Miliband demands apology from ‘Mail’ over gravestone photo
Prime minister David Cameron and Liberal Democrats leader Nick Clegg have criticised newspaper for attacking Labour leader’s father
Editor of the Daily Mail, Paul Dacre: accused of being a coward and a bully
Labour leader Ed Miliband has demanded that the Daily Mail apologises for using a photograph of his father’s gravestone in a bitter attack upon the Marxist economist who died in 1994.
On Saturday, the powerful middle-market newspaper claimed that Mr Miliband’s father, Ralph, had been an enemy of Britain, and wanted it to lose the second World War. In its online edition, the Mail used a photograph of Ralph Miliband’s gravestone, with the headline of “Grave socialist”, which deeply offended the Milibands.
Since then, prime minister David Cameron and Liberal Democrats leader Nick Clegg have criticised the Mail for attacking Mr Miliband’s father’s memory.
Internally, many in the Mail believed the “evil legacy” headline that accompanied the piece was unjustifiable, and they hoped for a speedy and quiet retreat.
However, the assault launched on the paper by former Labour spin-doctor Alastair Campbell has perversely strengthened its determination not to apologise to the Labour leader.
During a heated BBC Newsnight debate, Mr Campbell accused the paper’s editor, Paul Dacre (65), of being a coward and a bully, particularly for failing to publicly defend the piece.
The newspaper argues that the piece was justified on the grounds that the Labour leader’s policies today are a reflection of the views he imbibed from his father.
For now, Mr Miliband has had the support that he is going to get from the other parties, since the Conservatives particularly do not want a confrontation with the Mail.
Education secretary Michael Gove, whose wife works for the Mail, said offence is the price to be paid for a free press, while health secretary Jeremy Hunt said Ralph Miliband “was no friend of the free market and neither is Ed”.
Conservative mayor of London Boris Johnson offered some support: “I’ve got ancestry that doesn’t come from this country and I think people do feel very sensitive, particularly if the patriotism of those relatives is impugned,” he told LBC Radio.
Privately, some senior Conservatives argue the need for discretion in advance of an important meeting on press regulation in the wake of the Leveson inquiry’s report. However, that argument is put forward half-heartedly. Serving Conservatives are fearful, understandably, of Dacre, who has a near-unerring ability to tap into the biases of middle England, and is a man who bears grudges.
Former Conservative cabinet minister Lord John Moore did defend Mr Miliband’s father, saying he was “a good man who never had a bad word to say about Britain”, adding that the Mail’s attack “beggars belief”.
Last night, the Press Complaints Commission said that it has received 384 complaints about the newspaper’s coverage, though the Labour leader has not complained and does not intend to do so.