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After Daily Mail attack on young Ralph Miliband, here's what a teen Paul Dacre thought about the world

The Daily Mail's condemnation of Ralph Miliband as "the man who hated Britain" was partly based on observations made by the Marxist intellectual as a 17-year-old.

It got Axegrinder wondering how Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre's own boyish musings might look today.

Fortunately we have an insight into the mind of the young Dacre, via the archive of the University of Leeds.

It was the year socialist revolution threatened international capitalism while hippies and students assaulted common family values. Enoch Powell warned the nation about “Rivers of Blood” and  Dacre first sat in an editor’s chair.

In 1968 as a 19-year-old student, the future Daily Mail editor took over the Leeds University newspaper Union News and immediately instituted radical change.

Dacre championed unemployed immigrants while encouraging people to join the union. He even praised Jack Straw.

He introduced a section in his paper called “Leeds Lovelies” where photographers prowled the college campus looking for good-looking females (something which Dacre later blushed to admit himself at a 2008 speech to the Society of Editors).

His leader column urged participation in union affairs: “Apathy will get you nowhere. So for your own sakes, participate in Union affairs. Attend Union meetings. Vote in the elections. Stand yourself.”

Dacre championed the cause of an unemployed Indian man who left his home for a better life in Britain.

An editorial said: “This paper is satisfied that Mr X is an honest hard working man, who has spent six years of his life paying for his own education and obtaining one of the highest degrees in his field.

“If Mr X does not receive a job suited to his qualifications – and soon – Union News will submit a complaint to the Race Relations Board on his behalf.

“The worrying thing is, how many more cases are there like Mr X?”

In one investigation, Dacre interviewed Alex Whitton, a father of six who voluntarily gave up his job and now lived in a former police station doubling as a workhouse.

Dacre wrote: “In cold sociological terms Mr Whitton constitutes an ‘inadequate person’ . . . In reality Mr Whitton and his family are homeless.”

He allowed the unfortunate Whitton to tell his own tale of woe: “I was evicted from my last home – which was in my mother’s name – when the landlord discovered I had six kids. I had been evicted before and this was the end. I gave up. I left my job and now I’m here.

“I’ve got no heart for work. What have I got to come home to?”

In an editorial following him stepping down as students' union president, Dacre paid tribute to a young Jack Straw (the future Labour Home Secretary): "The time has come to offer our thanks to one of the best Presidents this Union has had for a long time. The enormous amount of work he has done, the countless committees he has headed, the energy he has contributed to the general running of the Union have all undoubtedly improved the welfare of the Leeds student."

And in a leader published in the week after Richard Nixon's election US president, Dacre's Union News railed against the excesses of the press and condemned the News of the World for its depiction of students.

It said: "We fear that once again they will mislead the public into thinking of students as hairy sex-mad degenerates. For our part we have tried to dispel this image."

Those hoping to find evidence that a young Dacre advocated the overthrow of capitalism will be disappointed by Axegrinder's quick scour through his student journalism past. But there is at least some evidence that he is no exception to the oft-quoted saying from Winston Churchill: "If you're not a liberal at twenty you have no heart, if you're not a conservative at forty you have no brain."

 

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