Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg both had impersonal wreath messages. Photo: Getty
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Why Ed Miliband's WWI wreath message wasn’t handwritten

A picture was tweeted out today of David Cameron’s handsigned WWI memorial wreath, contrasted with a generic “From the Leader of the Opposition” from Ed Miliband. But it’s not what it looks like.

It's one of those sombre moments that politicians have to ensure they get right. Laying the memorial wreaths for the First World War centenary commemoration. Perhaps that's why a story about the disparity between our party leaders' memorial wreath messages is flickering about online today with that distinctive shiver of schadenfreude unique to Twitter. 

A picture was tweeted this afternoon of David Cameron and Ed Miliband's messages side by side. The PM's, in a sober, respectful swish of blue ink, read a personal message in his handwriting. The Labour leader's, in contrast, was a generic explanatory message scrawled in a sharpie: "From the Leader of the Opposition". It wasn't even joined up.

Here's the picture, from Channel 4 News' Ciaran Jenkins:

It undeniably looks bad, but the real story is not one of the Labour leader's scruffy disrespect for the the war dead. Mark Ferguson at LabourList is reporting that Miliband was handed the wreath seconds before he had to lay it down, and he was never given a chance to write a message. It's the explanation Labour HQ has given for the impersonal note Miliband ended up placing down, but it remains unclear why the PM was given a chance to write his beforehand.

It seems Nick Clegg was also denied the chance to write his own message. Here's a picture of his, "From the Deputy Prime Minister", pointed out by the Guardian's Jonathan Haynes:

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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Jeremy Corbyn sat down on train he claimed was full, Virgin says

The train company has pushed back against a viral video starring the Labour leader, in which he sat on the floor.

Seats were available on the train where Jeremy Corbyn was filmed sitting on the floor, Virgin Trains has said.

On 16 August, a freelance film-maker who has been following the Labour leader released a video which showed Corbyn talking about the problems of overcrowded trains.

“This is a problem that many passengers face every day, commuters and long-distance travellers. Today this train is completely ram-packed,” he said. Is it fair that I should upgrade my ticket whilst others who might not be able to afford such a luxury should have to sit on the floor? It’s their money I would be spending after all.”

Commentators quickly pointed out that he would not have been able to claim for a first-class upgrade, as expenses rules only permit standard-class travel. Also, campaign expenses cannot be claimed back from the taxpayer. 

Today, Virgin Trains released footage of the Labour leader walking past empty unreserved seats to film his video, which took half an hour, before walking back to take another unreserved seat.

"CCTV footage taken from the train on August 11 shows Mr Corbyn and his team walked past empty, unreserved seats in coach H before walking through the rest of the train to the far end, where his team sat on the floor and started filming.

"The same footage then shows Mr Corbyn returning to coach H and taking a seat there, with the help of the onboard crew, around 45 minutes into the journey and over two hours before the train reached Newcastle.

"Mr Corbyn’s team carried out their filming around 30 minutes into the journey. There were also additional empty seats on the train (the 11am departure from King’s Cross) which appear from CCTV to have been reserved but not taken, so they were also available for other passengers to sit on."

A Virgin spokesperson commented: “We have to take issue with the idea that Mr Corbyn wasn’t able to be seated on the service, as this clearly wasn’t the case.

A spokesman for the Corbyn campaign told BuzzFeed News that the footage was a “lie”, and that Corbyn had given up his seat for a woman to take his place, and that “other people” had also sat in the aisles.

Owen Smith, Corbyn's leadership rival, tried a joke:

But a passenger on the train supported Corbyn's version of events.

Both Virgin Trains and the Corbyn campaign have been contacted for further comment.

UPDATE 17:07

A spokesperson for the Jeremy for Labour campaign commented:

“When Jeremy boarded the train he was unable to find unreserved seats, so he sat with other passengers in the corridor who were also unable to find a seat. 

"Later in the journey, seats became available after a family were upgraded to first class, and Jeremy and the team he was travelling with were offered the seats by a very helpful member of staff.

"Passengers across Britain will have been in similar situations on overcrowded, expensive trains. That is why our policy to bring the trains back into public ownership, as part of a plan to rebuild and transform Britain, is so popular with passengers and rail workers.”

A few testimonies from passengers who had their photos taken with Corbyn on the floor can be found here