Coffee House

Emily Thornberry apologises for Rochester tweet

20 November 2014

7:01 PM

20 November 2014

7:01 PM

Update: Emily Thornberry has stepped down as the Shadow Attorney General. More to follow…

After being given a dressing-down by Ed Miliband, Islington MP Emily Thornberry has apologised for tweeting a picture from the Rochester by-election seen as a sneer at patriotic White Van Men:

Screen Shot 2014-11-20 at 16.48.11

Ed Miliband’s aides assure the Daily Mirror that he’s livid. Jason Beattie, political editor of the paper, says:-


She is now grovelling:-

‘I apologise for any offence caused by the 3 flag picture. People should fly the England flag with pride.’

But before she sent the apology, though, Thornberry was telling the Guardian’s Rowena Mason that she was the victim of prejudice – and that her critics were trying to ‘promote a somewhat prejudiced attitude towards Islington’. Result: even now, the row is escalating into a wider, more lethal row about Posh Londoner Miliband’s attitude to the working class.

Yes, Guido has been on Thornberry’s case. But this is as nothing compared to Anne Perkins of the Guardian:

It may be the most devastating message Labour has managed to deliver in the past four years. It’s already being described as the party’s “47%” moment – a reference to the observation that nailed shut the lid on Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, when he dismissed the 47% of American voters who wouldn’t ever back the Republicans.

So much for Labour’s fight for hearts and minds. So much for this week’s efforts by shadow cabinet members like Yvette Cooper and Rachel Reeves, launching policy initiatives tailored to persuade these voters, and millions of others like them, that Labour feels their pain.

One click, just one click, that’s all it takes. Ed Miliband’s Labour is once again the party of the metropolitan elite.

All this does make it much more difficult for Labour to argue that its coming failure in Rochester is down to its wisely refusing not to waste resources into a seat where it was always going to come third. Thornberry’s three-word tweet had an incendiary affect because it as opened Labour up to the charge of being too posh, too remote, too Oxford/Primrose Hill to understand a place even like Rochester – which is just a 45-minute train journey away from Victoria Station.

And those on the left who think Miliband’s Labour is too posh are using Thornberry’s tweet to prove their point. So the scene is set: Ukip will probably win tomorrow but the biggest loser will be Ed Miliband. The postmortem of tomorrow’s result will include an examination of Labour’s attitude towards the working class voters.

UPDATE: The van is owed by a Sun reader, apparently:-

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.

Show comments
  • Bill_der_Berg

    If only Ms Thornberry had tweeted a photograph of a Romanian immigrant who had draped his home in EU flags, no apology would have been necessary.

  • Rodolph de Salis

    Don’t see what was wrong with her photograph. Would any one have complained if almost national treasure photographer Martin Parr had had his name on it? From now all will all ‘observant’, social or cultural photography be censored? Will photos of people, say, on beaches eating ice-creams be banned? It is rather a great photograph. It well captures England 2014; the van parked right up against the door; the Doric order classical columns; ubiquitous PVC windows; contemporary yellow brick; and the flags left over from the FIFA World Cup. What is there not to like? I worry for Mr. Miliband and all the others who saw offence here.

    • Bill_der_Berg

      “Would any one have complained if almost national treasure photographer Martin Parr had had his name on it?”

      Only if he was a well-heeled member of the Labour shadow cabinet and lived in a £2 million house in Islington.

  • Catherine Waterman

    It’s amusing to witness a Labour home goal. Just think of the numerous times politicians have tried to shut down debate by hissing ‘racist’, ‘Islamaphobic’.

    However, in the interest of free speech, I don’t think she should have resigned. After all, the electorate needs to know exactly what Labour stands for, and to be constantly reminded of it. By getting rid of MPs who slip over their acid tongues, we’re in danger of being sweet-talked into voting for the same old liars. We need to know exactly what our MPs stand for. Only then can we make an informed choice at the ballot box.

  • nana

    yes it’s Labour,and Milibands 47% moment. many of labours london mp’s who treat the white working class as ‘plebs’.then you wonder why northern heartlands, longtime labour voters switched to UKIP.racist bigots,and ill educated labour said.
    white working class are good,and decent people,worked hard all their lives,and brought their children up to be the same.two of my relatives fought in iraq.proud to fight for their country.and how many of our military are from a working class background? it’s starting to become the same in labour run councils.treating council tax payers just the same.spending our money on ‘legacy’ projects.people have had enough.well ms powell his new campaign guru has had a real good start.not.

  • maninthewilderness

    While the tweet wasn’t exactly clever, it doesn’t worry me.

    If politicians want to insult voters, and let it be known that they think that some members of the electorate are stupid, let them. Let’s be honest; a lot members of the electorate are stupid.

    Nah, the really scary things are –

    1) that Red Ed decided to sack the woman because she said something that wasn’t PC – in the broad sense of the term PC.

    2) The woman said ” if I’ve upset anyone or insulted anyone I apologise.””

    Seriously? A politician should apologise if they upset someone?

    And all she said was “Image from Rochester”.

    And we knew that the woman wasn’t very bright anyway. After all, she’s a member of the Labour Party, and she’s on Twitter.

  • The_Parallax_view

    In the old days these hard working people typically formed their core vote – how times have changed. I see Labour’s future core voters are city living immigrants, having lost their core vote in Scotland and now England.

  • Cornelius Bonkers

    Really, is anyone with functioning synapses surprised? Labour politicians, sociology professors, trade union leaders, “socialist” journalists, social workers, etc., etc., have been found out by those whose interests they pretend to foster. They have ALL behaved disgracefully towards the white working class and their descendants. Between them they GUILLOTINED their voice, language, culture, and identity. People like Thornberry not only despise the white working class but know nothing about their lives except what they learn in their books of Marxist social and political theory – they disgust me, and it’s only because of UKIP that “the people” have now fallen in….can I recommend reading THE SALISBURY REVIEW if anyone wants to get smart about all this?

  • the viceroy’s gin

    Red panicked. He could have rode this out, with a little bit of backbone, and with the lefty media’s forever generous help. Now by panicking, he’s only made sure it’ll stick to him. He’s as dumb as Dave.

  • English_Independence_Movement

    Labour hate the working class english.

    • The Master

      I resent that narrow-minded perspective. They also hate working class Welsh and Scots.