Tomorrow I will wear my red poppy with pride and respect


I’ve bought my poppy and a wreath and I will wear and carry them both with pride tomorrow at Liverpool’s Cenotaph

Tomorrow, as I have done for the past 6 years, I will represent my Party and its supporters at the Liverpool Cenotaph at St George’s Place on Remembrance Sunday. I will do so and lay a wreath which my Party has paid for and will feel honoured to be one of the first people to lay such a wreath.

Why am I bothering to tell you this as most people will take it for granted that I and thousands like me will be doing that tomorrow? It’s because some people have tried to defile the nature of the remembrance event and its powerful poppy symbol. They think it appropriate to wear a white poppy or just condemn the whole activity as delighting and rejoicing in war. That’s not me and I doubt that it is any of the people that will gather around war memorials nationwide to remember.

I am not that bothered about the white poppy idea. If people feel that is the best way to remember and think about the occasion so be it. I will wear a red poppy for two reasons. Firstly, because the flowers of Flanders were red poppies. Secondly, as they have the colour of blood they most accurately commemorate the ultimate sacrifice that millions of people all over the world paid in conflict after conflict.

I do not believe that all those conflicts are justified or honourable in the terms of those who started them. For example, I believe that the first Iraq War was justified as Iraq had invaded a friendly country. I believe that the second Iraq war was not justified because it was based on a lie – a lie that was easy to spot unless you were a jingoistic Labour PM or a jingoistic American President.

I believe that the major conflicts of the 20th Century were justified. There was a clear aggressor basing their actions on a vile ideology. They oppressed Jews, Gays, trades unionists and the mentally ill in their own Country and exported their violence to other Countries. The UK could have stayed out of both wars and perhaps reached an accommodation with an Imperialist Germany which would have dominated the whole of Europe and world affairs. But not for long. That would have been a position of subservience that would acquiesce to the gas chambers and the shootings. I would have signed up for the armed forces  for either of those wars had I been alive at the time

But even if I did not approve of the wars I would honour those who fought for this Country with valour and distinction. “Theirs not to reason why – theirs but to do and die” go the words in the Charge of the Light Brigade and that’s what people did. My Dad enlisted in the RAF and I have tremendous pride in reading the letters that he wrote to my mother particularly as he went out in an early ship (he was in radar) and described his feelings. In particular I see that he honoured his opponents. He knew that most Germans were, “good chaps just like us”. They had fallen foul of a loathsome regime but they too heard their Country’s call.

My mum left Liverpool at the age of 20 and joined the WAAF, the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force. She met dad on a gun and radar emplacement on the East coast near Skegness where she was a plotter. I think of here every time I walk along Whitehall and see the monument to the work and deaths of the Women in wars and the sacrifices they made to keep our Country going.

I think of these things when I walk past the Nerve Centre of the Convoys at the back of the Town Hall. Tens of thousands of Scousers died at sea and have no grave. Hopefully we capture the names of the men who died in such a way in WWI in the Chamber of Remembrance which is the anteroom to our Town Hall Chamber.

I think of these things every time that I pass the Bombed-Out Church where we commemorate all the civilians who died in Liverpool and elsewhere and we also remember the Irish Famine victims who came to Liverpool in search of a new land but who ended up buried here in their thousands.

I know I am right every Remembrance Sunday because in front of where the Party Leaders stand is where the Royal British Legion assemble their marchers. To see their backs stiffen as the bugles stand is a privilege. To see them stand proud as their standards are lowered along with the Union Flag reminds me of one thing – that wars are not fought on computer screens but by real people who risk their all for their Country. I hope that all parents will talk to their children about Remembrance Sunday and observe the 2-minute silence with them.

The number of people who have fought for us is declining along with our reduced role in the world. When I was boy I knew loads of people who had fought. That made war real to me. Our children do not have such first-hand knowledge and that is why children should be made aware of war and its realities and why as many as possible must make the trip to the death fields of Flanders and the horrors of the Dachau and Auschwitz.

“They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old

Age shall not weary them nor the years condemn

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them”



About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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