— Emily Thornberry MP (@EmilyThornberry) November 20, 2014
It’s a very big day in British politics, as the polls close in the Rochester by-election, where the anti-immigrant and anti-EU party, UKIP, is poised to score another huge victory over the Tories in what should be a supremely safe Conservative seat. But the news today is about the Labour Party MP’s tweet seen above. It feeds into a popular shorthand for working/middle class white voters who are turned off by the metropolitan elites. They’re known as “white van” men, for their unprepossessing vehicular choices. And, in this case, as you can see, they’re also patriotic. Hence the massive gaffe from Labour today – which will also intensify the doubts about party leader Ed Miliband’s leadership as the next election approaches.
Think of the flap as similar to the “cling to their guns and religion” kerfuffle, a sign for some that the British left has long since lost an appeal to white non-college-educated men, and now reflexively mocks them and their view of the world. Hence this tweet:
— Matthew Goodwin (@GoodwinMJ) November 20, 2014
These are combustible, populist times in which political elites are under immense pressure. If UKIP win this one tonight, the divide between Westminster and much of England outside London will only grow; and the chances of a sharp turn to the anti-immigrant, anti-European right more likely.