Labour politicians have condemned Ed Miliband after he was pictured holding a copy of The Sun newspaper, warning it could affect the party's electoral prospects as one councillor said he could quit the party over the issue.
"My initial thought was that it was photoshopped, that it couldn't be real," Liverpool Labour councillor Peter Mitchell told BuzzFeed. "It is going to be very, very difficult to be knocking on doors in Liverpool and saying 'vote for Ed Miliband to be Prime Minister' after this."
Sales of The Sun are almost non-existent in Liverpool due to their coverage of the 1989 Hillsborough stadium disaster, which resulted in the deaths of 96 Liverpool FC fans.
Mitchell, who was at Hillsborough on the day of the disaster, said he was considering leaving the party over Miliband's endorsement of the paper's special World Cup edition.
"I felt physically ill that the leader of my party had posed with it. It is incredibly bad timing and insensitive," he said.
"People died all around me and I'm hoping to meet with Ed Miliband next week to discuss it face-to-face. I want to try and understand his rationale and his motivation before deciding [whether to stay in Labour]. I need to be able go out and see the friends and families of people who died and explain to them why I'm a Labour councillor."
Fellow Labour councillor Eryl Owen attacked Miliband's judgement over the decision to pose with the newspaper while the inquest in the Hillsborough disaster was ongoing: "I just think it was totally wrong. I was quite disgusted, really. I think it'll have a huge impact: I don't know what his advisers were thinking of, and I don't know what he was thinking of, especially as we're in the middle of the inquiry."
His colleague Joseph Hanson said the comments could affect the willingness of some Liverpool Labour activists to campaign for Miliband in a general election.
"I think it's absolutely disgraceful, it's disgusting and he should be ashamed of himself. In certain areas of the country it will have a serious impact. Why would I go out and work my butt off to get him elected? What trust would people place in a leader holding a picture of The Sun?"
The Labour Mayor of Liverpool has condemned Miliband on the issue, while Labour MPs Steve Rotherham and Tom Watson have bemoaned the Labour leader's decision to pose with the newspaper.
Ed Miliband's office has issued a statement:
"Ed Miliband was promoting England's bid to win the World Cup and is proud to do so. But he understands the anger that is felt towards The Sun over Hillsborough by many people in Merseyside and he is sorry to those who feel offended."