Ed Miliband and his free copy of The Sun

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I should start by stating categorically that my opinions, as expressed below, are not intended in any way to trivialise the grief and suffering of those who lost loved ones in April 1989. If you haven’t experienced something yourself it is difficult, if not impossible, to know how you would react in similar circumstances. However I do have a problem with the disproportionate reaction there has been to the fact that a party leader has merely been photographed holding a free copy of a national newspaper.

Nobody can justify the obscene headlines and untruthful accounts that the Sun published four days after the disaster. It must have caused incredible hurt and mental anguish to those who were still immersed in their grief. That incident however, like the disaster itself, happened over 25 years ago. Does a photograph of a party leader in 2014 holding a copy of the paper really merit calls for his resignation?

I accept that quotes on the Internet, like the Sun’s story all those years ago, can be untrue but it has been reported that a Labour councillor in Liverpool, Martin Cummins, has resigned from the Labour party over the affair. Apparently he said: “Seeing Ed promoting the Sun has rocked me to my core.” Really Mr Cummins? Rocked you to your core?

The Labour mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, has also been quoted as saying many people would feel “insulted” by Mr Miliband’s actions. “Like everybody in this city I am really hurt and offended by Ed Miliband’s support for The Sun newspaper,” he said. “Such clear support for that publication at any time would be wrong but at such a sensitive time is deeply shocking.”

An article about the affair from the Liverpool Echo that was posted on Facebook drew hundreds of comments but many of them showed little sympathy for relatives of the Hillborough victims. Most it seem called directly for Mr Miliband to resign and quite a few pointed out that all three party leaders had posed in the same manner and queried why it was just the Labour leader who was getting criticism.

My view, for what it is worth, is this: There is, or certainly should be, heightened awareness with regard to the feelings of those affected by the Hillsborough disaster at the moment. It must be extremely distressing to have the events of that terrible day revisited at the new inquest. It would, of course, have been insensitive to draw attention to anything untruthful about the tragedy whether it had been published or not. However in my judgement Ed Miliband being photographed holding a copy of the Sun is not, as the Mayor of Liverpool would have it, “an offensive gesture that insults not only me but every person in the city.” 

I believe, considering both David Cameron and Nick Clegg were depicted doing the same thing and appear to have emerged unscathed, that the reaction shows the depth of Labour support in Liverpool and the apparent discontent about Labour’s leader amongst the party’s members and voters there. I think all three leaders made an error of judgement in being photographed with a newspaper even if it was done it the misguided belief that it showed support for England’s football team.

Considering Oscar Wilde’s claim that there is no such thing as bad publicity ironically it is probably the Sun that has benefited the most!

3 thoughts on “Ed Miliband and his free copy of The Sun

  1. Hmmm. A few very interesting points here. ‘All three party leaders’?? There is certainly more than three parties. Arguably more than three major parties. We are entering a period of four party politics and UKIP are starting to challenge Labour for votes in many parts of the North, which is why they should have been more sensitive. Feelings on Merseyside are very high with regards to the Sun (it being right of centre paper doesn’t help). Whether this is an over-reaction or not is a moot point. What is clear, to me at least, is that Milliband and his advisers should have known this, especially as the whole thing was a photo-opportunity designed to make him look like a man of the people (he doesn’t care about football any more than he likes bacon sandwiches). If I know it and don’t live anywhere near Liverpool then they should know. This I think is why he has been singled out. It just looks like they are out of touch with their core support. It reminds me a little of Gordon Brown dismissing that lady in Rochdale as bigoted because she had a different point of view which she wanted to raise. Most of the Shadow front bench are millionaires – they just look out of touch. I don’t think the Sun has come out of this well but those that have benefitted include Andy Burnham and Nigel Farage. As with Neil Kinnock, I think the British people have decided that Milliband isn’t statesmanlike enough to their Prime Minister and nothing is going to change their mind.

  2. That having been said, he was in a slightly awkward position. If he hadn’t posed with the Sun he ran the risk of the rest of England thinking he was unpatriotic. The Sun would have laid into him, but I suspect they will do that anyway. He could have got in early and had himself photographed wearing an England shirt I suppose.

  3. I agree that he was in a difficult situation Paul (Damned if you do – damned if you don’t!) The Sun is the country’s biggest selling newspaper, and this wasn’t just an ordinary edition of the paper: It was being sent free to millions of homes across England. As a political leader, would you want to miss the chance to look like you’re getting in the World Cup spirit?

    I agree we are possibly moving into four party politics in this country and I think I did see a picture of Nigel Farage holding his copy too. I’m not sure that UKIP’s successes in the European elections will be replicated in a General Election though. I think there are many in this country who like or admire him and his ‘man of the people’ image but I’m not sure, when it comes to members of our own parliament, that they’ll vote for his party members to represent them. I’m looking forward to seeing the results.

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