Isabel Hardman Isabel Hardman

Why the Miliband wreath row is unfair and unseemly

So Ed Miliband is in trouble with some angry people over whether or not he took enough trouble over signing a remembrance wreath. Here is the offending wreath, on the right besides the Prime Minister’s which bears a personal message.

Mark Ferguson at LabourList reports Labour sources saying they were just handed the wreath at the very last minute, and had no chance to add a personal message. Nick Clegg’s wreath was similarly bland. Number 10 says it’s standard practice for the Prime Minister to sign his wreath – and does it all the time, but perhaps the arrangements for the remembrance service all three leaders were attending were such that only heads of government could sign their wreaths, rather than lots of other politicians scribbling away too (Damian McBride argues, though, that the advisers should have planned ahead).

There are undoubtedly problems with the Miliband operation, just as there were undoubtedly serious and visible flaws in the way Number 10 got itself together until late in 2013, when things started to run more smoothly. But this could be one of those instances where it really isn’t Miliband’s fault – or that of his team. Imagine you’re a party leader, standing solemnly at a service commemorating the outbreak of the First World War. You’re handed a wreath with a message scrawled on it in rubbish black marker. In fact, it’s not a message, it’s just your name. It looks a bit like a piece of primary school artwork where the teacher has written your name in big, round, clear letters, just in case you can’t spell it yourself. It doesn’t look good. But then, neither would stopping the proceedings to protest about this message.

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