Ed Miliband's wreath was a mistake, but can we really call him unpatriotic?

Questioning a leader's allegiance has always been an easy way to tarnish their image


Being labelled “unpatriotic” is an occupational hazard for a Labour leader, as Mr Miliband has found. After the offensive remarks about his father, we now find he has shown insufficient respect to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country in the Great War.

It’s nothing new. Perhaps Major CR Attlee, more familiarly known nowadays as Clement or Clem Attlee, who served in the first world war before he become the nation’s reforming Labour Prime Minister in 1945 escaped the charge of cowardice. Serving at Gallipoli and being shot in the leg in Mesopotamia – modern day Iraq – excused him most of the right wing press’ abuse. He was lucky.

True, the rather childish writing on the wreath lacks a certain dignity, but it looks like an admin mistake. Someone should have asked Mr Milband to sign it, as presumably someone made sure David Cameron signed his. Or maybe Mr Cameron was a bit more thoughtful. Either way, it does not call for a firing squad at dawn.

READ MORE: Ed Miliband First World War Centenary wreath branded ‘pathetic’ as Labour leader ‘fails to even write his own name’

This latest rather synthetic row about “red Ed” is reminiscent of the famous “donkey jacket” episode at the Cenotaph in 1981, when Michael Foot’s dark coat attracted unfair and inaccurate comparisons with a road sweeper’s jacket. As Mr Foot later pointed out, the Queen Mother complimented on his coat after the service, though it has never been clear as to whether she was being ironic. Foot, who failed his medical for the Second World War (“suited me done to the ground”), was not one of life’s militarists, but he was an intensely patriotic man.

He just didn’t want to start a nuclear war with Russia, that’s all. Neil Kinnock, with nothing to substantiate beyond his party’s defence policy and some ill-judged remarks about a home guard being able to resist a Russian invasion, was also routinely labelled unpatriotic. Gordon Brown also got it in the neck for alleged not equipping the armed forces properly – it even emerged during the 101 TV debates – and for not having sufficient neat handwriting in a letter to a bereaved parent. Again, totally distorted and unfair.


There is another side to all this; Thatcher, the great victor of the Falklands whose defence cuts in the South Atlantic virtually invited an Argentine invasion in the first place, while David Cameron and his defence ministers have brought the armed forces to an all-time low; aircraft carriers with no aircraft, for example.

I am sure that if he was called to serve Mr Miliband would do just that. I am not sure about some of the journalists engaged on their knocking copy.


React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Mosul falls: Talk of Iraq retaking the town, held by IS since June, is unconvincing  

Isis on the run? The US portrayal is very far from the truth

Patrick Cockburn
Ed Miliband:  

Ed Miliband: I pledge to make Britain a more just and equal country

Ed Miliband
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk