image, but I don’t think that’s fair when you look at what the poppy actually means. 

“The importance of wearing poppies is definitely justified, but I don’t think there is a pressure to wear one. I think the reason for wearing them overrides any other pressure.”

30-year-old art worker Dallas Fox is concerned about the seemingly compulsory nature of wearing a poppy on television and believes this is because the media feel pressured.

“I think wearing a poppy or not is up to the individual’s choice. If that’s how you feel you’d like to remember the fallen then that’s up to you.

“I think the media obviously feels pressurised – you only have to turn on the TV and every presenter across every station is wearing a poppy.

“Not only that but they wear poppies for up to weeks in advance. The networks obviously feel the need for everybody to wear one and it does stand out.”

INDIVIDUAL CHOICE: Dallas Fox believes that no one should be forced to wear a poppy 

This view that there is a disproportionate amount of pressure within the media and broadcasting to wear poppies is one that Michael Dalton and Shaun Barker agree with.

Mr Dalton, a 34-year-old insurance worker from Sale, believes that there is now a degree of ‘moral obligation’ to wear a poppy.

“The fact that so many people on television wear poppies for so long in advance and that presenters are rebuked for not wearing one is sad,” he said.

“Of course we should still commemorate those who died having been conscripted into the military service. I support the message of the poppy entirely.

“However, I do think it is beginning to feel a bit like there is a moral obligation to wear one. I think there is certainly at least some level of pressure beginning to appear.”

Some people feel that the poppy has become a political issue and that some public figures have been accused of using the compassion of those wearing a poppy to justify war.

GLORFYING WAR: Shaun question people’s real reasons to wearing the poppy

55-year-old Shaun Barker, who is unemployed and from Chorlton, touched upon this point, saying: “I find it irritating that it’s seemingly compulsory to wear them on television, it makes it meaningless to my mind.

“Some of the reaction to the ITV presenter not wearing one appalls me. I think it’s part of the increasing militarisation of public life in this country.

“It just seems that we’re starting to glorify military service without asking any questions about the British state’s involvement in foreign wars.

“What really irritates me is the fact that it’s creeping up towards becoming compulsory in public life, and I would certainly support anyone’s right to not wear one.”

KEEP THE MEMORY ALIVE: Bethany thinks we must remember those who served for the country 

Despite the reservations of some of the public, Greater Manchester Police’s Bethany Murray, 32, believes the poppy is still ‘massively important’.

She told MM: “I think wearing a poppy is massively important and the sort of thing that should be carried on. I love all the new designs that they are bringing out to try to encourage people to wear them.

“I think it’s massive and that a lot of people support it. I don’t think there’s any pressure to wear them and I don’t think they’re forced down your throat.

“I think it’s probably becoming a bit ‘cooler’ to wear a poppy, rather than some people necessarily understanding the reasons why people wear them, but they’re trying to keep that message alive.”

Image courtesy of Caro Wallis, with thanks. 

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