Outside the marginals

a commentary on the politics that followed the UK 2010 & 2015 elections

Death by Twitting? Hear! Sneer!?

Labour’s Emily Thornberry has resigned from the Labour front bench over a tweet she sent during the Rochester and Strood by-election campaign.

The shadow attorney general apologised for the tweet, which showed a terraced house with three England flags, and a white van parked outside.

Alongside the picture, she wrote: “Image from Rochester”.

She said she had not meant to cause offence, but Labour backbencher John Mann accused her of “snobbery”.
BBC News Website 21 November 2014 : Labour’s Emily Thornberry quits over tweet

Twitter is part of our “instant media” and this “event” and Labour’s reaction says so much about not just modern media but also the Labour Party.

The offending picture (widely published but presumably © Emily Thornberry) has little artistic merit.

Image from Emily Thornberry's Twitter feed

Image from Emily Thornberry’s Twitter feed

What are the key elements of this picture?

  • A row of modern terraced houses
  • Mock Georgian windows and classical portico indicates probably privately developed and not local authority stock
  • Solid front with parking for two vehicles indicating possibly aspirational neighbourhood
  • Transit Van parked outside – classic indicator of self-employed entrepreneur. Cleanness of Van and “06” plate indicates that the van is newish and owner is probably not of the “Del boy” chancer type
  • St George’s flags hanging from window indicates patriotism.

All classic indications of the sort of people whose support Labour need if they are to win.

For a shadow cabinet member to twit such a picture could just be a reminder that  Rochester (or at least parts of it) could be natural Labour territory.

If, say, Denis Skinner had twitted it that may be how it would have been interpreted. But this was twitted by Emily Thornberry who some refer to as a Champagne Socialist:

Emily Anne Thornberry, Lady Nugee (born 27 July 1960) is a British Labour Party politician who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Islington South and Finsbury since 2005. She was previously Shadow Attorney General until her resignation on 20 November 2014.

Thornberry was born in north Surrey to Cedric Thornberry, a Visiting Professor of War Studies at King’s College London, and his wife Sally Thornberry, a teacher. Her parents divorced when Thornberry was aged seven and she and her two brothers lived with her mother who later became a Labour Councillor and Mayor. Her father went on to become United Nations Assistant Secretary General and to work for NATO. She was educated at the University of Kent at Canterbury where she studied law. She went on to practise as a barrister specialising in human rights law from 1985 to 2005 under Michael Mansfield at Tooks Chambers.

Thornberry joined the Transport and General Workers Union in 1985. …
Wikipedia ; Emily Thornberry entry

It seems that she is not allowed to twit a picture of what could be a typical potential Labour voter’s home. The text “Image from #Rochester” apparently is “sneering” and “snobbish”, and her political career imploded within hours. She is paying the penalty for being who she is – the sort of politician that can leave you feeling patronised after hearing her “explaining” an issue on the television.

If Denis Skinner (or even Diane Abbott or John Mann) had authored the tweet – what would have been the reaction?

But she twitted, others posted reactions of outrage (real and mock), the media picked up on the “story” and amplified it, “Ed” and the Labour Establishment got involved (desperate to be seen to be with and of “the people”) and a political career crashed.

Does the whole twit-storm tell us more about:

  • Emily Thornberry
  • Labour supporters
  • The Labour Establishment, or
  • The Media?



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