In a highly unusual move, Ed Miliband has induced the Daily Mail to grant him the right of reply to an article attacking him. It is a right that newspapers are understandably reluctant to concede, lest their columns be filled with nothing but the wailing replies from wronged politicians. But there again, it is unusual to attack a politician by going for his dead father.
The piece on Ralph Miliband in Saturday’s Daily Mail, by its veteran star writer, Geoffrey Levy, was under the provocative heading “The man who hated Britain”. Mr Miliband will reply to it on Tuesday, with an article supporting his counter-claim. “My dad loved Britain, he served in the Royal Navy and I am not prepared to allow his good name to be denigrated in this way,” he said.
The case against the older Miliband rests heavily on a comment he wrote in his diary, attacking the “rabid” nationalism, not actually of the British but of the English, suggesting that “you sometimes want them to lose [the war] to show them how things are”. He wrote that at the age of 17.
This is supplemented with quotes in which he was delighting in the Labour election victory of 1945, attacking the “ruling orders” for wanting to “keep the workers in their place, strengthen the House of Lords, maintain social hierarchies…” and despairing at the political benefit Margaret Thatcher accrued from the Falklands War.
I might just add that Levy asserted that “Ed’s victory over David [was] made possible only with unions’ block votes”. Someone should update him that the union block vote was abolished in 1993. Even Ralph Miliband, who died in 1994, was around when that happened.
Minister not cowed
Owen Paterson, the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, believes that Ed Miliband’s promise to freeze energy bills is a vote-winner – for the Tories. “The sheer bovine stupidity of trying to engineer the rules of the market gives us a huge chance at the next election,” he told a ConservativeHome fringe meeting. This prompts two responses. One is the serious point that David Cameron’s flagship Help to Buy policy, which will use public money to help people to buy homes that otherwise they could not afford, is also an interference in the market. And on a frivolous note, what did the minister in charge of agriculture mean by making a derogatory remark about cows?
The barriers go up
Last week’s Labour conference in Brighton was remarkable for the almost complete absence of security: a barrier along the pavement behind the conference centre, checks on passes at the entrance, a few bag searches and that was it. In Manchester, it is back to what is now normal, with a chunk of the city centre turned into a no-go zone and every item of baggage passed through an X-ray machine. Inside the hall, it was quiet and almost empty. Outside, the streets rang with the din of thousands of protesters marching in opposition to cuts in the NHS budget.
Kicking up a stink
Relations between the Tories and their civil servants are not ideal, according to the new book, In It Together: The Inside Story Of The Coalition Government, by the London Evening Standard’s political commentator, Matthew D’Ancona. In one scene, he describes David Cameron’s political guru, Steve Hilton, telling the country’s most senior civil servant, Sir Bob Kerslake: “You fucking lied.” An unnamed cabinet minister is quoted on another page as remarking: “It’s unpleasant to say this, but Bob Kerslake really does have awful BO. I mean, really smelly.” Nice.