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Dublin: 11°C Tuesday 19 January 2021

How this seemingly innocuous tweet caused a big row and forced a Labour MP to resign

Emily Thornberry stepped down as a member of the Labour shadow cabinet last night. Here’s what happened…

OVERNIGHT THE UK Independence Party (UKIP) secured its second seat in the House of Commons with its candidate, former Tory MP Mark Reckless, comfortably winning the Rochester and Strood by-election.

While the headlines should be focussed on UKIP leader Nigel Farage delivering another kick to the British establishment and more specifically Prime Minister David Cameron, the frontpage of Britain’s most popular daily newspaper is instead concentrating on something else:

What happened?

Yesterday, as part of last minute by-election campaigning, the Labour Party sent its Shadow Attorney General and MP for Islington South and Finsbury, Emily Thornberry, to the Rochester and Strood constituency in the southeast of England to do a bit of canvassing.

Throughout the afternoon Thornberry tweeted observations and images of her visit:

It was all fairly harmless stuff with some predictable potshots at the Tories who were struggling and ultimately failed to hold the seat:

But then at 3.12pm, Thornberry tweeted this image:

It prompted a slew of negative reactions…

The view taken by many was that Thornberry was looking down on the occupants of the house. She was accused of snobbery and showing contempt for working class people.

It wasn’t long before political opponents were putting the boot in…

Here’s what the Tory MP and cabinet minister Eric Pickles had to say:

As the political storm developed Thornberry tried to explain herself to The Telegraph, telling its website:

“It was a house covered in British flags. I’ve never seen anything like it before. My point is that it’s a remarkable image of a house completely covered in flags. There are three of them.”

But it looked like Thornberry was in trouble. Her party leader Ed Miliband was said to have been pretty angry with her:

The Guardian reported that over two phone calls last night, Thornberry was effectively sacked. In the first call Miliband expressed his anger to his shadow AG.

In the second call Thornberry is said to have offered her resignation from the shadow cabinet – she will remain an MP – as well as posting a message on Twitter apologising for the original tweet (which is incidentally still online)

As for the occupant of the now infamous flag-covered house, the Telegraph’s senior political correspondent Christopher Hope tracked him down:

Dan Ware wasn’t too pleased with Thornberry:

Nor was he planning to take the flags down:

Meanwhile, this morning Thornberry told reporters outside her home that she “got it wrong”

“I’ve made a mistake, I’ve resigned and if I’ve upset anyone or insulted anybody I apologise,” she added.

Then she got on her bike…

Read: UKIP set to win second UK parliament seat

About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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