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Miliband steps up attack on titles
Ed Miliband has claimed the Daily Mail's attack on his father and the Mail on Sunday's gatecrashing of a private family memorial service for his uncle are a symptom of the culture at the titles.
In the latest salvo in the bitter row between the Labour leader and the newspapers, Mr Miliband said he did not believe the actions could be blamed on "rogue" reporters or editors.
Labour said Viscount Rothermere, chairman of the company which owns the newspapers, had apologised after a Mail on Sunday reporter turned up uninvited to an event commemorating Mr Miliband's uncle.
But in Lord Rothermere's reply to a letter from Mr Miliband he said he did not believe the incident reflected the culture and practices of the Daily Mail or Mail on Sunday.
The row was sparked by an article in Saturday's edition of the Daily Mail accusing Mr Miliband's late father Ralph, a Marxist academic, of "hating Britain".
Mr Miliband told the LabourList website he felt an "apprehension" before speaking out about the treatment of his father but it was the right thing to do.
He added: "It's the first time this has happened to me in this way, but many other people have been affected by this sort of practice and I'm serious about what I said in my letter to Lord Rothermere: he's got to look into the culture and practice of the Mail and the Mail on Sunday.
"What we've seen over the past five days is a symptom of that and it's time he took a long hard look at the way his papers are run because I don't believe that reflects the values of the British people.
"I want to know how these practices are allowed to happen. Not on the basis of being 'one rogue reporter' or 'one rogue editor' but what is it about the culture and practice of the organisation that makes these kind of things acceptable? Because the decisions made by an individual in an organisation are shaped by the culture and practice of an organisation."
Mr Miliband was given the right to reply to the Daily Mail's essay on his father, who died in 1994, but the newspaper accompanied his piece on Tuesday with an editorial accusing the left-wing thinker of leaving an "evil legacy".
The Labour leader said: "I t has been hard because this is about my family and it's not a fight I picked. The Mail did that and I had to speak out to defend my Dad and to stand up for a better kind of political debate so the next election isn't fought in the gutter.
"On Monday night I was thinking about the article I'd written and - I don't normally feel these kind of things - but I felt a sense of apprehension about it. I didn't know they were going to compound the problem by describing my Dad's legacy as 'evil' but even then I knew that even though I didn't want to be in this position it was the right thing to do.
"You've got to draw the line somewhere. I thought it was right to speak out."
Mr Miliband acknowledged that the row "certainly hasn't improved our relationship" with the Daily Mail.
"But you can't judge these things on the basis of 'how are we going to get favourable coverage?'
"You've got to judge them on the basis of doing the right thing, and that's what I thought in relation to what the Daily Mail did in smearing my Dad and that's what I thought in relation to the Mail on Sunday sending a reporter to my uncle's memorial.
"I did face a choice but I decided I couldn't remain quiet and hope it goes away in the way politicians are supposed to do."
Both Lord Rothermere and Mail on Sunday editor Geordie Greig apologised to Mr Miliband after a reporter attended a memorial service for his late uncle Professor Harry Keen, being held on the 29th floor of Guy's Hospital in central London.
A Labour 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".
He added: "It is completely contrary to the values and editorial standards of The Mail on Sunday."
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.
"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.
Mr Miliband said he wanted "proper standards of decency" in the press as he sought to return to his campaign h ighlighting the rising cost of living.
" I want this next election to be about the cost of living not about smears on my late father," he told LabourList.
"That is why I chose to speak out now because the British people need a debate about the issues which matter to them and that won't be possible if this kind of character assassination of people's families continues."
He added: "If we're going to have those massive debates about the cost of living, we need to have proper standards of decency in our press."
Mr Miliband said today he was not "picking a fight" with the Mail but claimed the newspaper was "crossing a line" with the article on his father.
Speaking to BBC Radio Five Live, he said: "I'm afraid there's a moment when a paper crosses a line and I felt as a son I had to speak out.
"What I would hope Lord Rothermere would do....is look at the wider culture and practices of the Mail and the Mail on Sunday because I don't think this is an isolated incident that has just happened to my family."
Asked whether he believed there was a "whiff of anti-Semitism", he replied: "I don't actually. 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.
"I don't believe that of the Mail, that's not been my issue."
The Labour leader said he was interested in hearing from families not in the public eye who may have had similar experiences.
"Of course you want robust newspapers holding me to account, and it's really important they do," he added.
"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.
"In all of this, they've never apologised for the fact they said my dad hated Britain - an idea without any foundation.
"I'm not picking a fight with the Daily Mail.
"I don't want to be talking about my family but I felt I had to given what happened with my dad and what happened at my uncle's memorial service."
Mr Miliband said he was "incredibly grateful" to Conservatives who had spoken out in his support, including Lord Moore who was a former student of his father.
The Daily Mail's City editor Alex Brummer was listening to Mr Miliband's comments.
Speaking immediately after, he said he was glad that the Labour leader agreed that the article was not anti-Semitic and insisted that the Daily Mail had "good ethical roots" at its core.
He told BBC Radio Five Live: "I was very pleased to hear him say that he didn't think that there was any anti-Semitism involved in the article about his father, because if you read that article, it was really about trying to trace Ed Miliband's political roots - where they come from, where his ideas come from.
"And I don't think that that attribution of anti-Semitism - which was made actually last night by Neil Kinnock on the television, it's been made by (Labour MP for Bassetlaw) John Mann who heads a committee in the House of Commons (the APPG Against Anti-Semitism) - holds very much water."
Mr Brummer, who is himself Jewish, said he had never witnessed anything at the paper to suggest any of its staff held anti-Semitic views.
"I am a practising Jew, a member of the leadership of the Jewish community in Britain, I sit in a Daily Mail leader conference every day of the year and I have never heard an anti-Semitic comment in all that time," he said.
He added: "I think the Jewish Chronicle - where I actually write a column interestingly enough - saw an angle to the story which it could use, and of course there was a tweet which had an anti-Semitic element in it and it landed upon that."
The Jewish Chronicle made the claims yesterday.
Mr Brummer said that both the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday, two separate titles, were quick to respond to Mr Miliband's complaints, with the Mail on Sunday suspending the individuals involved in trying to cover a memorial service for his uncle and Lord Rothermere, proprietor of both titles, writing to him personally.
Defending the Daily Mail, he said: "We've tried to act very, very quickly.
"You say there are other incidents of this kind ...I hear the the editor, I hear the deputy editor almost everyday saying to reporters, saying to editors of their sections 'be careful how you go about getting a particular story'."
He insisted that the newspaper had "always" been robust in the way it went about obtaining a story.
"We're extraordinarily careful," he said.
"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."
Mr Brummer insisted that the Mail has a rigorous culture and practices.
"I hear the editor, I hear the department heads being asked every day 'Are you doing this the right way?', 'Was that picture taken in the right place?', and so on," he said.
While he acknowledged that the headline on the article about Mr Miliband senior had been "quite robust", he said that it had to be read in conjunction with the whole piece.
"Headlines in newspapers are often quite robust, often more robust than the articles themselves," he said.
He said the article had been an attempt to understand the Labour leader's policies in the wake of his party conference speech last week in Brighton.
"It came right out of the Labour Party conference, out of his speech, where we felt ... there was quite a lot of rhetoric that was anti-free enterprise," he said.
He said the newspaper had a right to explore views which "were rampant in the house in which Ed Miliband was brought up, and was heard at the breakfast table every morning ... it tells you why he has such a low regard for free enterprise".
But Labour peer Lord Glasman said there were parallels between McCarthyism in America, "which took any criticism of the free enterprise system as anti-Americanism".
"What I'm saying is that (Daily Mail editor) Paul Dacre has got a 1950s McCarthyite politics," he told the Today programme.