White or red, we remember the dead. . .


BEST-SELLING Whitby author GP Taylor (Shadowmancer) is a man of interesting parts, so the one-time rock band roadie, policeman and vicar is no stranger to controversy. This week, he’s been stirring up poppy trouble.

In his latest incarnation as a Yorkshire Post columnist, Taylor offers his view on white poppies. It’s fair to say that he isn’t impressed.

“Remembrance is increasingly being seen as a glorification of violence, tinged with the toxic aroma of ardent nationalism,” he writes (or possibly fumes).

Opinions on this may differ. My own fuming comes from an alternative direction, but I suspect that remembrance is more truly best seen as an excuse for people to exercise their opinions, on whichever side of the trench they lie.

At this time of year newspapers are filled with ‘poppy fury’; he nonsense poppy row is now almost a tradition all on its own.

Anyway, Taylor isn’t finished yet, writing: “The ‘snowflake generation’ look at those who made the ultimate sacrifice as savages who died for nothing.”

The snowflake generation is a term of abuse used to characterise young people who are too easy to take offence, or at least I think it is. It’s a bit of Daily Mail-style lingo I don’t particularly wish to see flourish.

Taylor has many strong thoughts on remembrance and ‘snowflakes’, but his main ire is reserved for white poppies. He writes that these are “being forced on children, supported by teaching unions”.

I have no idea about the truth of this, although a quick Google brought up a story in the Daily Telegraph. White poppies are promoted by the Peace Pledge Union, which is said to have signed up 100 teachers who belong to the National Union of Teachers.

Perhaps this is what lit the fire under Taylor’s kettle. He also has a pop at “our rabidly PC culture”, one of those handy phrases to cut and out keep for a cross day. I guess that  political correctness or otherwise is a matter of taste, but sweeping generalisations are always useful in a newspaper column.

Taylor offers a proudly robust defence of the red poppy and all it represents. He says he has always believed that the red poppy honours all lives lost in all wars – something disputed by supporters of the white poppy, who insist the red poppy only remembers our own fallen.

In fairness, Taylor does acknowledge that the white poppy “represents peace and all those who have died in conflict”, pointing out the role of the Peace Pledge Union.

What he forgets to mention, perhaps because it doesn’t fit his thesis – and we’all select those bits of the ‘truth’ we fancy – is that the white poppy is eighty years old. It’s not a modern, politically correct poppy but an alternative poppy almost as old as the traditional red variety.

I have never worn a white poppy, possibly never even seen one. But I’d be happy to buy one if I saw them for sale.

The colour of a poppy shouldn’t matter, but sadly the red poppy – as worn proudly by many, perhaps with a tear in their eye – has become red meat to those who wish to complain about modern life. It’s forced on anyone who appears in a BBC studio, for fear of a causing a row, creating a weird sort of poppy panic.

Yet arguing about the colour of poppies seems to me to be a form of disrespect to all the dead we remember, however or whenever they died.

But perhaps I am just an ancient sort of ‘snowflake’.


  1. Here I n NZ, it’s ANZAC Day which is the key “remembrance event”, although those who watched the All Blacks France game this weekend will see that 11.11.11 is also remembered. For us, each year brings more people, especially younger ones, to Dawn Ceremonies. If anything, more of us are remembering & honouring them”.


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