The Guardian reports that the Royal British Legion, the charitable organisation that provises emotional, financial and social support to people who have served or are serving in all branches of the British Armed Forces, have written to British National Party leader Nick Griffin requesting that he no longer wears a poppy.
Paper poppy flowers are sold in their millions every year in the run-up to Remembrance Sunday to commemorate those who - regardless of nationality, faith or creed - have been killed while serving the British nation. In an open letter to the newspaper, they say that they are appealing to Mr. Griffin's "sense of honour" (good luck with that one, chaps) in asking him not to wear the badge or any other symbol that can be associated with them.
"The poppy is the symbol of sacrifices made by British armed forces in conflicts both past and present and it has been paid for with blood and valour," they state in the letter, which will be published in tomorrow's Observer, the Sunday edition of the Guardian, "True valour deserves respect regardless of a person's ethnic origin, and everyone who serves or has served their country deserves nothing less …"
The charity says that it first wrote to Mr. Griffin a month ago to make their request. However, Mr. Griffin - recently elected to a European Parliament seat, representing the North West of England - has been openly wearing one when seen in the news during the run-up to last week's elections and since. In the letter, the Legion inform him that they "appealed to your [Griffin's] sense of honour. But you have responded by continuing to wear the poppy. So now we're no longer asking you privately. Stop it, Mr Griffin. Just stop it."
Whilst seeming to wish to make it clear that they do not support the BNP's brand of politics, the Legion also take care to make it clear that they are not associated with any political group or persuasion. "It is vital that everyone - the media, the public and our beneficiaries - know that we will not allow our independence to be undermined or our reputation impaired by being closely associated with any one political party," they say, indicating that they are solely concerned with supporting all servicemen and women, whether active or retired, regardless of their own political beliefs.
This is not the first time that the BNP have been in news stories connected to the Legion. In 2005, Martin Gleason -a trade union representative - positioned a floral wreath on top of one placed by the BNP at a Holocaust memorial event (Griffin is, unsurprisingly, a Holocaust denier, referring to it as "the Holohoax") leading to a court case, later dropped, in which Mr. Gleason was charged with allegedly damaging the BNP tribute. In April this year they sparked anger once again when they laid another wreath at a Scottish memorial to war fatalities - likewise at Wells in Somerset during December last year.
It's a great pity that we cannot ask those who gave their lives defending Britain and freedom for the British people - especially those who died in the Second World War fighting Hitler and the Nazis - how they feel when a fascist political party attempt to hijack symbols used to commemorate their bravery. People of many different races, ethnic backgrounds, colours and religions have risked or laid down their lives because they believe that this nation is worth fighting for - from the Polish RAF pilots during the Battle of Britain to the 205,000 Indians who volunteered, creating the largest volunteer military force in history, to fight for Britain in WW2 and earned themselves 30 Victoria Crosses in the process; from the Gurkhas to the Muslims and Jews and people of various colours and races who are right now serving in the British Army, many of whom have seen active service in Iraq and Afghanistan. All of those brave people, alive or dead, would probably feel rather insulted by Mr. Griffin's poppy and the BNP's wreaths, don't you think? Although most politicians across the spectrum wear poppies in the weeks running up to Remembrance Sunday, the Legion has never in the past asked them to stop which suggests that they too feel that Mr. Griffin's wearing of one is an insult.
Mr. Griffin says that he wears his poppy to demonstrate his solidarity with British soldiers who have served in Afghanistan and that he will stop if they no longer have to pay to watch television while recovering in hospital from injury sustained as a result of battle. Of course they should not be expected to pay, but regardless of what Griffin and the little paper flower each represent, his use of the symbol - little more than holding it hostage in light of what he says about the television charge - to make a political point is nothing other than disgusting. He ought to feel ashamed.