After the Daily Mail gratuitously trashed the memory of historian Ralph Miliband in a crude attempt to get at his younger son, the paper faced criticism from many across the political spectrum. Some of the most trenchant criticism of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre came not just from Labour figures, but Tories too, once of whom was Michael Heseltine. He concluded that the Mail’s attack on Miliband père was a “hatchet job”.
"Oiky" says the Guardian are rotten ...
And he had this to say in response to the Dacre doggies: “I personally thought the article was carrying politics to an extent which is demeaning frankly … As everybody knows, the guy [Ralph Miliband] fought for the country and we now live in a totally different world to the clash between fascism and communism”. He was not the only unhappy Tory.
John Moore, who studied under Ralph Miliband at the LSE, and who rose to become a minister in Margaret Thatcher’s Government, told that it “beggared belief” Miliband was unpatriotic, adding “I never heard him ever say one word which was negative about Britain - our country … The people of this country are good and decent too. They do not want the Daily Mail attacking the dead relatives of politicians to make political points”.
For Labour, Alan Sugar urged Mail shareholders to “demand the resignation” of Dacre, and suggested that advertisers “as a punishment … pull temporarily” their advertising from the paper. The party wheeled out Alastair Campbell to pass severely adverse comment on the Mail’s attack on Ralph Miliband on BBC Newsnight, when Dacre, being of less than perfect courage, sent Jon Steafel to defend the attacks.
... but defended the Mail's right to trash his dad's memory
But one politician was having none of it, saying the Mail had a “right to offend” and that the paper had no need to apologise. Politicians should not “tell editors how to do their job”. A free press was “raucous”. This upstanding individual told the BBC Daily Politics that “Newspapers should not apologise to politicians for being robust. We need a free press that is robust, raucous and, by definition, will sometimes offend”.
A free press, so this politician reminded his audience, was “precious”, telling “I don't think politicians should tell newspaper editors how to do their job … I think it is a bad thing is politicians try to cajole, coerce or try to influence editors”. Of course, no-one was trying to tell Paul Dacre how to do his job, or even influence him - all that was being asked was that the Mail say sorry for gratuitously trashing a dead man’s good name.
All of which should give a clue as to the identity of this highly principled politician: step forward Michael “Oiky” Gove, who believed it was fine for the Mail to trample all over Ralph Miliband’s memory in order to get at his sons, but who is now whining and blubbering because someone from the Guardian phoned up his Dad and asked him a few questions. Suddenly that “precious” and “raucous” free press was not what he wanted.
Michael Gove cannot have it both ways: if he thinks what the Mail did to the Milibands is fine, he’s got no complaint about the Guardian having a chat with his Dad and then reporting it - rather than making it up to fit an agenda. Gove is a stinking hypocrite.