UK Politics

Daily Mail's position on Miliband unravelling - Labour

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Media captionThe Daily Mail's Alex Brummer: "I hear from the editors each day that they make sure that stories are obtained in the proper way"

Labour has said the Daily Mail's stance is unravelling after a top journalist said an article about Ed Miliband's father was "wrongly labelled".

Alex Brummer, the Mail's City editor, told Channel 4 News it should have been made clearer it was a comment article.

The paper has refused to apologise for a piece calling Marxist academic Ralph Miliband "The man who hated Britain" - and said its position had not changed.

A Labour spokesman said the Daily Mail's defence was "crumbling".

'Made clear'

Mr Brummer's comments are the first time anyone from the Mail has suggested there might be a problem with the article.

He said: "Sometimes articles which are comment should be labelled and made clear that they are comment.

"So perhaps it should have said 'comment' on it to make clear absolutely it was comment instead of a special report.

"But I think people understood that it wasn't just reporting; there was an element of commentary to it. Just maybe the labelling wasn't quite what it should have been."

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Media captionEd Miliband: "They need to take a long hard look at the culture and practices"

Labour said it showed that the Mail's strategy was unravelling piece by piece.

"Six days on from their original article, the Daily Mail's defence is crumbling," said the spokesman.

"For the first time, they have been forced to admit significant problems in the way they dealt with the article 'The man who hated Britain'.

"They should now finally have the good grace and decency to acknowledge their grotesque error of judgment and apologise."

Memorial service

Earlier Mr Brummer told the BBC the Daily Mail would not say sorry to the Labour leader - and said the paper was owed an apology over claims that its Ralph Miliband articles were motivated by anti-Semitism.

Mr Miliband sought to distance himself from the anti-Semitism claims.

But he renewed his demand for the paper's owner Lord Rothermere to investigate its culture and practices.

Lord Rothermere has apologised to Mr Miliband for a Mail on Sunday reporter intruding on a family memorial service.

But he stopped short of saying sorry for the Ralph Miliband article or agreeing to a wider inquiry into the way his newspapers operate.

Appearing on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Brummer strongly defended the Daily Mail's original article which questioned how far Ralph Miliband's left-wing views had influenced his son.

He said: "I don't think we need to apologise for anything. This was a piece which examined somebody's views very carefully."

He hit out at suggestions from the Jewish Chronicle, some Labour figures and others that there may have been "a whiff of anti-Semitism" about the coverage.

"I think there are people out there who need to apologise to us because there have been vicious accusations in the last couple of days, from (former Labour leader) Neil Kinnock among others, that somehow this was an anti-Semitic attack," he said.

Crossing a line

Mr Miliband told BBC Radio 5Live he was not suggesting the paper was anti-Semitic.

"I'm always incredibly careful about throwing around the idea that the paper or somebody is anti-Semitic or racist unless there is real evidence for that," he said.

"I don't believe that of the Mail; that's not been my issue."

He said that while the newspaper was entitled to hold him to account for his views, the way it had attacked his father was unacceptable.

"They'll criticise me, they'll say my policies are wrong, that's absolutely fine. But when it comes to my dad, and saying my dad hated Britain, I'm afraid they're crossing a line," he said.

"In all of this, they've never apologised for the fact they said my dad hated Britain - an idea without any foundation."

While acknowledging the Daily Mail - which has a circulation of more than 1.8 million - was a "popular" newspaper, he suggested many of its readers agreed with him that it had "overstepped the mark".

Mail on Sunday editor Geordie Greig said a reporter had been sent to a memorial service for Mr Miliband's uncle without his knowledge and an investigation was being held into "a decision which was wrong".

Mr Miliband told 5Live he had met the Daily Mail's editor Paul Dacre "two or three times" since becoming Labour leader.

Crucial meeting

Mr Brummer defended the Mail's journalistic methods, saying it was "extraordinarily careful" about how it pursued a story.

Image caption George Jones was part of Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry team into press practices

He said: "I hear the editor, I hear the deputy editor almost every day saying to reporters, saying to editors of their sections 'be careful how you go about getting a particular story'.

"That's a practice which goes to the core of the paper, and I do think there are some good ethical roots in the paper and this is the exception rather than the rule."

The row comes ahead of a crucial meeting of MPs next Wednesday on press regulation.

They will consider rival proposals for a new regulator to replace the Press Complaints Commission.

Mr Miliband, along with the three main political parties and press intrusion victims campaign group Hacked Off, supports a form of press regulation backed by royal charter.

The newspaper industry, among them the country's largest newspaper groups, including Mail publisher DMG Media, News UK, owner of the Sun and the Times, Telegraph Media Group and Trinity Mirror, have put forward a rival plan rejecting "state-sponsored regulation".

A member of Lord Justice Leveson's inquiry team into press practices expressed concern that Mr Miliband's row with the Mail could be used as "a cudgel to try to beat the press" and push through tighter regulation.

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Media captionFormer Daily Telegraph political editor George Jones: "I think he [Ed Miliband] is misguided."

Former Daily Telegraph political editor George Jones said: "We were quite clear in those discussions that we did not want to get into the question of taste, we didn't want to be arbiters of what was in good taste and what was in bad taste.

"In my view, once you go down that road you do seriously compromise freedom of speech."

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