The Daily Mail vs Ed Miliband - now the flames have really been stoked

Sometimes they print things so myopic that you feel a fly on the wall might learn something genuinely new about human nature

Share
Related Topics

Normally when I’m irritated by the Mail, it comes down to professional envy. They are the most formidably commercially successful journalistic enterprise in Britain today, and whatever one thinks of their politics this provides them with resources to do some really impressive stuff. So much of the criticism routinely directed at them is predictable and defeatist, the sour grapes of those on the other side of the ideological divide who wish they could communicate their ideas even half as effectively. Sometimes, though, there are days when they go too far. Sometimes they print things so myopic that you feel a fly on the wall might learn something genuinely new about human nature.

Today is a case in point. What are they thinking? It was grim and predictable enough to run a hit piece on Ed Miliband’s father with the headline ‘THE MAN WHO HATED BRITAIN’ at the weekend, even if the article itself was a relatively modest piece of biography that couldn’t begin to justify so inflammatory a headline about a Jewish refugee who served with the Royal Navy during the war. If more of the people who hate Britain expressed it that way, you might think, we would all be an awful lot safer.

This morning's follow-up didn’t just make things nastier – it stoked the flames. The paper agreed to run a moving piece by Ed Miliband defending his father against this unpleasant slur. When I heard that last night I immediately thought, good on the Mail – it takes a grown-up publication to admit when it’s gone too far. Except that as it turns out the Mail hasn’t quite done that. Instead, it has run the Miliband piece as part of a double page spread, alongside an abridged version of the same article it ran just a few days ago and a leader with the forceful headline: ‘An evil legacy and why we won’t apologise’.

It trivialises Miliband Jr’s justifiable anger as a ‘strop’ and mocks him for ‘stamping his feet’ and being ‘tetchy and menacing’, as if the Mail doesn’t have its own well-worn line in questionable outrage.  It suggests that ‘Red Ed’ invited this treatment by daring to tell people about his father’s escape from Nazi persecution. It finds something repellent in the idea that you might be motivated more by the fight against the Nazis than the fight for Britain, by which astonishing logic the Second World War and the invasion of Iraq were morally equivalent conflicts. (Anyone who wouldn’t rather fight against the Nazis than for Britain is, I would suggest, not someone who should ever be allowed near a gun.) It talks about ‘degenerates’ and ‘useful idiots’. And, after 1,000 words of this sort of stuff, it builds to a towering crescendo, which links press reform (of all Red Ed’s alleged offences, to pick that one!) to Marxism and warns that if this immigrant’s son is allowed to do what he wants he will “have driven a hammer and sickle through the heart of the nation so many of us genuinely love”.

God knows how you ‘drive’ a sickle through anything more substantial than a piece of cheese, but forget the dodgy phrasemaking and focus on the unpleasant insinuations. Sometimes people write the Mail off as a sheerly cynical exercise by people who know better, but this isn’t that. That it is heartfelt only makes it more troubling.

As the Mail editorial was being published, the American government was being shut down, a quite extraordinary state of affairs for a superpower. That came about because US politics has retreated even more than our own from a real discussion of substantive issues to point scoring and tribalism. There is a line, it seems to me, from Sarah Palin calling Barack Obama ‘un-American’ to Republicans in the House feeling entitled to hold the country to ransom so they can refight a political battle over healthcare that they’ve already lost. The connection is this: it’s not that you think the other side are wrong. It’s that you think they aren’t entitled to a view.

We are, I’m glad to say, still a long way from that over here. But there’s certainly more of it about. And when our most influential newspaper starts chucking around claims that people who they disagree with ‘hate Britain’ instead of ‘have stupid ideas’, we take another small step down that road. No apology will ever materialize, of course. But if cooler heads don’t prevail even after something like this, one wonders what on earth it would take.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Opilio Recruitment: QA Automation Engineer

£30k - 38k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: An award-winning consume...

Opilio Recruitment: UX & Design Specialist

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Digital Marketing Manager

£35k - 45k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A Pokot woman holds a razor blade after performing a circumcision on four girls  

The campaigns to end FGM are a welcomed step, but they don't go far enough

Charlotte Rachael Proudman
Our political system is fragmented, with disillusioned voters looking to the margins for satisfaction  

Politics of hope needed to avert flight to margins

Liam Fox
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game