Toxic hate of far-Right must not be al­lowed to hi­jack the poppy

The Sunday Telegraph - - News - By Am­ber Rudd HOME SEC­RE­TARY

‘In Flan­ders Fields, the pop­pies blow, Be­tween the crosses, row on row, That mark our place; and in the sky, The larks still bravely singing fly, Scarce heard amid the guns below.”

So reads one of the most mov­ing, and most well-known, lines of Great War po­etry. It was writ­ten dur­ing the First World War, to mark a lost gen­er­a­tion of fa­thers, hus­bands and sons.

To­day, Re­mem­brance Sun­day, I will be at the Ceno­taph, to mark my re­spect, and to give my thanks, for the im­mea­sur­able sac­ri­fice made over the years by all those brave ser­vice­men and women in many con­flicts who have fought to pro­tect our val­ues and our free­doms. As a fa­mous in­scrip­tion says of them, “for your to­mor­row we gave our to­day”.

Many of us across the coun­try over the past days and in­deed weeks have proudly bought and worn a poppy, on what is, this year, the 99th an­niver­sary of the end of the Great War. This was the hardy flower that some­how man­aged to sur­vive and flour­ish in the dev­as­tated Ypres bat­tle­fields. The work of The Royal Bri­tish Le­gion – sup­ported by funds raised from the sale of pop­pies – is as vi­tal now as it ever was, both in help­ing mem­bers of the Armed Forces com­mu­nity and in keep­ing alive the mem­ory of the sac­ri­fice of our brave sol­diers.

What I am ap­palled by is the con­certed at­tempt in re­cent years by far-Right groups to hi­jack some of our, much re­spected and in­deed loved, Bri­tish sym­bols and in­sti­tu­tions for their own warped ideals.

Bri­tain First has deeply ig­no­ble form on try­ing to “hi­jack” the poppy, to in­crease their pop­u­lar­ity and do­na­tions. The op­pro­brium heaped upon them for do­ing so was wholly jus­ti­fied. But their at­tempts to con de­cent pa­tri­otic Brits re­main there – sub­tle, in­sid­i­ous ef­forts to draw oth­ers in. We have all seen their im­ages on so­cial me­dia: a pic­ture of a sol­dier, a mes­sage about re­mem­brance, a prom­ise that “Lik­ing” their page shows sup­port for our Armed Forces. But be­hind this thin ve­neer of re­spectabil­ity lies a toxic blend of in­tol­er­ance, lies and pro­pa­ganda. The vast ma­jor­ity of Bri­tain First’s fol­low­ers on Face­book would be dis­gusted to know that they had un­wit­tingly spon­sored the page of a move­ment linked to Nick Grif­fin’s vile, dis­cred­ited Bri­tish Na­tional Party.

Bri­tain First, the English De­fence League, the Bri­tish Na­tional Party and the Na­tional Front are all guilty of us­ing Bri­tish sym­bols and in­sti­tu­tions (no­tably sup­port for the Armed Forces) to at­tempt to fur­ther their own deeply ob­jec­tion­able be­liefs. And yet it is in do­ing so that they ex­pose the in­her­ent flaws in what they are try­ing to ped­dle.

Per­va­sive “whites-only” poli­cies and hate­ful nar­ra­tives could not be fur­ther from the val­ues that un­der­pin our Armed Forces: those of in­tegrity, re­spect for oth­ers, and hav­ing the brav­ery to do the right thing.

In the First World War, at least 1.3mil­lion In­di­ans vol­un­teered to fight for the Bri­tish Army, in­clud­ing 400,000 Mus­lims. Pol­ish Squadrons fought and died along­side the Royal Air Force in the Sec­ond World War (in­deed my own fa­ther had many brave com­rades) as did many from the largest vol­un­teer force in his­tory from the In­dian sub­con­ti­nent. John­son Be­harry, orig­i­nally of Gre­nada, was in 2005 awarded the Vic­to­ria Cross, the high­est mil­i­tary hon­our for val­our in the Bri­tish and Com­mon­wealth Armed Forces. Re­mem­brance Sun­day is a timely re­minder that, in what may be some of Bri­tain’s dark­est hours, it is the brav­ery of mil­lions of or­di­nary peo­ple from all races, re­li­gions, and back­grounds that have kept our coun­try’s flame burn­ing and stood up for the val­ues we hold dear.

What those who preach hate and ex­treme views of any po­lit­i­cal hue want is for us to be­come fear­ful, to be­come di­vided, and to turn away from each other. We see it in sick­en­ing dis­plays of neo-Nazism, of Is­lam­o­pho­bia, anti-Semitism and Is­lamist ex­trem­ism. Ev­ery dis­play of these must be chal­lenged – for I do not for a sec­ond be­lieve they re­motely re­sem­ble the sort of Bri­tain the vast ma­jor­ity of us want to live in.

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