'A man who hated Britain': Ed Miliband accuses Daily Mail of 'appalling lie' about his father Ralph

Newspaper stands behind its attack as Nick Clegg and David Cameron rally to support their political rival

Whitehall Editor

Ed Miliband has accused the Daily Mail of propagating an “appalling lie” to smear his dead father as a “man who hated Britain”.

In a remarkable attack on the newspaper, the Labour leader said it had  “overstepping” the boundaries of civilised debate by deliberately “besmirching and undermining” his father Ralph, who died in 1994.

Mr Miliband had earlier demanded a right to reply after the Mail published what he described as a “character assassination” based on a diary Ralph Miliband wrote when he was a teenager. But although the paper printed the Labour leader’s response, it did so alongside an abridged version of the original article and an editorial headlined: “An evil legacy and why we won’t apologise”. The editorial reiterated the Mail’s claim that Ralph Miliband had “nothing but contempt for Britain’s values, traditions and institutions” and suggested that Mr Miliband would like to censor discussion about his father’s past.

“Chillingly the father’s disdain for freedom of expression can be seen in his son’s determination to place the British press under statutory control,” it said. “If he crushes the freedom of the press, no doubt his father will be proud of him from beyond the grave, where he lies 12 yards from the remains of Karl Marx.”

Daily Mail deputy editor Jon Steafel defended the paper's article last night on BBC's Newsnight. He said: "We felt, and we think we produced evidence to support it, that he [Ralph Miliband] hated British values, and that his views in many areas were antipathetic to British values."

However, he conceded that using a picture of Ralph Milliband's grave, with the caption "grave socialist" for the Mail Online website was "an error of judgement", adding "which is why we didn't use it in the newspaper".

The Mail is at odds with Mr Miliband over his support for statutory regulation of the press as proposed by Lord Justice Leveson in response to the phone-hacking scandal. The Mail's editor, Paul Dacre, who is also chairman of an industry committee which writes and amends the Code of Practice that the PCC enforces, is adamant that statute should form no part of any new governance regime.

Mr Miliband said that he was “appalled” the paper had repeated the “lie” that his father hated Britain, saying: “I’m not willing to let my father’s good name be besmirched and undermined in the way that the Daily Mail are doing. It is about right and wrong. It is about how the way we conduct political debate in this country.”

A spokesman for the paper refused to back down from the attack, saying: “We ask fair-minded people to read our editorial. For what this episode confirms is that you cannot allow politicians anywhere near regulating the press. But Mr Miliband dismissed this. “This is not about regulation. It is about right and wrong,” he said.

He received support from Westminster, with the Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg saying that politics “should be about playing the ball, not the man, certainly not the man’s family”.

The spread in the Daily Mail, including Ed Miliband's response The spread in the Daily Mail, including Ed Miliband's response  

David Cameron also backed Mr Miliband, saying: “If anyone had a go at my father, I would want to respond very vigorously. There’s not a day goes by that you don’t think about your dad and all that he meant to you, so I completely understand why Ed would want to get his own point of view across.”

The Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith went further, pointing out that the Mail had been an enthusiastic supporter of the Nazis in the 1930s. Mr Goldsmith said it was “odd for a newspaper to judge a man on the basis of the history of his family when that newspaper is owned by a family that did more to pursue the Nazi cause prewar than any other [publication]”.

Referring to Harold Harmsworth, the first Viscount Rothermere and great-grandfather of the current proprietor, he said: “[Joseph] Goebbels himself wrote endless documents about Rothermere, describing him as being a strong ally and ‘strongly against the Jews’. Those are the words he used. Has Rothermere apologised? Have we ever had an apology from the Mail in relation to their history?”

In the original article, first printed in Saturday’s edition of the Mail, the writer Geoffrey Levy examined the political beliefs of the Marxist academic and how they influenced his two sons. The paper quoted the 17-year-old Ralph writing in his diary that the Englishman is a “rabid nationalist” and “you sometimes want them almost to lose [the war] to show them how things are”.

But Mr Miliband said politics did not justify “character assassination” of his father, who joined the Royal Navy and fought in the Second World War after arriving in Britain from Belgium. Mr Miliband has frequently referred to his father in speeches and how his values and experiences shaped him.

He wrote: “Like most refugees, the security of our country was really important to him. And like some refugees, he owed his life to it. So my Dad loved Britain, he served Britain, and he taught both David and me to do the same.”

He said he accepted politicians needed to be held to account but what appeared in the Daily Mail “was of a different order altogether”.

“I know they say ‘you can’t libel the dead’ – but you can smear them. Fierce debate about politics does not justify character assassination of my father, questioning the patriotism of a man who risked his life for our country or publishing a picture of his gravestone with a tasteless pun about him being a ‘grave socialist’. The Mail sometimes claims it stands for the best of British values... but something has really gone wrong when it attacks the family of a politician... in this way. It would be true of an attack on the father of David Cameron, Nick Clegg, or mine.”

Top targets: How the Press smells political blood

Neil Kinnock

The Labour leader was a long-standing victim of attacks by the right-wing press, culminating in the famous Sun headline on the day of the 1992 election. Picturing Mr Kinnock’s head in a light bulb, the paper wrote: “If Kinnock wins today will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights”.

Michael Foot

When he died, the Daily Mail columnist Richard Littlejohn suggested the former Labour leader had preferred to “sneer from the safety of the sidelines” rather than fight in the Second World War. The paper’s  obituary described him as “the incarnation of socialist  self-delusion” suggesting he was “drunk on the rhetoric of the Hampstead dinner party”.  

Nick Clegg

In the build-up to the last election, the Daily Mail ran the front page headline: “Clegg in Nazi Slur on Britain”. It referred to an article he wrote in 2002 suggesting that while Germany had a “cross to bear” for the Second World War, Britain too needed to shake off its “tenacious obsession” with the last war. The Daily Mirror also mocked up a photograph of Mr Clegg with an extended nose under the headline “Pinickio” after the Lib Dems backtracked on their pledge to abolish tuition fees.

Ken Livingston

In the 1980s, when he was  the leader of the Greater London Council, The Sun labelled him the “most odious man in Britain” for suggesting IRA attacks would continue  for as long as British troops were in Ireland.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Full Stack Developer (.NET 4.0, ASP.NET, MVC, Ajax, WCF,SQL)

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Full Stack ...

AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - Investment Management

£450 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - I...

Business Analyst Solvency II SME (Pillar 1, 2 & 3) Insurance

£450 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Solvency II SME (Pilla...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve