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Ed burnt by day in 'The Sun': Why attacking poor Miliband is misguided


Damned if he did, damned if he didn't. I can imagine what was going through the mind of Ed Miliband when he decided, in consultation with his press team, to pose with a picture of The Sun's World Cup giveaway paper, headlined "This is Our England". To say no would look unpatriotic, churlish and – Heaven forfend – suggest that he wasn't getting behind Roy Hodgson's England team ahead of their nervy first game in Brazil last night. But to say yes would potentially undermine his tough stance against Rupert Murdoch over phone-hacking, not to mention annoy people in Liverpool who have never forgiven The Sun for what it wrote about Hillsborough. The Labour leader was never going to win this one. But I still think he made the right decision to pose with The Sun.

I am from Liverpool. I remember Hillsborough. I did not lose a member of my family in the disaster, but I knew one of the 96 victims all the same. I abhorred The Sun's coverage at the time and respect every single person in the city who refuses to buy the newspaper. I find Page 3 a smutty, outdated concept in 2014. But to attack Miliband for posing with the newspaper for something it did 25 years ago is, I am afraid, utterly misguided.

To put it in perspective, it is not as if the Labour leader repeated the slur that Boris Johnson made 10 years ago when he said Liverpudlians were "hooked on grief" over Hillsborough. That was wrong – those who kept up the pressure on the Establishment and the police were not wallowing, they were simply fighting for justice – and that determination paid off in the end. Yes, Miliband pursued a vigorous campaign against Murdoch and wanted the toughest press regulation possible after the Leveson Inquiry. But this should not mean he ignores the newspaper, or refuses to engage in a publicity stunt which is as much about bringing the country together – as One Nation, indeed – as bumping up The Sun's circulation. Should he meet one of Murdoch's senior staffers, News UK's chief executive Mike Darcey this week? Of course he should.

I've never believed that people in Liverpool should "move on" from Hillsborough, not while the inquests are ongoing and no one in an official position has been held accountable. But they need to direct their anger at the right people – and whatever comes out from the inquests will tell us that. If Miliband has done anything wrong, it is to apologise for holding up The Sun. His apology was nuanced – he is "sorry to those who feel offended" – which is fine, but has been interpreted as an apology for holding up the paper at all, for which he has not said sorry. When I wrote on Twitter on Friday that Miliband should not have apologised, I was attacked by people telling me I was "clueless" and that I "don't get it". Where, and with whom, does this criticism end? What about the newsagent who moves to Liverpool and unwittingly sells The Sun, finding he is shunned or abused by customers? None of these people are to blame for "The Truth" story that The Sun ran back in 1989.

I know that the people of Liverpool are, on the whole, open and tolerant. We are also the greatest footballing city in the world – we Scousers dominate the England squad. The World Cup should be a moment of pride for Liverpool – not an occasion to engage in an ugly, misguided row.

Will Hillary kick off?

On Thursday evening, unless you were watching the opening match of the World Cup between Brazil and Croatia, you may have caught Jeremy Paxman's interview with Hillary Clinton on Newsnight. The interview was to publicise her new book, Hard Choices, but of course everything the former US Secretary of State has done for the past two years has been analysed over and over for signs that she will run for the presidency again, in 2016.

Her book title suggests it. It's certainly a hard choice, to put herself through another gruelling Democratic nomination campaign like 2008 and risk being beaten, again, by a man younger than she is. But why publish a book now unless she's going to run? Having come so close to shattering the toughest and most shatterproof of glass ceilings in the world, why wouldn't she give it another go?

She is not unequivocal about her intentions in the book, but I thought the clearest signal yet, in fact, came during her interview with Paxman, who asked her whether, after the turbulence of her husband's time in the White House, she could face another round of intrusion into her private life. Hillary, her eyes bright and glinting, said: "There's hardly anything left." Her candidacy can surely be in no doubt.

What we need is a 'Dadifesto'

A few weeks ago I wrote about how politicians and journalists become obsessed, in the run-up to general elections, with what mothers want – but we ignore the interests of fathers, who care about the same things, such as education, the household budget, childcare costs. This Father's Day, we should make an effort to think about what a "Dadifesto" might look like. Last week it emerged that just 1 per cent of new fathers are taking up extra paid paternity leave. The Fatherhood Institute says men's role as parents needs to be rethought: they want parties to look again at shared parental leave, including taking dads' employment into account separately to mums' (so they get more entitlement), and recognising fathers in NHS maternity services – including being named on the mother's care plan and practical things such as beds for fathers in labour wards and post-natal units which, they argue, can make the birth quicker and easier for the woman.

Clarke lifts the lid, a little...

What is in the "Too Difficult Box"? This is the question the former Labour Cabinet minister Charles Clarke has tried to answer with a new book on the toughest questions for politicians, including Europe, welfare and public spending. Puzzlingly, Clarke does not include trust in politics and house prices, two of the biggest issues facing the country. This is also a series of essays from different authors, with the ex-MP writing the introduction and a couple of chapters. Was an entire book from Clarke himself in the "Too Difficult Box"?