The reason Emily Thornberry’s picture and tweet was so damaging was it revealed Labour’s scorn for England. I can think of no other country in the world where democratic politicians in a major party would regard their country’s flag as a hostile sign, an unbecoming adornment of a voter’s house. Clearly Ms Thornberry does not warm to our flag even though she is an English MP which I guess is why she apologised for sending out pictures of it.
When I come to a house with an English flag I am pleased. It provides a talking point. Is it there to support an English team? Or is it there as a general statement that people now want our country to be recognised and taken into account? Perhaps it is both. Labour is going to have to get used to many more English flags in the years ahead. Our football, rugby and cricket teams still attract a great following, especially when they are doing well. Now our country too is gaining traction with voters who have seen and heard the Scottish referendum debate and want England to have a new deal as a result.
Some say the tweet was so damaging because it was snobbish. That might be true, though nothing she said or wrote confirms that. Some say she was looking down on white van man. Again there is no proof. The photo itself is all we have to go on, and the most dominant feature of the photo, and the thing that distinguished that house from other houses with white vans, was the three English flags.
Mr Miliband decided to sack her, rather than argue that she meant it nicely and was thrilled to see three English flags. So that tells us a lot about Mr Miliband’s view of the situation. Before anyone could concoct a half decent explanation she had been made to apologise and spokesmen were wheeled out to distance the hapless leader from the unfortunate interpretation of the photo.
All this seeks to imply that Mr Miliband has at last grasped the importance of England in the hearts of voters and in the present political debate. Unfortunately there is no confirmation of this. There is no movement from Mr Miliband to give us English votes for English issues in Parliament. He has no matching list of powers to devolve to England as he seeks with the other parties to devolve powers to Scotland. He may now wish to show respect to voters with English flags on their homes or in their vans, but he does not intend to make any change to Labour’s resolutely anti English policies.
I think the Thornberry tweet is far less important than Mr Miliband’s dogged refusal to recognise England in any way in what he proposes for the UK. The best he can do is to mouth failed platitudes about devolution to some English cities, when the issue now is the central one of England herself. If Mr Miliband you now wish to respect our flag and the voters who take pride in it, you need to change your policy on devolution.