Huge public support for Remembrance Sunday fails to extend to cause in Afghanistan

This year's Remembrance Sunday has been hailed as a spectacular comms success, but the groundswell of public support for British forces has failed to translate into support for the war in Afghanistan.

Hailed a comms success: Remembrance Sunday
Hailed a comms success: Remembrance Sunday

A survey for The Royal British Legion by Ipsos Mori found 94 per cent of the public felt it was important to observe Wednesday's two-minute silence after a series of high-profile comms initiatives.

But the support contrasted sharply with the public's attitude towards the war in Afghanistan, which 64 per cent believed was 'unwinnable', as revealed by a Politics Show/Comres survey.

The controversy over Gordon Brown's misspelt letter to grieving mother Jacqui Janes has provided a stark example of the level of media criticism, particularly from The Sun, that the Government has faced over its management of the conflict (see below). The news came as Grenadier Guards officer Captain Andrew Tiernan told the BBC on Monday it was not enough for the public to support UK troops in Afghanistan - they must also back the 'cause' for which they are fighting.

The Sun's defence correspondent Dave Willetts said The Royal British Legion's appeal this year had 'focused people's attention' on the war in Afghanistan.

'The Legion has highlighted what some of these guys have done in Afghanistan,' said Willetts.

The Royal British Legion's head of media and campaigns Robert Lee said the aim of the campaign was not just to gain a lot of media attention, but also to gain greater 'cultural impact'.

'We wanted to dramatically increase the attention paid to the Poppy Appeal. And we wanted it to be reapplied to the Afghan generation.'

The Royal British Legion's campaign started early last month with a branded series on the Discovery Channel called World War Two Remembered. A social media website called Legionlive.org.uk was also launched, featuring an avatar called Poppy.

The Poppy Appeal launch on 22 October featured appearances by Dame Vera Lynn and Hayley Westenra.

Other artistic support came from specially written songs by Radiohead, Mark Knopfler and Athlete.

The Legion has also liaised closely with Premiership football teams and high-profile shows such as The X Factor to encourage the stars to wear poppies prominently.

 

HOW I SEE IT

James Clark, Comms director, Oxfordshire County Council

As true as it is, people just don't accept we are in Afghanistan to protect the UK from terrorism. They can't join up the dots between this far-flung place and what happens on our streets. Ministers need a more effective narrative; giving the military on the ground a greater voice would do that.

Mike Granatt, Partner, Luther Pendragon

The Government is in a tough position. It cannot make public the intelligence that keeps us in Afghanistan. And it cannot credibly defend British deaths by ... simply asserting a connection between Afghanistan and terrorists on our streets.

 

94% of the public support observing the two-minute silence**

54% have a 'good understanding' of the purpose of the war in Afghanistan*

64% of the public believe the war in Afghanistan is 'unwinnable'*

63% believe forces should be pulled out of Afghanistan as soon as possible*

Source: *Politics Show/Comres survey; **Ipsos Mori/The Royal British Legion survey.

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