Rochester by-election: Labour MP Emily Thornberry resigns after posting white van and England flags tweet

She later said she found the number of flags "remarkable"

Kashmira Gander
Thursday 20 November 2014 20:50 GMT
Former Shadow Attorney General Emily Thornberry and the image she tweeted from Rochester
Former Shadow Attorney General Emily Thornberry and the image she tweeted from Rochester (PA)

A Labour front bench MP has resigned after she apologised for tweeting a photo of a house in Rochester adorned with three England flags, which saw her accused of holding working class voters in “contempt”.

In a statement released by the party she said she did not want the incident to distract from Labour's chances of winning the 2015 General Election.

Thornberry, MP for Islington South and Finsbury in north London and now former Labour shadow attorney general, was on the campaign trail in Rochester today.

At around 3pm, she tweeted a photo of a two-storey house with a white Transit van parked outside and three St George flags hanging from its window, alongside the caption “image from #Rochester”.

Users of the social media website were quick to point out that the image may have been ill-judged, and made her appear out-of-touch with voters at a time when Labour is attempting to battle against Ukip in the town. Others defended the MP, and said her post may have been misconstrued.

A tweet posted by user @seatofmars (SeatofMars/Twitter)

Three hours later she apologised, after Ed Miliband intervened and the Labour leader made it “very clear” that he believes people should be able to fly the England flag without feeling ashamed.

Following her resignation, Labour has revealed that Thornberry had spoken to Mr Miliband a second time.

"Ed and Emily had a second conversation. She thought the right thing to do was to resign. Ed agreed," the source said.

"I apologise for any offence caused by the 3 flag picture. People should fly the England flag with pride!" she wrote.

Simon Danczuk, the Labour MP for Rochdale, told Mail Online: "Everyone will know exactly what she meant by that comment. I think she was being derogatory and dismissive of the people. We all know what she was trying to imply.

"I’ve talked about this previously. It’s like the Labour party has been hijacked by the north London liberal elite and it’s comments like that which reinforce that view."

Emily Thornberry MP for Islington South, pictured in 2011 (REX/Jeff Blackler)

Mrs Thornberry told The Telegraph: ”My point is that it's a remarkable image of a house completely covered in flags. I grew up on a council estate and I have never seen a house completely covered in flags before. There's three of them.“

Announcing her resignation on Thursday evening, she said: "Earlier today I sent a tweet which has caused offence to some people.

"That was never my intention and I have apologised.

"However I will not let anything distract from Labour's chance to win the coming general election.

"I have therefore tonight told Ed Miliband I will resign from the shadow cabinet."

A Labour source said before she stepped down: "It is fair to say he made his view very clear that people should fly the England flag with pride."

Thornberry has not yet responded to a request for a comment from The Independent.

Additional reporting by PA

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