Thornberry’s gift to UKIP

November 21, 2014 at 5:07 pm (class, elections, Jim D, labour party, middle class, workers)

Emily Thornberry's tweet

Above: Thornberry’s tweet.

Given the present state of British politics, and the present state of the Labour Party, it’s safe to say that Labour was never going to win the Rochester and Strood byelection.

Mind you, it’s worth remembering that maverick Labour leftist Bob Marshall-Andrews represented the constituency from 1997 until the last election, and though there have been boundary changes, Rochester is a solidly working class constituency.

But this time Labour knew that the predominantly white electors, with their concerns about immigration and misinformed scepticism towards Europe, were not going to vote Labour in sufficient numbers for the party to regain the seat. UKIP were always favourites to win, but at least Labour could comfort itself with the thought that the Tories were going to be the main losers and suffer the biggest humiliation.

That was until Emily Thornberry, the shadow attorney general, and Labour MP for Islington South, tweeted the picture above, accompanied by the words “Image from Rochester”: the accompanying sneer could not be seen, but was all too obvious.

The wise and perceptive Anne Perkins commented in the Graun:

“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.

“It is really quite hard to come up with a more lethal tweet to send out to the party’s core vote on polling day.”

Mark Reckless’s comments on deporting EU migrants have shown that he is, essentially, a racist and (Farage’s half-hearted denial of this being UKIP true policy, notwithstanding) so is UKIP as a whole. But not all – or even most – of the people who vote UKIP are hardened racists.

To sneer at working class people who choose to display the St George flag and happen to own a white van, is to display a degree of patronising, middle class arrogance that only a particularly stupid New Labour career politician could possibly come out with.

As Ms Perkins notes, “One click, just one click, that’s all it takes. Ed Miliband’s Labour is once again the party of the metropolitan elite.”

P.S: At least Skinner’s back on form as he denounces Reckless and Carswell in the Commons: here


  1. Colin Hall (@Ultra_Fox) said,

    What juvenile nonsense. Thornberry may have been unwise to post the photo but that hardly justifies the full-blown witch trial to which she was subjected both on social media and – shamefully – from her front bench colleagues, including Ed Miliband.

    In recent times, the Guardian has often proved to be every bit as hostile to Labour as the Mail or Sun. The Anne Perkins article is another example.

    Michael Gove went on Newsnight to claim that the tweet was tantamount to racism. Now THAT is genuinely offensive behaviour and deserves to be condemned as such.

  2. Mike Phipps said,

    I agree with Colin. For my full view, see

  3. Emily Thornberry’s tweet – double standards at play? | Left Futures said,

    […] Emily Thornberry grew up on a council estate. She’s not a typical New Labour career politician as some have claimed but has campaigned for affordable housing and voted against Trident and the erosion of civil […]

  4. Sue R said,

    Lady Nugee (to give her her married name) may have spent part of her childhood on a council estate, but her father was an Assistant Secretary of the United Nations and held a post at NATO. He was a Professor fo War Studies at Kings College. Her parents divorced when she was seven, and you wonder why the Old Man didn’t supply a home for his estranged family, still, that’s none of our business. Still, we can’t help our backgrounds but we can help our politics.

  5. Jim Denham said,

    It occurs to me that Lady Nugee’s tweet may not have reflected sneering contempt, but sheer terror at the prospect of canvassing the occupants. Either way, it tells you an awful lot about an element within the present-day Labour Party.

  6. derek said,

    The White Van Man and the St Georges flag are metaphors for betrayal by white British workers who swapped the collectivism of industry, unions and Labour with free market individualism and jingoism. Worse still, they deserted socialism for the loathed Thatcher and her cheerleaders at the Sun. Labour cannot forgive them for this, thus the contempt reserved for the treacherous kulak, the White Van Man.

  7. Ian Pirie said,

    I agree with both Colin and Left Futures – the whole episode has been blown out of proportion. (How many people would have seen the tweeted picture if it had been ignored by the Labour leadership and advisors?) Ed Miliband has damaged the Labour Party with his over-reaction.
    By the way I contribute as a member of the Green Party, so I don’t have any illusions in Labour – but sooner then than the Tories/Lib Dems!!

    • Jim Denham said,

      I think some of us are simply going to have to agree to disagree on this.

      On an incidental note: a friend of mine attended a Labour Party function in Stoke on Friday, at which Alistair Campbell was guest speaker. Commenting upon the Labour Party’s repsonse to UKIP, he said something along the lines of “there’s no point trying to meet UKIP half way: when they say they’re anti-immigration we should simply say we’re in favour of it; when they say they’re against the EU we should simply say we’re in favour of it.”

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