A BBC interview with Ed Miliband’s wife has been making headlines this week. But the most interesting thing about the story is not what she said, but how she referred to herself. The environment barrister known as Justine Thornton throughout this parliament is suddenly being called “Justine Miliband”.
This article was amended on 10 March 2015. The original references to Justine Thornton have been changed to reflect Labour’s statement that she wished to use the surname Miliband in political life.
Although the Labour press office tells me there was no official statement about her name, and won’t comment on what her legal name is, I hear from one spinner that “it’s Justine Miliband when it’s Labour party stuff, but in her own work it’s Thornton. She uses both names”.
Whatever Justine chooses to call herself is up to her, but this feels like Labour chasing the political benefit of rebranding her a “Miliband”. As if wheeling out a soft interview with The Wife a couple of months before an election isn’t crass enough.
It also goes against Miliband’s insistence that the thing he’s learned most since becoming leader is to be himself. “I am not from central casting,” he says. A rather hollow statement when he’s been spooked into the old political trick of using family as campaign fodder.