Daily Mail's Paul Dacre defends Ralph Miliband piece

Paul Dacre
Image caption Mr Dacre said the "left-wing media" had been gripped by "collective hysteria" over the story

Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre has defended his paper over a piece which called Labour leader Ed Miliband's father "the man who hated Britain".

In an article in both the Guardian and the Mail, he said the headline about Marxist academic Ralph Miliband was "controversial" but "justifiable".

Ed Miliband had said he was "appalled" and the accusation was a "lie".

Mr Dacre also said the BBC's "one-sided tone" in its reporting had allowed Labour to "misrepresent" the piece.

The BBC said it rejected "any suggestion that our reporting has been biased".

Referring to Ed Miliband's speech to the Labour Party conference on 24 September, Mr Dacre said the paper was "deeply concerned that in 2013, after all the failures of socialism in the 20th Century, the leader of the Labour Party was announcing its return, complete with land seizures and price fixing".

The paper therefore reasoned that "the public had the right to know what influence the Labour leader's Marxist father, to whom he constantly referred in his speeches, had on his thinking", he wrote.

Journalist Geoffrey Levy's 1 October article examined the views of Ralph Miliband - who died in 1994 - "over his lifetime, not just as a 17-year-old youth as has been alleged by our critics", Mr Dacre said.

"The picture that emerged was of a man who gave unqualified support to Russian totalitarianism until the mid-50s, who loathed the market economy, was in favour of a workers' revolution, denigrated British traditions and institutions such as the Royal Family, the church and the Army and was overtly dismissive of western democracy."

Mr Dacre said his paper had not suggested Ralph Miliband was evil, "only that the political beliefs he espoused had resulted in evil".

"As for the headline 'the man who hated Britain', our point was simply this: Ralph Miliband was, as a Marxist, committed to smashing the institutions that make Britain distinctively British - and, with them, the liberties and democracy those institutions have fostered."

'Collective hysteria'

Mr Dacre said the Mail accepted that "in his personal life, Ralph Miliband was, as described by his son, a decent and kindly man" and also that "he cherished this country's traditions of tolerance and freedom".

"And yes, the headline was controversial - but popular newspapers have a long tradition of using provocative headlines to grab readers' attention.

Image caption Mr Dacre said the "hysteria" over the article was "symptomatic of the post-Leveson age"

"In isolation that headline may indeed seem over the top but read in conjunction with the article we believed it was justifiable."

Newspapers including the Daily Mirror and the Guardian criticised the article.

The Guardian described it as "a hatchet job" while the Daily Mirror's Alison Phillips said it was "no surprise Ed Miliband was so horrified by the nasty attack on his father".

After the article appeared, the Mail published a 1,000-word response from Ed Miliband in which he said his father, a Jewish refugee who fled Belgium aged 16 to escape the Nazis, "loved" Britain and served in the Navy.

The Daily Mail has refused to apologise for its article, although its sister paper the Mail on Sunday did say sorry after two of its journalists went to a service for the Labour leader's uncle at which they pressed the family for reaction to the original Daily Mail article.

That prompted Mr Miliband to urge newspaper owner Lord Rothermere to take a "long, hard look" at the "culture and practices" of his Mail titles.

In his piece on Saturday, Mr Dacre said the "hysteria" that followed the original piece was "symptomatic of the post-Leveson age".

He said that, while some had argued "that last week's brouhaha shows the need for statutory press regulation, I would argue the opposite".

"The febrile heat, hatred, irrationality and prejudice provoked by last week's row reveals why politicians must not be allowed anywhere near press regulation," he added.

He said the row had become "a full-scale war by the BBC and the left against the paper that is their most vocal critic".

"But the BBC's blood lust was certainly up. Impartiality flew out of the window. Ancient feuds were settled," he wrote.

The BBC said in a statement it had "followed the story as it unfolded and ensured both sides had the chance to express their views".

"As a public broadcaster, we have a responsibility to report the news without fear or favour, providing balanced information and independent analysis, allowing our audiences to make up their own minds."

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