Over the past week, the ongoing battle between the Daily Mail and Labour Party leader Ed Miliband has dominated headlines in the UK. It all started when the Mail published an article in which it described Miliband’s father Ralph as a Marxist who hated Britain. Many on the left and the right - including the Conservative prime minister, David Cameron - expressed their solidarity with Miliband and supported his demand that the Mail should apologise. So far, however, the Mail’s editor Paul Dacre has refused to say sorry.
This weekend, Miliband’s supporters took matters into their own hands and organised a protest. So it was that on Sunday afternoon, the Socialist Workers’ Party, trade unionists, Muslim leaders and anti-war campaigners all gathered outside the Mail’s headquarters in Kensington under the collective banner of ‘Hated by the Daily Mail’. Some may wonder why the Mail’s piece has caused such a furore. After all, Marxists often self-identify as internationalists with no allegiance to the state under which they live. Was it that the Mail failed to take into account that Ralph Miliband was also a British war veteran who helped fight the Nazis? Was it the fact that this paper, infamous for showing a degree of support for Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts in the 1930s, is now launching an attack on a Jewish refugee? Sort of, and not really.
Seeing that 1,200 people had signed up to the protest on Facebook, I expected to find a relatively large demonstration. I thought I would hear speeches describing the harmful influence of the Mail on the people who read it and on the rest of British society. Instead, there were about 200 people and all I heard was a broad call for a more polite society where rude articles, like those in the Mail, don’t exist. ‘Why can’t people just be nicer?’, seemed to be the cry.
In the same way that the Leveson Inquiry, which began as an investigation into unethical journalistic practice, became a tabloid witch-hunt, many of the demonstrators here used the Mail’s hatchet job on Ralph Miliband as a way to express their disgust at the Mail’s behaviour in general.