Why add the poppy? In a number of countries around the world, a poppy is worn during the start of November to commemorate fallen soldiers. The symbolism is potent: The flowers are said to have grown in Flanders, Belgium, where soldiers fought and died during World War I.
The trend seems to be especially popular in Britain, where plastic poppies are sold before Remembrance Day on Nov. 11 by the Royal British Legion to raise money for army veterans. Almost all public figures — politicians, journalists, sportsmen or otherwise — are expected to wear poppies in public during November, and they face scrutiny and controversy if they do not. Just this weekend, actress Sienna Miller was criticized for not wearing a poppy during a television appearance.
Exactly how a poppy came to be photoshopped onto Cameron's lapel is unclear. When the Independent newspaper asked, it was told, "It was just an oversight." The photograph was swiftly deleted from the 10 Downing Street Facebook page and replaced with one of Cameron sporting a real poppy.
Of course, it was far too late. Cameron was swiftly ridiculed on social media for the photograph:
However, behind the mockery, there was a serious point. There are those in Britain who have been uncomfortable with the ubiquity of the poppy, given its connotations of war and, to some, imperialism.
James McClean, an Irish soccer player with the English team West Bromwich, has repeatedly refused to wear a kit featuring a poppy (most clubs create special kits for the period before Remembrance Sunday), prompting abuse and even death threats over the past three years. "If the poppy was simply about World War One and Two victims alone, I would wear it without a problem," he explained this year. "I'd wear it every day of the year if that was the thing, but it doesn't, it stands for all the conflicts that Britain has been involved in."
Complicating matters further is the new leader of the opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, who has a reputation as a firebrand leftist and has repeatedly challenged the legacy of British foreign policy. In the past, Corbyn has worn a white poppy, regarded as a symbol of pacifism, though he has worn a red poppy in official appearances this year.
As one Twitter user mockingly suggested, Corbyn might want to capitalize on the British prime minister's mistake.
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