Ed Miliband vs the Mail: who will win the media war?
Miliband finally receives apology but can Labour ever win against Britain's rightwing press?
LABOUR leader Ed Miliband has called on newspaper owner Lord Rothermere to take a "long, hard look" at the culture and practices of the Mail titles.
Rothermere and Geordie Greig, editor of the Mail on Sunday, have apologised to Miliband and two journalists have been suspended after a reporter from the Sunday paper gatecrashed a private memorial service for his late uncle on Wednesday.
Labour described it as an "important step" but noted that Rothermere had failed to address the Daily Mail's earlier articles about Miliband's father Ralph. The party leader has been locked in a row with the Daily Mail since it published an article last Saturday, describing Ralph Miliband – a Marxist academic who died in 1994 – as "the man who hated Britain".
In an interview with LabourList, Miliband today said it was time Rothermere "took a long, hard look at the way his papers are run".
Political commentators are divided on the repercussion of the ongoing row. The Economist says Miliband has come out on top. "If the Mail intended to damage Mr Miliband it is likely to have achieved the opposite," it says. "The Mail has long been regarded as the most fearsome enemy a politician can make, but this row has made it look foolish. First a well-received conference speech; then the de-fanging of the Mail. Red Ed had a good week."
The Guardian's Polly Toynbee says "this is war, no holds barred" but warns it could be "extraordinarily dangerous" for Labour. The big question is "can Labour ever win against the browbeating of Britain's 80 per cent rightwing press?" she says.
The stronger Ed gets, the more relentless will be the character assassination, smears and mockery, warns Toynbee. "He will need escape velocity to get ahead of the hounds at his heels, and that needs a noisy and imaginative campaign on the side of citizens, against the business baronies Cameron defends. But for today Miliband can revel in the Mail's disgrace."
The Labour leader certainly "sees himself as a man at war", says Fraser Nelson in the Daily Telegraph, but with all wars, timing is crucial. He points out that the Privy Council meets next Wednesday to consider the newspaper industry's attempts to preserve Britain's 300-year history of press freedom by proposing a system of self-regulation in the wake of the Leveson Inquiry.
As the digital era transforms the media at a staggering pace and Fleet Street is "haemorrhaging power", says Nelson, it is quite possible for Miliband to use this chance to pounce and amend the coming Lobbying Bill to vote through state regulation of the press.
Miliband might be posing as "the nemesis of the wicked newspaper barons", says Nelson, but his fury should not be allowed to kill off ailing newspapers. ·