In his bitter 1919 poem Aftermath, Siegfried Sassoon laments the sacrifice of his fallen comrades on the Western Front and calls on those they fought for always to remember the debt they owe. It closes with the line: ‘Look up, and swear by the green of spring that you’ll never forget.’
At local memorials all around the UK this weekend, many thousands will gather to make good that promise. Medalled old soldiers will stand with children. Scout troops will parade their banners.
Heads will bow as the bugler plays the Last Post. Vicars will read from John 15 – ‘Greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for his friends.’
It is not, as the cynical Left would have you believe, a celebration of militarism or imperial power, but a thankful tribute to those who fought and died down the generations to keep this country free.
Compare this display of quiet patriotism with the antics of ranting, mask-wearing, pro-Palestinian mobs who glorify the slaughter of Jewish civilians and call for Jihad against Israel and its people. The contrast could hardly be starker.
Their planned mass demonstration through London today is both provocative and deeply offensive. They didn’t have to march on November 11. Heaven knows they’ve marched often enough already, and will no doubt continue to spout their hatred for many weekends to come. The organisers say they don’t plan to disrupt Armistice Day commemorations. But why should anyone believe them?
Poppy sellers have already been harangued and roughed up, showing the contempt these snarling bigots have for our history and tradition. An assault on the Cenotaph is hardly beyond the bounds of possibility.
This is why Home Secretary Suella Braverman is right to go public with her concerns over the soft policing of these protests. Opposition MPs and some on the wetter flank of the Tory party have thrown up their hands in mock horror and called for her resignation. But for what?
She has accurately identified a ‘perception’ among the public that the police crack down much harder on Right-wing and nationalist protesters than those on the Left. If anything, this was an under-statement. It’s not so much a perception as a firm conviction.
Her critics accuse Mrs Braverman of ‘compromising the operational independence’ of the police. But as Home Secretary, she is charged with ensuring the maintenance of the King’s Peace.
This means setting the parameters of policing and mitigating any risk to public safety. If she believes the police are not performing their duties, she has every right – indeed an obligation – to say so.
Crucially, she did not call for today’s march to be banned. Many of those gathering for Remembrance services will welcome that. It is one of the very freedoms that so many died to protect.
But when that freedom is exploited to intimidate and spread hate, it must be tempered. In backing off from those who preach violence, the police have helped make British Jews feel unsafe in their own country. They may deny they are ‘playing favourites’, but that is how it seems.
Today is their biggest test to date. Another failure to confront the hate-mongers would not only be a dereliction of duty, it would also be an insult to the pale battalions whose sacrifice we honour on this and every Remembrance Day.