The Daily Mail today accused Labour leader of deception and "calculated hysteria" over his criticism of the paper following its description of his late father as "the man who hated Britain".
Coverage of the row was limited to one page of comment by columnist Stephen Glover in today’s Daily Mail (after four pages yesterday).
The original Daily Mail feature, on Saturday, about Marxist intellectual Ralph Miliband was based largely on comments he wrote as a 17-year-old during the Second World War: "the Englishman is a rabid nationalist" and "you sometimes want them almost to lose (the war) to show them how things are".
It also noted that at 45, Miliband senior wrote of his disdain for the British establishment, saying it included: "Eton and Harrow, Oxford and Cambridge, the great Clubs, the Times, the Church, the Army, the respectable Sunday papers … the House of Lords … social hierarchies, God save the Queen."
Ed Milband countered with a ‘right of reply’ piece in the Mail on Tuesday which noted that 20-year-old Ralph Miliband fought for Britain in the Second World War and which insisted that he loved Britain.
Miliband said: “there is no credible argument in the article or evidence from his life which can remotely justify the lurid headline and its accompanying claim that it would ‘disturb everyone who loves this country’.”
Writing in the Mail today Glover said that to suggest his father was the subject of an “ugly smear” was “an extraordinary piece of legerdemain that has enormously increased my respect for Miliband’s political abilities, if not for his integrity.
“What we have seen over the past few days is a show of calculated hysteria on the part of the Labour leader.”
The term legerdemain means trickery or sleight of hand, has used by a conjuroror.
Yesterday Independent and Evening Standard content director Chris Blackhurst warned that the row threatens to overshadow talks over the future of press regulation.
Next week the Privy Council is due to decide which system of press regulation to back – one proposed by Parliament, or one which has the backing of the publishing industry.
On Tuesday, the Daily Mail ran a further comment piece condemning Ralph Miliband’s “evil legacy”.
Yesterday, Ed Miliband told the Evening Standard: ““Evil is the word that the Mail reserves for mass murderers,” says Miliband. “They published a picture of his gravestone. It crosses the line.
“What is going on is that a characterisation of his views is supplemented with the oldest trick in the book, which is to accuse someone of being un-British, anti-British, unpatriotic. That is the trump card you play to say think how bad this guy is and how bad his son can be.”
The Press Complaints has received several hundred complaints about the original Daily Mail piece, most under clause one of the Editors’ Code (accuracy).
But Miliband himself has said he will not complain, making it unlikely the watchdog will investigate the matter.