I hate the Daily Mail – for a long time I’ve hated the way it has spread poisonous anxieties to its readers to promote its own anti-liberal agenda and, naturally, to sell newspapers. I hate the Daily Mail but, unlike the Daily Mail it seems, I love Britain. I love it’s freedom of speech and for that most important gift, the freedom of the press. I love Britain too because these freedoms allow us all to debate what can make Britain a better country to live in. I’m not sure that the Daily Mail agrees.
If you are lucky enough to live far enough away from the UK not to have been exposed to the depressing bile belched out regularly by one of this country’s most widely read tabloids, this week, the paper has been at the centre of a row for its attempt to discredit the leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband, by writing a hatchet-job article about his late father, the Marxist academic, Ralph Miliband. The article carried the headline: The Man Who Hated Britain.
The idea behind the article was perfectly fair. The Labour leader often quotes his father as a profound influence on his life. Ed Miliband is undoubtedly sincere in his admiration for his father, a Jewish refugee from Nazi-occupied Belgium who found a new home in Britain, fought for it during the Second World War and, as an intellectual Marxist, hoped that his ideas might change society. It would have been entirely fair for the Daily Mail to have written about Ralph Miliband’s ideas and to attempt to trace his influence on his son, a potential British prime minister. Whatever scurrilous comparisons were made the use of that headline, The Man Who Hated Britain, has grabbed the headlines and the aggrieved son, Ed Miliband, has criticised the paper not only for crossing the line of decency but also being wrong about his father who, his son insists, did love the country that gave him refuge from anti-semitic persecution.
Can you love your country if you are a Marxist? Apparently not, if you agree with the Daily Mail. Certainly Ralph Miliband disagreed with many of Britain’s institutions and devoted his life as an academic to writing about how the nation should be changed. It is here that the Daily Mail over-states its case. One of the many things I love about Britain is the way we are all free to love or hate things that we think are wrong in our country. The Daily Mail, though, began its article with a quote from the 17 year old Ralph’s diary making this the “proof” that Miliband senior was a dangerous influence on his son and, by implication, if we ever elect Ed Miliband prime minister, the danger that Britain could become a Marxist state:
“On a hot summer day, a young man made his way alone to Highgate Cemetery in North London to make a lifelong vow.
Solemnly, he stood at the grave of Karl Marx at a moment when, in his own words, ‘the cemetery was utterly deserted . . . I remember standing in front of the grave, fist clenched, and swearing my own private oath that I would be faithful to the workers’ cause’.”
“Years after that early visit to the cemetery, he wrote: ‘I have not, from that day to this, departed from the view that this was the right cause and that I belonged to it.’
Even his adoptive country, Britain, could still one day realise his Marxist dream. There was, he said, ‘no reason for the resigned acceptance’ of defeat.
‘On the contrary,’ he wrote, ‘what it requires is to begin preparing the ground for the coming into being of such an alternative.’
As his son, Red Ed – who lives less than a mile away from Highgate cemetery in a £1.6 million townhouse – talks of ‘socialism’ being the key word for the next Labour government, perhaps that ground is indeed now being prepared.”
Long live the Daily Mail! Read it if you have to but, please, don’t believe it’s weasel words.
I’m getting ready for the imminent publication (31st October 2013) of my first novel, Stephen Dearsley’s Summer Of Love, the story of a young fogey living in Brighton in 1967 who has a lot to learn when the flowering hippie counter culture changes him and the world around him.
…or from Amazon: