Letters: The poppy issue

Poppy is no 'fashion appendage'
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I don't think I have ever been so saddened by an opinion article in your paper as I was by Robert Fisk's piece "Do those who flaunt the poppy on their lapels know that they mock the war dead?" (5 November).

I feel sorry for Mr Fisk if he believes the majority of the population wear poppies not with pride or for remembrance, but as a "fashion appendage".

While I have respect for his father's decision not to wear a poppy, it is a mistake to believe that people today should wear one only if they have suffered the same great losses as that generation.

My generation can't possibly fully appreciate what our forefathers did and survived for our benefit. But for two weeks once a year, publicly acknowledging that sacrifice and showing that we are grateful is an honest and good thing.

I never met my grandfather; he died long before I was born, from injuries suffered in the Second World War. Each time I look at a poppy I remember him and the many like him that have lost their lives, and I am thankful that people still remember and care.

Jane Towle

Ulverston, Cumbria

I found Robert Fisk's poppy day diatribe insulting to BBC presenters, old women such as myself, and the thousands of other people who, according to Mr Fisk, are incapable of understanding the true nature of war.

My father served on the Somme in the Manchester Regiment, missed Passchendaele by being in hospital in England, but returned to Flanders for the last months of bitter fighting. In November 1918 he found himself the only one of his mates still alive with all limbs intact.

Only too aware of the horrors and pity of war, he annually wore his poppy until his death in 1973. Why? In memory of his comrades and all who had by then fallen in two world wars and other wars, and because he saw the poppies as a useful way of making money for stricken survivors.

I intend to continue the tradition until my death. I hope my sons and grandchildren will do the same.

Joyce Marlow

New Mills, Derbyshire

Perhaps if Robert Fisk read the article "Appealing way to help those struggling with money worries", which also appeared on 5 November, he might be aware of one of the reasons why I and millions like me wear the poppy each November. If his father had been in financial difficulties then he mighty well have been glad of the support that money raised by the appeal provides.

niall urquhart


Like Robert Fisk's dad, mine fought in the 1914-18 war – not for long, because he finished up a prisoner of war in Germany. He wouldn't wear a poppy.

"Wrong message," he used to say, "Altogether the wrong message." The greatest tribute all of us can pay to those who died is not to allow any more wars.

Peter Pink

Aylsham, Norfolk

On Remembrance Sunday in 1990, just as the first Gulf War was brewing up, I held back in the church hall as the others trooped out to the War Memorial, with the scouts, the British Legion and the rest. Eventually a lady of senior years and I were left behind.

I asked her why she hadn't joined them. She replied: "My father died in the Great War. Now they are planning another. They have remembered precisely nothing." I have not forgotten that.

The Rev Richard Haggis


Although I can't echo Robert Fisk's blanket condemnation of poppy-wearing (I wear a poppy myself, for family reasons), I agree with his criticism of the way the poppy has been diminished by excessive ornamentation. That green leaf is as silly as Fisk claims (I always remove it), and it must add unnecessary cost to the production of poppies.

If the Royal British Legion is serious about maximising its income from the sale of poppies and about enhancing their visual impact, it should seriously consider simplifying the remembrance poppy.

Professor David Head


M5 crash shows folly of raising speed limits

If the M5 crash had occurred on a railway there would doubtless be a comprehensive independent inquiry. If such an inquiry were held into road safety it might conclude that a proposal to raise the maximum speed limit to 80 represents arrant folly. It might also conclude that vehicles should now be linked to GPS in order to determine and enforce compliance with speed limits.

The crash should bring a reassessment of the cost of lives lost and damaged in the course of road transport.

Alistair Craig

London SE21

A commentator in the media described the horrific accident on the M5 as being reminiscent of scenes from Afghanistan.

This is true but there are two important differences: when scenes such as these occur in Afghanistan, it is not the result of human error, but the result of British and American foreign policy, and following such scenes in Afghanistan, our media do not cover the individual stories of human suffering.

Cormac Loane

Stourbridge, West Midlands

Labour policies did cut crime

Christina Patterson (5 November) blithely and without evidence states that "Labour's billions did not help [to reduce gang crime] and might even have made things worse".

In the ward I represent, crime and gang crime, which used to be a nightly activity in the 1990s, has gone down dramatically. Only in the last year crime, little of which is now gang related, went down 30 per cent.

Much of this is down to improved schooling, SureStart, better-funded policing, better legislation, and better funded community activity – all of which was funded by "Labour's billions".

Graham Chapman

Aspley Ward, Nottingham

Escape the euro's deadly embrace

If Greece does have the guts to pull out of the eurozone it will be the best news we've heard since this wretched ersatz currency was foisted on the peoples of Europe.

I haven't met an ordinary working man or woman, here in Holland or in any other west European country, who has had a good word for it. Almost everyone wants to return to national currencies. The only people who have benefited from it have been big businessmen, who have seen their profits soar with escalating prices, and right-wing politicians who have leapt at the chance to use the budget constraints of the European Central Bank as a pretext to slash social welfare spending. Here in Holland, the ramshackle conservative coalition has provoked anger and outrage in even the phlegmatic Dutch with swingeing cuts in health and welfare spending.

The Greek crisis was predicted before the euro was introduced. Qualified economic sceptics doubted whether an attempt to cobble strong and weak economies into monetary union would work. They were arrogantly brushed aside by the eurofanatics. Let us pray that if Greece does extricate itself from the euro's deadly embrace other suffering lands will have the courage to follow it.

Adrian Marlowe

The Hague

For what seems like weeks, if not months, we have been subjected to wall-to-wall coverage of the euro crisis, with Robert Peston and Stephanie Flanders seemingly permanent fixtures on our screens, and long-defunct Chancellors (Lawson, Lamont and even Major) being exhumed to tell us how they were always right.

The world and his wife have been asked for opinions, as long as they cast doubt on the viability of the euro (or even the EU) and its potential for recovery, but we have been left completely uninformed about two groups who could surely be assumed to have more than a passing interest in what is going on. I refer to the other 13 members of the euro group apart from Germany, France, Italy and Greece, of whom we have heard nothing, and to the European Parliament, of which we have heard even less.

Is this yet more evidence that the UK media see the EU and the euro only as conspiracies against Great Britain?

Geoff S Harris


Moustaches against cancer

The comments of Susie Rushton on Movember (1 November) are wide of the mark. If a male journalist wrote in a similar style about breast cancer, there would be an outcry.

The idea of growing moustaches to promote awareness of prostate cancer originated in Australia. This is the most common cancer in men: 37,000 are diagnosed annually and 10,000 die of it in the UK.

Compared with other cancers it has received little attention from research scientists or the general public. It killed my father but, thanks to my knowledge of the condition and its symptoms, I was successfully treated 10 years ago. Any initiative which increases awareness is of value. In general, we men don't care how silly we look.

Alex McKenzie


Who would want our bankers?

Your lead article "EU: we'll make UK cut bank bonuses" (5 November), refers to the claim that cuts in benefits packages would result in an exodus of talent from the UK. How threadbare the bankers' argument is! America and Asia must already have people in post dealing with international finance. It is unrealistic to argue that our London experts will be offered a wide range of posts there.

B E Berry

Lytham, Lancashire

Goats up trees

Fascinating as it is, your picture of goats in the Atlas Mountains (3 November) does not explain why they climb the trees. During my own trip to Morocco a few years ago I took several shots of this phenomenon. The goats digest the fruit and, in so doing, break down the husk of the seed. The herders collect the faeces and crush the nut to extract the oil. They then sell this as cooking oil.

Chris Maxted

Callington, Cornwall

Exam reform

It is welcome news that there is to be reform of the university applications system (report, 31 October). It is less welcome that this is to be achieved by even less teaching time. The examination boards charge extortionate fees for their notoriously inefficient service and should be made to reform radically. There is no reason why students in this country have to wait so long for their results.

Vivien Kies


Quality of life

Mark Steel (2 November) appears to have joined The Independent's Population Deniers' Club, whose distinguished members include Sean O'Grady and Dominic Lawson. To the contrary, those concerned at population growth do value life. They would prefer to avoid the quality of human life being degraded by relentless loss of open space, increasing difficulty in meeting human needs, and conflict over scarce resources.

Graham Everett

Watford, Hertfordshire

Women in power

We were promised that women in high positions in politics and business would do a better job than men. Now we have Angela Merkel and Christine Lagarde as two of the leaders in the Eurozone crisis. It is not obvious that they are making a better job of it than men would have done.

R Havenhand

Nantwich, Cheshire