Emily Thornberry, the now former Attorney General for the Labour Party, the main opposition party in the UK tweeted this photo of a house with the caption “Image from #Rochester”
If I’m ever buried to my eyeballs in work and juggling a dozens stories a once, and if I feel like I’m doing lots of things average and none of them well, and if I ever feel like my stated commitment to imagery and politics in society is lagging, waning or absent, and I ever wonder if thinking and publishing on these things is actually worthwhile, a story from nowhere crops up and reminds me exactly why photography is surprising, ridiculous, ineffable and constantly in need of examination and appreciation.
Emily Thornberry, Attorney General for the Labour Party, the main opposition party in the UK lost her job because she tweeted the photo above.
It’s an amazingly quick unravelling of events for Thornberry — one consistent with the swiftness of media and exchange. Her tweet was aimed at no-one and everyone at the same time. Snark that endears no-one because it only unearths the latent lack of connections currently felt between the strata of English society.
It’s a personal attack of sorts. Maybe, even, classless?!
To me and ever other English person it is obvious why. In America everyone and their grannies hang up flags. But in Britain, the St. George’s flag has become synonymous with the working classes, plain living, no-nonsense attitudes. It’s an open secret that the working classes are mocked for their, well, lack of class. It’s a stereotype that is damaging and divisive and keeps people down.
Thornberry relied on the laziest of stereotypes to throw some shade at “hard-working English men” as Prime Minister David Cameron put it. Opportunism by Cameron (a man of the upper classes) for sure, but a fair assessment of Thornberry’s dismissal of this family, home and culture.
This story reminds me how imagery is entirely culturally relative. How we are all raised with different associations readings and literacy as far as images are concerned.
It also reminds me of the power of photography. One foolish slip by Thornberry (I don’t doubt she is scornful of working classes, she just made the mistake to express it) and she’s gone. A whole career ruined and probably a parliamentary seat lost.