First, an apology of my own. I'm reproducing the photo and I link to that newspaper. I won't do it again, but it is necessary for this post.
A lot of people are forgetting that it's not the first time that Ed Miliband has posed with the Sun newspaper. Before we get to today's tweet, we can see Ed trying to shake off his "Red Ed" tag here, but the outrage then barely comes close to what has happened on Twitter today. So why the huge reaction today (if you live on Merseyside you'll already know the answer)?
Day by day and week by week, the Hillsborough Inquests are taking place. For years, Liverpool fans were blamed and scapegoated, not least by the Sun. The truth was hidden from view and the anger and outrage at the injustice grew. Today, the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition, all posed with the Sun. Even without Hillsborough, this is the paper that continues to promote Page 3 and is owned by a billionaire who has forced generation of politicians to bow down before him. You would never ever find a Green leader posing for that photo.
So you are an MP for Labour on Merseyside, or in Andy Burnham's case, beyond. What exactly do you do? Rightly, Steve Rotherham and others are challenging Ed Miliband. Whatever advice he was given by his American advisor, who probably has no idea about Hillsborough, he is supposed to be a leader. He is supposed to be someone that can rally his activists and members. Not here on Merseyside. Not now. Maybe given the number of safe Merseyside seats, that was part of the calculation, in 2011 and today. So if I'm in the position of Andy Burnham or Steve Rotherham, I'd be making some phone calls to Yvette Cooper. Labour's national leader is deeply discredited now and not just on Merseyside. Labour's poll rating is not where it should be for a party that has been in opposition during unprecedented austerity. Finally, when push comes to shove during the hard times of the next Parliament, even if Labour win, Merseyside's MPs are not going to trust Ed Miliband's judgements.
If you are Liverpool Mayor, you slam Miliband. Joe Anderson has reacted in precisely the right way. As the opposition, our immediate reaction was to condemn this too. However, I know that Cllr John Coyne, our council group leader has now written to Joe Anderson, Steve Radford and Richard Kemp to ask for a cross party statement or letter to show that Liverpool's representatives, of whatever political colour, condemn this.
If you are a councillor or a Liverpool fan, how do you feel about this man leading you into the next election? Can you remain a member and appear on the leaflets (although I don't now think you'll see a lot of Ed Miliband on Labour leaflets here) or do you say that you can't in principle remain? These are difficult ethical dilemmas. If you decide solely on principle, that is rare enough in politics these days, but it may be easier for those in safe Labour seats, where that action won't impact on the General Election result, to make a statement that this was utterly, utterly wrong. If you stay, you get on the phone to Andy Burnham and others to get on the phone to Yvette Cooper.
As for the members and potential activists for Labour, this will have reduced their numbers and activism here. It's difficult to get motivated when your leader is someone who either is ignorant of the proud history of your city and region, or simply made a calculation that on balance that appearing with the Sun is ok. The voters will make up their own mind in May 2015. Labour would still expect to win every MP in Liverpool, but every for every local Labour supporter that sees that photo, Labour's support will drop. In council elections that might make a difference.
At the start of this post, I pointed out that Ed Miliband has posed with the Sun before. Whatever tier of Labour you are in, that is something you have to take into consideration when you make your judgement on Ed's "mistake" today. It wasn't just a one-off.