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Miliband fury at newspaper 'smear'
Labour leader Ed Miliband was embroiled in an extraordinary war of words with a national newspaper after it stood by a profile describing his father as "the man who hated Britain".
Mr Miliband hit back at the Daily Mail with a response in the newspaper claiming the "absurd" profile was based on a diary entry written by his adolescent father, who fled Belgium aged 16 to escape the Nazis.
But Labour was furious after the newspaper reprinted the essay on Ralph Miliband alongside his son's piece, together with a leader column attacking the "tetchy and menacing" response from the leader of the Opposition.
A senior party source said: "Ed Miliband wrote his right to reply article because he wanted to state clearly that his father loved Britain.
"He wanted the Daily Mail to treat his late father's reputation fairly. Rather than acknowledge it has smeared his father, tonight the newspaper has repeated its original claim. This simply diminishes the Daily Mail further.
"It will be for people to judge whether this newspaper's treatment of a World War Two veteran, Jewish refugee from the Nazis and distinguished academic reflects the values and decency we should all expect in our political debate."
In the essay, first printed in Saturday's edition of the Daily Mail, Geoffrey Levy examined the political beliefs of Marxist academic Ralph and how that influenced his two sons.
It questioned what Ralph Miliband, who died in 1994, "really" believed in, adding "the answer should disturb everyone who loves this country".
The Daily Mail had quoted the 17-year-old Ralph writing that the Englishman is a "rabid nationalist" and "you sometimes want them almost to lose (the war) to show them how things are".
But the Opposition leader said fierce debate about politics did not justify "character assassination" of his father, who joined the Royal Navy and fought in the Second World War after arriving in Britain.
The Labour leader won the backing of his elder brother and former rival David, who tweeted: "My dad loved Britain."
In his response, the younger Miliband wrote: "Like most refugees, the security of our country was really important to him. And like some refugees, he owed his life to it. So my Dad loved Britain, he served Britain, and he taught both David and me to do the same."
Mr Miliband said he accepted politicians needed to be held to account but what appeared in the Daily Mail on Saturday "was of a different order altogether".
He said: "I know they say 'you can't libel the dead' but you can smear them.
"Fierce debate about politics does not justify character assassination of my father, questioning the patriotism of a man who risked his life for our country in the Second World War or publishing a picture of his gravestone with a tasteless pun about him being a 'grave socialist'.
"The Daily Mail sometimes claims it stands for the best of British values of decency.
"But something has really gone wrong when it attacks the family of a politician - any politician - in this way. It would be true of an attack on the father of David Cameron, Nick Clegg, or mine.
"There was a time when politicians stayed silent if this kind of thing happened, in the hope that it wouldn't happen again.
"And fear that if they spoke out, it would make things worse. I will not do that. The stakes are too high for our country for politics to be conducted in this way. We owe it to Britain to have a debate which reflects the values of how we want the country run."
Mr Miliband described how his father arrived in Britain as a Jewish refugee, then joined the Royal Navy at 20 and fought for his adopted country as part of the D-Day landings.
On why his father joined the navy, Mr Miliband added: "He did so because he was determined to be part of the fight against the Nazis and to help his family hidden in Belgium. He was fighting for Britain."
In its examination of Ralph Miliband, the Daily Mail article stated: "As for the country that gave him and his family protection, the 17-year-old wrote in his diary: 'The Englishman is a rabid nationalist. They are perhaps the most nationalist people in the world . . . you sometimes want them almost to lose (the war) to show them how things are. They have the greatest contempt for the Continent . . . To lose their empire would be the worst possible humiliation'.
"This adolescent distaste for the British character certainly didn't stop him availing himself of the fine education that was on offer in this country, or spending the rest of his life here."
The newspaper's comment piece printed alongside Mr Miliband's response said: "We stand by every word we published on Saturday."
It added: "Yes, as his son argues, Mr Miliband Snr may have felt gratitude for the security, freedom and comfort he enjoyed in Britain.
"But what is blindingly clear from everything that he wrote throughout his life is that he had nothing but hatred for the values, traditions and institutions - including our great schools, the Church, the Army and even the Sunday papers - that made Britain the safe and free nation in which he and his family flourished."
The paper also attacked Mr Miliband for his support of tougher press regulation in response to the Leveson Inquiry: "If he crushes the freedom of the press, no doubt his father will be proud of him from beyond the grave, where he lies 12 yards from the remains of Karl Marx.
"But he will have driven a hammer and sickle through the heart of the nation so many of us genuinely love."
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Ralph Miliband was "no friend of the free market economy" and he had never heard Ed Miliband say he supports it.
Mr Hunt, the former culture, media and sport secretary, told the BBC: "The argument between the Mail and Ed Miliband over Ralph Miliband is something that they need to sort out the details of.
"But what I would say is that Ralph Miliband was no friend of the free market economy, he thought that was wrong, and I have never heard Ed Miliband say he supports the free market economy.
"I think the important thing for voters is to know exactly where Ed Miliband stands on these fundamental issues about our society."
The Labour leader won the backing of Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who wrote on Twitter: "I support @Ed_Miliband defending his dad. Politics should be about playing the ball, not the man, certainly not the man's family."
Prime Minister David Cameron offered a compassionate word of support to the Labour leader.
Admitting he had not read the offending Daily Mail article, nor Mr Miliband's subsequent response, he said: "All I know is that if anyone had a go at my father, I would want to respond very vigorously.
"There's not a day goes by that you don't think about your dad and all that he meant to you, so I completely understand why Ed would want to get his own point of view across."
Mr Cameron said the row was part of a continuing debate about the relationship between politicians and the media.
He said: "I think people do want to know about you, about you and what makes you tick and your family, and all the rest of it.
"So I think we politicians are probably the worst people to start complaining about it. I think what's just required throughout is just sort of judgment - judgment from politicians about how much to show, judgment from newspapers about what to print, it's an ongoing debate. This is rather a woolly answer, but I'm sorry... I think this is just an ongoing debate. Do you reveal more?
"Where does the press go on privacy? But, you know, we're probably the worst people to ask, quite frankly."