The Daily Mail seems to have finally and, some would say, disastrously overstepped the mark with its attack on Labour leader Ed Miliband’s late father Ralph, a leading left wing academic of his day.
The Tory-supporting Mail, obviously seeking to show that son Ed was cut from the same dubious cloth, wrote that Miliband senior ‘hated Britain,’ a conclusion largely based on an entry in his diary written when he was 17. At the time recent immigrant Miliband was less than impressed with immediately pre-war Britain which was more full of appeasers than those who wanted to oppose the Nazis, who were then trying to exterminate Miliband’s family marooned in continental Europe and any other jew they could get their hands on.
Slender evidence for such a strong attack, but that’s the Daily Mail for you. Sometimes the Mail’s crusading zeal, as editor in chief Paul Dacre (left) would like to see it, produces good results – like its pursuit of the thugs who murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence. More often it uses repeated overstatements (we’re being kind here) to try to bully people it’s decided it doesn’t like into terrified submission.
Back in the day a regular victim was Michael Grade when he was running Channel 4. Grade was, decided the Mail, Britain’s ‘pornographer in chief’ after the channel ran some mildly saucy programmes late at night.
It’s pretty hard to find anyone who supports the Mail in this spat. David Cameron and Nick Clegg have said Miliband is justified in objecting to such treatment of his father (who’s hardly in a position to answer back). Only Tory education secretary, former Times hack Michael Gove, has come out in support of what he calls a necessarily ‘raucous’ press. But raucous doesn’t give you a licence to be completely wrong. Gove’s wife writes a column for the Mail, which may or may not be a coincidence.
Here’s an entertaining altercation on Newsnight between Mail deputy editor Jon Steafel (sent into the trenches by general Dacre armed only with a wooden rifle and a garden trowel) and former Labour spinner-in-chief Alastair Campbell. Campbell is no saint of course and he can be a bully as he shows here. But you have to feel for poor old Steafel, politely defending the indefensible.