Calm down dear it's only the Daily Mail

5 Oct 2013 at 16:40

Please may we try and gain a sense of perspective on the the great MAIL versus Miliband war? It has all began to spiral out of control with everyone wanting a piece of the action and both left and right using it for their own political ends. Both are milking as much political capital as they possibly can. And both are plain wrong. Perhaps misguided, but more likely to weasel their way onto the moral high ground.

Unpleasant as it sometimes is, the right to free speech means the right to speak or write deeply offensive things. And freedom of the press is not a matter of taste, nor should it be. That principle has to be immutable.

Most people, apart from the immediate family, really don’t give a damn about the views of Ralph Miliband. Was he an enemy of Britain? I neither know nor care. And it is not of the slightest relevance to modern political debate. Ed Miliband has demonstrated by words and deeds that he is the most left wing leader of the Labour Party since Michael Foot. Linking him to his dad’s views will not help the electorate to make up their minds in 2015.

He was right to feel affronted. He was right to attack the MAIL. But now it has become a political crusade, with websites, petitions and every bleeding heart liberal weeping tears of bile, venom and revenge, but secretly orgasmically happy that they are sticking one into Paul Dacre.

Last night on Nolan, Stephen played the passionate clip of Mehdi Hasan’s vitriolic attack on the MAIL on Question Time. It was passionate, near the knuckle and touched a chord. It denounced in the most lurid terms the very ethos and practices of the newspaper. It received tumultuous applause from the audience. Good old Mehdi. What a man of principle. Until our producer rushed in a copy of a press release of a letter by the great man asking Dacre for a column in his wicked rag. You would thought it would have been a ‘although I thoroughly disagree with your paper’s ethos, I would relish the opportunity of putting an alternative view’.
Not a bit of it. He shoved his head so far up Dacre’s arse that you needed a team of sniffer dogs to remove it. As Hasan is one of the the most self righteous, sanctimonious and priggish of commentators it is worth revisiting some of the highlights which even had an old cynic like me reaching for the sick bag.
“I have always admired the paper’s passion, rigour, boldness and of course news values….I admire your relentless focus on the need for integrity and morality in public life”. He should have gone onto say “and how much I would enjoy the handsome renumeration package that you offer compared to the pittance that I am paid at the New Statesman”.

This is the rankest of hypocrisy simply because this letter was not written when Hasan was a kid, but in 2010 after all those things he had denounced the MAIL for had happened. I suspect we will not be seeing his byline for rather a long time as the left will have regarded him as trying to sell out.

Can you imagine Owen Jones writing such a letter? Of course not.

Poor old Mehdi has hanged himself by his own petard. I won’t be weeping any tears.

But now the right want to have a crack. “This means press censorship” they scream. No it doesn’t. There will be regulation, but it won’t be underpinned by legislation for the simple reason that in terms of providing false information politicians are even worse than Fleet Street. And the only regulation that exists for them is the terror of being caught out.

If Miliband has any sense he should remain rightly aggrieved, but just agree to disagree with the MAIL. And draw a line under it all. Sadly, his advisors will be telling him that this is the time for him to be be vigorous in attacking vested interests. Wrong. As operation Motorman in 2005 has shown no newspaper is without sin. They have all printed at one time or another unfair, unsubstantiated and biased rubbish sometimes gleaned from illegal sources. I hope Miliband’s wise and sensible new strategist, Patrick Hennessy, advises accordingly.

For those who have scores to settle against Paul Dacre (and there are many) the more you put him under attack the longer he will stay. Even Jon Snow posted a joyous tweet this morning that Dacre’s contract was renewed for only a year. But it always has been renewed on a yearly basis.

Sometimes I despair.

So can everyone take a deep breath and calm down so we can read new and interesting stories about the death of Diana masterminded by the SAS, the weather, new clues on Maddie and how coffee can cause your balls to drop off?

Not for a little while I fear.

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