Prepare yourself for the most outrageous, offensive tweet in human history. Ed Miliband said this tweet made him angrier than at any time during his leadership – angrier than over the privatisation of the Post Office, angrier than when the Daily Mail slated his dead father, angrier than everything that’s happened to the NHS, the welfare system or the libraries. This is going to be powerful stuff.
This is it. There are no other tweets, no back story we’re missing, this tweet alone, sent from a Labour MP helping out in the Rochester by-election enraged the leader of the Labour Party so much that the shadow Solicitor General was forced to resign within hours.
Let’s be clear, Emily Thornberry did nothing wrong.
Ed Miliband was not angry because he saw this tweet and thought it offensive, there’s nothing to be offended by, Miliband was angry because it had made The Sun angry – and that way lies madness. This wasn’t a misjudged tweet – it’s a completely typical tweet from someone canvassing in a constituency. If you’re a political tweeter, come election time, you can’t move on twitter without people vacuously posting pictures from their ward or constituency proving they were actually on the #labourdoorstep (or equivalent).
Some have said that the tweet showed contempt for working class people, of whom this man is a typical example we’re told (with his “Send ’em back” and calling for tax breaks). But did it? He laid out an impressive flag tableau for the world and Thornberry captured it for posterity. If she’d have captioned the picture “What an utter cock” they might have a case, but all she did was tweet a series of images from where she was canvassing and this was one of a few pictures she tweeted that day. Contempt?
Some have said that this shows how out of touch the political elite are. Well, the political elite live completely different lives from most of us and they don’t understand, or have forgotten, how the working class and the poor live – but this tweet doesn’t show it. Real criticisms, political criticisms would be around how Labour politicians have voted and behaved on austerity and cuts. These demonstrate a worrying contempt for working class people, but that’s Miliband’s agenda which is why he doesn’t want any of his MPs making The Sun unhappy, regardless of whether that anger was justified or not.
Tragedy and farce
Sometimes in politics people’s careers end unfairly but they don’t normal end in such ludicrous circumstances at the behest of a weak and cowardly leader who showed neither loyalty nor judgement in turning Thursday’s main story from a Conservative Party in free fall into some sort of Labour suicide misssion.
Thornberry was the first MP to nominate Ed Miliband for the Labour leadership, and she deserved better than being resigned over an innocuous tweet. If he does this to his friends and allies what might he do to his family… actually scratch that question.
One Blairite stuck the knife in saying “Anyone who thinks that Ed Miliband didn’t need to sack her needs their head examining. I am sure people in London believe he overreacted but I would say that they need to leave London and meet some ordinary people.” There are no ordinary people in London? Does no one take the bins out or fix the plumping? I’m sure London’s numerous Labour voters will be interested to hear what “senoir Labour sources” think of them.
Meanwhile Thornberry has continued with her local work, meeting with those campaigning to save the Buffalo Bar on Highbury Corner the day after her resignation and out canvassing in her constituency this weekend. On one level I’m sure she’s unhappy at having been treated so shamefully over something so trivial, but perhaps she’s also relieved to be shot of her Shadow Cabinet post.
Ian McLaughlin, chair of the Islington South and Finsbury Labour party, said: “I have to say I deplore the actions of some Labour MPs in attacking her. I have been a member of the party since the age of 18 and I’m 65 now, and my belief has always been that if someone in the party is in some difficulty then you help them. That is what being a socialist is all about.”