A NEW £2 coin launched to commemorate the start of the First World War has been criticised by a prominent Green Party politician because it bears the iconic image of Lord Kitchener who appeared on the famous ‘Your Country Needs YOU’ army recruitment posters.
Dr Molly Scott-Cato, who leads the Green group on Stroud District Council and is the party’s lead candidate for the south west region in European elections later this year, believes the coin ‘glorifies war’.
The district councilor is calling for the coin to be withdrawn and replaced with a design that instead ‘honours peace’ and ‘truly commemorates those who died and suffered’ in the conflict.
Commissioned, produced and sold by the Royal Mint, the coin is the first of a special collection to mark the anniversary of the Great War, which claimed almost a million British lives.
The poster featuring the former War Minister formed part of a military recruitment drive, which enticed more than 2.5 million young men to sign up for the army between 1914 and 1915.
According to the UK coin-maker the new design is ‘instantly recognisable’ and a ‘fitting tribute’ to those who died.
But the choice of Lord Kitchener has proved controversial, provoking a backlash on social media, with some members of the public decrying the new £2 piece as ‘jingoistic’.
One Twitter user said it was ‘shameful’ to glorify a military leader rather than honour the deaths of ordinary soldiers, while others suggested the image of a poppy would have been more appropriate.
Cllr Molly Scott-Cato, who is her party’s national spokesperson on economic affairs, said: “While we recognise the huge sacrifices made by ordinary men and women during the First World War at home and abroad, I am clear that 2014 should be about remembering the monumental folly of war.
“Kitchener is a reminder of the days of industrial warfare and of the military and political leaders who made huge blunders costing millions of lives.”
She added: “We need to recognise how our recent involvement in wars, particularly the Iraq War, has added to global tensions and fuelled the fire of terrorism in the Middle East, as we see today in the suffering of ordinary citizens in Fallujah.
“We need to use the 1914 centenary to focus attention on the futility and 'the pity of War' as described by the great WW1 poet, Wilfred Owen."
The Royal Mint, however, says the coin “remembers one of the most significant moments in British history with a design that recalls the spirit, and with hindsight, the poignancy, of the rush to enlist encouraged by Lord Kitchener.”
In a statement, it said the design had been “selected to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War because it has come to be so strongly associated with the outbreak of the war.”
Furthermore, it added: “The launch of every new coin must go through a rigorous planning and design selection process governed by an independent panel, known as The Royal Mint Advisory Committee (RMAC).
“The RMAC is an advisory non-departmental public body of HM Treasury comprising history, art and design specialists, and is responsible for ensuring that the coin that reaches the public meets the highest standards of quality and artistic merit, and is worthy of its national theme.”