The Daily Mail's attack on Ed Miliband through his father's 'evil' legacy - right or wrong?

After the flurry of interest surrounding the release of McBride’s scandalous book leaving Ed Miliband competing to keep attention centered on his party conference speech, I think most people felt that was the last of the major distractions of the party conferences. However we, or maybe just I, stand corrected with the Daily Mail once again being at the centre of controversy after condemning the late Ralph Miliband, Ed Miliband’s father, as a man who hated Britain. Such an article raises questions over whether involvement and criticisms of politicians’ families at the hands of the media has gone too far. Moreover it brings to light the question of whether we should look to the histories of politicians to gain a comprehensive understanding of their views and backgrounds with Geoffrey Levy, the author of the article, accusing Red Ed’s pledge to bring back socialism’ as a ‘homage to the Marxist father he idolised’.

So what exactly was said that has caused such uproar? The article is basically a fairly right wing, melodramatic history of Ralph Miliband, portraying Ed to have been his protégée and to be currently fighting to revive his father’s legacy through his own leadership of the Labour Party. Ralph’s supposed ‘hatred’ of Britain is something played up throughout Levy’s piece, quoting notes from his adolescent diary, regarding the ‘Englishman’ as a ‘rabid nationalist’, even expressing a desire for Britain to lose WWII to ‘show them how things are’.[1] Levy also argues Ralph Miliband to have ‘made plain his hatred for the Establishment’ which he points to as further ‘evidence’ that he had a strong animosity towards Britain, suggesting these same values have been installed into Ed. This in turn serves to discredit Ed’s family history with him having been apparently fathered by a supposedly ungrateful’ immigrant who, despite being given refuge during the purge of Jewish people under Nazism and ‘availing himself of the fine education that was on offer in this country’, disliked Britain, playing on modern day prejudices on immigrants.[2]

The article in many ways also opens up old wounds for Ed, portraying David, his brother, as distinctly less left wing, quoting him commenting on his father’s last publication, which argued in favour of the Marxist cause, to be essentially trying to revive a case ‘traduced in history’. Through this, Levy has painted a picture that the brothers were divided from youth, with the uncomfortable battle for the leadership of the party being the pinnacle of this, the ‘ultimate tribute to his fatherwith it for Ed beingan attempt to achieve his father’s vision and ensure David Miliband did not traduce it.[3] Ed’s victory largely being a cause of trade union support only serves to add fuel to the fire of Levy’s argument.

So how has Ed responded? Ed Miliband has publically released a statement, with family pictures littered in the background, accusing Levy of lying, with his father being a man who “loved” Britain, as seen in his three year voluntary service in the navy, something Levy gives little attention.[4] Ed went on to say that Britain was a source of hope and comfort” for his father, he expressed no grievance with the discussions of his father’s politics, but not when he felt it to be the work of twisted fabrications and falsehoods. This reaction from Ed has not gone unsupported across the political field, with Cameron and Clegg being vocal in their support.[5] Perhaps the most vocal support however has surprising come from Prescott, who was not long ago was insulting Ed’s leadership capabilities. Prescott has challenged the idea of using Ed’s family history to condemn him as a leader, asking whether the current owner of the Daily Mail should have to answer for the actions of his great grandfather, Viscount Rothermere, who published articles praising Mosley’s British Union of Fascists.[6]

However, despite this, the Daily Mail has refused to apologise. In their editorial on Tuesday, published alongside Ed’s response, they stated they stand by ‘every word’ of the article, with an abridged version of the original article entitled ‘an evil legacy and why we won’t apologise’. This is not an isolated view however, with Anne McElvoy, a journalist from the Economist, believing perhaps the words of choice by Levy were distasteful, but acknowledges that Ralph Miliband was a self-confessed and proud communist and is a person Ed needs to distinguish himself from.[7]

So what is your view? Do you think the Levy and the Daily Mail should apologise for their actions, with, as Prescott argues it being unfair to condemn a leader for his family background? Or should Ed have to answer for his father’s political views with this simply being, in Michael Gove’s view, the price of having a free press?

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