Flag-gate: Labour aide had to go says Miliband

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ED MILIBAND has insisted he became angry with one of his closest allies after she implied it was odd for people to have England flags in their window.

Emily Thornberry was forced to quit as shadow attorney general after her picture of a house draped in England flags with a white van parked outside with the message “Image from Rochester” provoked a storm of protest.

Shadow Attorney General Emily Thornberry has has resigned from the Shadow Cabinet

Shadow Attorney General Emily Thornberry has has resigned from the Shadow Cabinet

Her actions - which led to furious accusations of snobbery - enraged Labour leader Mr Miliband, provoking a rash of damaging headlines just as the media spotlight was turning to the Conservatives’ defeat in the Rochester and Strood by-election.

Mr Miliband said Ms Thornberry was right to resign as she had been disrespectful to the family who live in the house, although he did not think she had intended to sneer at them.

David Cameron accused Labour of sneering at patriotic working people.

Mr Miliband said: “I was angry because I thought her tweet gave a misleading impression when she photographed a house in which the family lived that somehow Labour had the wrong view of that family.

Shadow Attorney General Emily Thornberry has has resigned from the Shadow Cabinet

Shadow Attorney General Emily Thornberry has has resigned from the Shadow Cabinet

“It’s not the view we have of that family. Labour’s never had that view of disrespect and I’m afraid her tweet conveyed a sense of disrespect - that’s not my view, that’s not Labour’s view, it’s wrong, it never will be our view and that’s why I think it was right she resigned.”

Asked what went through his mind when he saw a white van outside a house with England flags, Mr Miliband replied: “What goes through my mind is respect - respect is a basic rule of politics and I’m afraid her tweet conveyed a sense of disrespect.

“I thought there was nothing unusual or odd as her tweet implied about having England flags in your window - that’s why I was so angry about it and that’s why I think it was right she resigned.”

Mr Miliband claimed “no voter is unreachable” for Labour.

Asked if Ms Thornberry’s tweet intended to sneer at the family, Mr Miliband said: “I think Emily’s intentions may not have been that.

“I think she gave a misleading impression that somehow there was something unusual or bizarre about having England flags in your window and that’s why it was so wrong.

“It gave the wrong view about the Labour Party, it conveyed a sense of disrespect and that’s why she resigned.”

He went on: “One of the basic rules in politics is a sense of decency and respect and I’m afraid Emily strayed away from that in what she did and I think it’s not at all what I am and not at all what this party is. It’s never what this party has been.”

Mr Cameron was quick to capitalise on Labour’s discomfort - saying it was another example of how out of touch the party was with ordinary voters.

“Emily Thornberry is one of Ed Miliband’s closest allies and aides,” said the Prime Minister.

“Effectively what this means is that Ed Miliband’s Labour Party sneers at people who work hard, who are patriotic and who love their country, and I think that is absolutely appalling.”

Ukip leader Nigel Farage, who saw his party gain its second by-election victory in six weeks, said Ms Thornberry clearly “looked down her nose” at working people.

“I don’t think that traditional Labour voters look at the current Labour leadership and even recognise these people are members of their own tribe,” he told LBC radio.

Leaving her constituency home in an affluent part of Islington, north London, Ms Thornberry again apologised for any offence she had caused.

“It appears that I got it wrong. I made a mistake. I have resigned. If I have upset anyone or insulted anybody, I apologise,” she told waiting reporters.

But in the hours following her resignation, she “favourited” a series of tweets lamenting her departure from the Labour front bench.

One said it was all a “storm in a teacup”, another complained that she was the victim of a “febrile and stupid media climate” while a third said that Mr Miliband’s office had “let the Tories off the hook”.

Among Labour MPs, there was anger at the damage her comments had caused.

Backbencher John Mann told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It was horrendous. It insults people like me, it insults the people I know - my friends and family - Labour voters across the country because white vans, England flags, they’re Labour values and actually pretty routine Labour values for most of us.”

He welcomed the speed with which Mr Miliband acted to remove her from the shadow cabinet.

“I think this is a different approach from the Labour leader and his message came out very, very clearly last night and she’s had to go, she’s been forced out,” he said.

Ms Thornberry, 54, entered Parliament as MP for Islington South and Finsbury in 2005 and served as shadow energy and health spokeswoman before taking the role of shadow attorney general in 2011.

The daughter of a former assistant secretary general of the United Nations, she was born in Surrey and was called to the bar in 1983, specialising in criminal law.

As the storm broke yesterday, she claimed to be mystified about why her tweet caused such outrage.

“It was a house covered in British flags. I’ve never seen anything like it before,” she told the Mail Online website.

“It had three huge flags covering the whole house. I thought it was remarkable. I’ve never seen a house completely covered in flags.”