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Daily Mail chairman issues apology
The chairman of the Daily Mail and General Trust has apologised to Ed Miliband after a reporter turned up uninvited at a family memorial service, but insisted the incident did not reflect the "culture and practices" of his papers, a Labour spokesman said.
Viscount Rothermere repeated the apology offered by Mail on Sunday's editor after one of his paper's reporters was said to have tried to question relatives of the Labour leader who were attending the service held yesterday for his late uncle.
Mr Miliband, who is also involved in a bitter dispute with the Daily Mail over an attack on his late father, had called on the titles' owners to mount an urgent inquiry into the culture at the newspapers.
But a Labour spokesman said that although Lord Rothermere repeated the apology offered by Mail on Sunday editor Geordie Greig, he did not believe there was a wider problem.
The spokesman said: "Lord Rothermere has repeated the apology for the behaviour of the Mail on Sunday.
"This is an important step.
"However, he says he does not believe it reflected the culture and practices of the Mail or Mail on Sunday, and also he does not address the treatment of Ed Miliband's dad over the last few days.
"We continue to believe these issues need addressing and until they do so, many people will continue to believe that these newspapers are not upholding the values and decency of the British people."
Mr Greig apologised unreservedly and said that two journalists on his paper had been suspended pending a full investigation into what he said was "a terrible lapse of judgment".
Labour insisted there was a need for a wider inquiry at the newspaper group in the wake of the continuing row over the Daily Mail's denunciation of Mr Miliband's late father, the Marxist intellectual Ralph Miliband, as a man "who hated Britain".
The latest twist follows the disclosure that a Mail on Sunday journalist found her way into the memorial service for Mr Miliband's late uncle, Professor Harry Keen, being held on the 29th floor of Guy's Hospital in central London.
Labour sources said that at the end of the service, Prof Keen's daughter was approached by a woman who shook her hand and offered her condolences, before introducing herself as a reporter from the paper.
The reporter asked whether the daughter wished to comment on the Daily Mail article about Mr Miliband senior and was told "no comment".
When the reporter asked again, she was given the same answer, at which point she left.
In his letter to Lord Rothermere, Mr Miliband said his wider family, who were not in public life, had been "understandably appalled and shocked" by what had happened.
He said the paper's actions crossed "a line of common decency" and suggested they were "a symptom of the culture and practices" of both the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday.
"There are many decent people working at those newspapers and I know that many of them will be disgusted by this latest episode," he wrote.
"But they will also recognise that what has happened to my family has happened to many others."
He said that he saw no purpose in referring the matter to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) "because it is widely discredited".
In a statement, Mr Greig said the decision to send a reporter to the service had been taken without his knowledge and represented a "deplorable intrusion" at a private event.
"I unreservedly apologise for a reporter intruding into a private memorial service for a relative of Ed Miliband," he said.
"I would further like to apologise to members of the family and friends attending the service for this deplorable intrusion.
"I have already spoken personally to Ed Miliband and expressed my regret that such a terrible lapse of judgment should have taken place.
"It is completely contrary to the values and editorial standards of The Mail on Sunday."
The chairman of the PCC, Lord Hunt of Wirral, said he was "deeply concerned" about what had happened and that the commission would continue to monitor the situation closely.
Earlier, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg launched an outspoken attack on the Daily Mail, accusing the paper of "overflowing with bile" about modern Britain, and said Mr Miliband's response was "quite understandable".
"When I heard the Daily Mail accusing someone of saying that they didn't like Britain... I'm not a regular reader of this newspaper but every time I do open it, it just seems to be overflowing with bile about modern Britain," he said on his weekly radio phone-in on LBC 97.3.
"They don't like working mothers, they don't like the BBC, they don't like members of the royal family, they don't like teachers, they don't like the English football team - the list goes on," he said.
"Talk about kettles and pots.
"It seems to me that if anyone excels in denigrating and often vilifying a lot about modern Britain, it's the Daily Mail."
Mr Clegg is the latest senior figure from across the political spectrum to voice concern at the way the Mail portrayed the Labour leader's father, who was a Jewish refugee who fled to Britain to escape the Nazis and served in the Royal Navy in the Second World War.
John Whittingdale, chairman of the Commons culture, media and sport committee, said he believed the Mail's original article was "somewhat offensive" and the Mail on Sunday's actions were "clearly unacceptable".
He told BBC Radio 4's PM programme that he did not believe the Daily Mail should apologise, but the paper's readership should make up its own mind.
"The Daily Mail is entitled to express a view and it ultimately will be up to the Daily Mail's readers as to whether or not they think it was right to print the piece," he said.
Mr Whittingdale said under either of the rival systems of press regulation being considered by the Privy Council the Daily Mail's article would not have been in breach of the code but the Mail on Sunday's activities would.
"Therefore we do need to get in place a strong regulator as soon as we can which will act against these kinds of abuses," he said.