I must admit to being bewildered by the present Daily Mail campaign to vilify the father of the Labour Party leader Ed Miliband. Given the profile of the Mail’s readership, I presume the majority already view Ed as Red. Exactly what is to be gained from presenting his father as a man who “hated Britain”, which he clearly did not, is beyond me.
Certainly his father Ralph was a prominent Marxist thinker but we knew that even before we knew Ed and David. Indeed, I have visited his grave in Highgate cemetery located very near to that of Karl Marx himself. Whilst Marx’s resting place is a monument, Ralph Miliband’s is not: indeed if you were not looking for it, you would not find it. The Daily Mail clearly were and did and placed a photograph of it online labelled “Grave Socialist” – an act it has now conceded as an “error of judgement”.
In his right of reply piece in the Daily Mail this week, Ed Miliband said his father, a Jewish refugee, fled Belgium aged 16 to escape the Nazis. He “loved” Britain and served in the Royal Navy.
I should add that it was also whilst studying at the LSE that he developed as a formidable Marxist, yes a Marxist but a British Marxist. He has been described as “one of the best known academic Marxists of his generation”, on a par with Perry Anderson, Eric Hobsbawn and E P Thompson.
So whilst the Daily Mail might want to make a link between the Father Marxist and the Red Son, both of which again we knew, to suggest that Ed’s father “hated Britain” and then to raise question marks over his children’s loyalty is beyond the pale. When young Ralph wrote: “When you hear the English talk of this war you sometimes almost want them to lose it to show them how things are … To lose their empire would be the worst possible humiliation” he was talking of the British insular nationalist tendency and contempt for the Continent in general, both ironically exemplified by the Daily Mail to this day.
Although Ed Miliband does not share his father’s political beliefs, the Daily Mail justifies its attack on the basis that Ralph may have influenced his son. So now let us listen to the Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith who has launched an outspoken attack on the Daily Mail in the wake of the newspaper’s relentlessly hostile coverage of Ed Miliband’s late father.
Speaking at a fringe event at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester on Tuesday, the Tory backbencher accused the Mail and its owners, the Rothermere family, of doing “more to pursue the Nazi cause prewar” than any other publication. The Conservative MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston echoed the views of countless Twitter users by raising the Mail’s past associations with fascism and Nazism.
He said it was “odd for a newspaper to judge a man on the basis of the history of his family when that newspaper is owned by a family that did more to pursue the Nazi cause prewar than any other.”
Referencing Harold Harmsworth, the first Viscount Rothermere and proprietor of the Mail, who lavished praise on the Nazis in the run-up to the Second World War, Goldsmith remarked: “[Joseph] Goebbels himself wrote endless documents about Rothermere, describing him as being a strong ally and strongly against the Jews. Those are the words he used.
‘Strongly against the Jews’. Has Rothermere apologised? Have we ever had an apology from the Mail, or the Mail group, in relation to their history.”
The current Viscount Rothermere, Jonathan Harmsworth, is the chairman of DMGT , the publisher of the Daily Mail. Goldsmith continued: “Maybe they’ll say it doesn’t matter, don’t judge a paper or current person on the back of their history. In which case. Leave the guy alone.” I know not whether Jonathan Harmsworth is strongly against the Jews or pro-fascist. I presume not.
I do know though that he owns a rampant right-wing rag so it is legitimate, because his own paper says so, to question whether he influenced in his thinking by Rothermere.
As I write, the Mail group, having apologised for the grave photo, is now grovelling because a reporter was sent to a memorial service for Miliband’s uncle. I believe staff are being suspended: but fear not as at the end of the day both Harmsworth and editor Dacre will still be firmly in place.
When the Miliband row first broke, both Prime Minister David Cameron and his deputy Nick Clegg were quick to back Ed in defending his father. They could see where this was going.
Not so the hapless Michael Gove. Gove, he who is of the opinion that people go to food banks because “they are not best able to manage their finances,” unlike Ralph Miliband, is obviously not one of the major intellects of his generation.
Gove also believes the Daily Mail has nothing to apologise to Miliband about and newspapers have the right to offend. Stupid man! Up to now a politician’s family, certainly the parents and grandparents, have been protected from scrutiny and attack by the media. What Cameron and Clegg immediately saw but Gove is blind to is whilst it is Miliband today – if this attack on his father is allowed to stand – whose father is next? Or mother, or, come to that, granny. Cameron’s? Clegg’s? Gove’s? Osborne’s? What did they say as teenagers that can be brought to bear against today’s politicians on the basis of what they said or did could have influenced them.
Make no mistake, we are on a slippery slope. No surprise the Daily Mail is responsible for setting up this fairground slide: but it is boggled eyed Gove who is the first down the slide waving as he goes like Toad of Toad Hall.Tags: Domestic (UK)
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This post was written by David Eade