POLITICS

Emily Thornberry's Resignation 'Daft' And Panicked, Says Labour MP

21/11/2014 12:38 GMT | Updated 21/11/2014 12:59 GMT

Shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry was "daft" to resign over a tweet and it showed that Ed Miliband was "motivated by panic", a veteran Labour MP has said.

Speaking to the Huffington Post UK, Austin Mitchell, MP for Great Grimsby, in north-east Lincolnshire, said her departure after tweeting a picture of a house while on the campaign trail in Rochester and Strood was "totally unnecessary" and the resulting furore was a "storm in a tea cup".

Mitchell said: "The leader has bigger things to worry about. He shouldn't have his acolytes running about getting people to resign over trivia."

Thornberry, MP for Islington South and Finsbury, sparked a furious backlash after posting the picture of the modern terraced house with three red and white Cross of St George flags - one bearing a West Ham United badge - and a white van parked in the drive, along with the message "Image from Rochester".

Thornberry apologised for her social media gaffe after being given a dressing-down by Miliband and Labour later announced that she had resigned as shadow attorney general. Miliband was reported to have "never been so angry".

Mitchell, whose outspoken remarks have caused controversy on numerous occasions in the past, said Thornberry's resignation showed the leadership was "motivated by panic".

"Political correctness is becoming an obsession," he added. "We're losing sight of the people we represent over a small thing like this."

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  • Mitchell joked about Thornberry's "snobby" picture on Twitter, asking: "Why panic over such trivia - but do ask if the van had an MOT".

    Following Ukip's Mark Reckless election in Rochester and Strood, rumours have circulated that Mitchell, as an arch-Eurosceptic, could be the first Labour MP to join Ukip.

    The Spectator's Isabel Hardman wrote today: "There is a rumour that Ukip thinks it might be able to lure Austin Mitchell over from Labour. He retires at the next election anyway but his Great Grimsby seat is already a good prospect for Ukip and the debacle over Emily Thornberry’s White Van Man tweet would be a useful trigger for Mitchell."

    However, Mitchell insisted that there "has been no approach" from Ukip about the prospect of defecting, telling HuffPostUK: "I wouldn't join them in any case. I'm a party loyalist."

    Thornberry's initial posting sparked a storm on Twitter, as people criticised her "snobbish" post.

    The owner of the house, Dan Ware, told The Sun newspaper that he was not overly impressed with the politician's remarks.

    "I've not got a clue who she is, but she's a snob," he said. He said the flags on his home had been left up since being raised when England played in the football World Cup in May. We will continue to fly it."

    Ware, a 37-year-old father of four, added that he could not remember when he last voted.

    The Labour leader has recently faced accusations that his party is out of touch with its traditional working-class support and reflects the views of a liberal metropolitan elite.

    And party strategists are likely to be unhappy with Thornberry's appearance on the front page of The Sun newspaper under the headline "Only Here for the Sneers".

    Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt told BBC2's Newsnight: "I think it's very sad to lose a trusted and good colleague in the run-up to a general election. But we should also be very clear that we are hugely in favour in the Labour Party of people expressing pride in their national identity and national symbols."

    Labour's Chris Bryant said Thornberry had made "a bit of an own goal". Bryant said: "I think the first rule of politics is you respect the voters and by Emily's own admission her tweet clearly didn't do that.

    "I think she is a decent and honourable person. She did the right thing by apologising and now the right thing by resigning.

    "The Labour Party was founded on the basis that everybody should be treated equally and that's why Emily herself has said it's a bit of an own goal."