DUNCAN BARKES: It’s vital to remember, not so important how...

Parishioners at a church in Shropshire are sharpening their pitchforks in anger as a female minister has refused to wear a traditional red poppy to conduct this year’s remembrance service.

She believes the symbol advocates war and will not wear it, but will happily display a white equivalent.

Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow was also famously once reviled for refusing to wear a poppy on the run-up to Remembrance Sunday. He informed outraged viewers that he chose to display his on Remembrance Sunday only.

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Snow also coined the term ‘poppy fascism’, a tag that could well be applied to the situation the Shropshire minister finds herself in.

As a nation we seem to get quite worked up about who should wear a poppy and when. Some say they should never be worn until after November 1, and have criticised television presenters from wearing them too early.

The tsunami of emotion surrounding the issue is understandable. Millions have lost their lives in various wars over the centuries and it is only right and proper that we remember their sacrifices. But by not wearing a red poppy, does it mean you are somehow insulting the war dead? Of course not.

Poppy fascism is rife. On a recent radio phone-in that I hosted, a caller said the Shropshire minister was on par with the Muslim extremists who decided to burn poppies a few years ago as part of some feeble protest.

The comparison is preposterous. The poppy-burners were sad little men desperate for a bit of attention and keen to cause outrage. The minister simply disagrees with the physical symbol.

One could argue that there have been numerous wars and conflicts over the past 100 years that Britain had no need to be part of. Had we avoided participation, we would not be remembering so many of the young men and women who lost their lives.

Some in Shropshire are saying the minister should not be allowed to conduct the remembrance service at her church unless she displays a ‘traditional’ red poppy. This view is small-minded, bigoted and dangerous.

The minister is exercising her democratic right. Ironically the kind of democracy that people fought wars for.

Poppy fascism makes a mockery of the freedom we have in this country. To suggest that not wearing a poppy is insulting or disrespectful to the fallen is – no pun intended – utter poppycock.

One elderly lady of my wife’s acquaintance also dislikes the red poppy symbol, but gives generously to a charity for soldiers. How you remember and honour those who gave their lives is not important. Just so long as you do. Lest we forget.