21 Nov 2014

Miliband ‘furious’ at Thornberry tweet gaffe

Ed Miliband started his day in Finchley, north London with a visit to a school.

He often gives early-morning clips for TV on the steps of his own house but obviously today was thought to be not the day for real estate imagery.

He was at the Wren Academy taking questions from pupils. One schoolchild asked if he thought the face of a political party was more important than the politics of the party these days.

Ed Miliband said: “The leader and the party both matter… what I’m about matters and what the party’s about matters.”

On Ukip, he said voters were really sceptical about politicians’ capacity to do anything about Britain’s problems.

He was also asked about Emily Thornberry’s tweeted image of a house with England flags and a white van. He said it conveyed the wrong image of Labour (the tweet not the house).

I put it to Ed Miliband that this whole topic was so toxic because Emily Thornberry was seen as his political soulmate, an early adopter of the idea Ed Miliband should run for the leadership, conveying the north London intellectual view of the world. He dismissed that idea.

Afterwards, I asked him what went through his own mind when he saw a white van outside a house with the flag of St George. “Respect,” he said.

What did it say about Labour that the party could lose at least 40 per cent of its 2010 vote to Ukip in Rochester? It said there was anger out there and a lot of work to do. He denied Labour was helping Ukip by aping them with its own hardline restrictions on benefits for EU migrants.


Dan Ware, whose white van and house were the subject of Emily Thornberry’s tweet

Ed Miliband’s aides say he got the importance of Emily Thornberry’s mistake the moment he saw it. He was genuinely furious, they say, in the first telephone call.

In the two hours or so before the next call when Emily Thornberry resigned as shadow attorney-general, the Labour leader’s political team’s phones rang off the hook.

Labour MPs exploded, angry calls and texts poured in. By the time of the second conversation her departure was inevitable.

Labour strategists find it particularly galling that Emily Thornberry should make a gaffe like this when she has lost a great chunk of working-class support in her own Islington South constituency to the Lib Dems.

The echoes of Gordon Brown and the Gillian Duffy episode may not be over.

There is talk that the owner of the van and the house could yet meet Emily Thornberry and maybe even the Labour leader too.

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