David Cameron and Nick Clegg defend Ed Miliband as the Labour leader hits back at the Daily Mail for depicting his late father as "the man who hated Britain".

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The Conservative-supporting newspaper said on Tuesday that it stood by an article it published about Mr Miliband's late father Ralph, headlined "The man who hated Britain".

The Mail also carried an article by Mr Miliband refuting journalist Geoffrey Levy's claim on Saturday that the views of Ralph Miliband, a Marxist academic who died in 1994, "should disturb everyone who loves this country".

Ed Miliband said Mr Levy's argument was based on a diary entry written by his father when he was 17, the year after he fled Belgium to escape the Nazis.

The Labour party is angry that the Mail decided to reprint Mr Levy's piece, and write a leader column defending it, on the same day it published Mr Miliband's article.

'Smear'

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 II veteran, Jewish refugee from the Nazis and distinguished academic reflects the values and decency we should all expect in our political debate."

In 2010, More 4 broadcast a docu-drama about the Miliband family. Click here to watch the clips.
David Cameron and Nick Clegg defend Ed Miliband as he becomes embroiled in a row with the Daily Mail over its depiction of his father (Reuters)

(Ralph Miliband pictured with his sons David and Ed)

Prime Minister and Conservative party leader David Cameron said he had not read the Mail article or Mr Miliband's response. But he added: "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.

"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."

Nick Clegg, his deputy and Liberal Democrat leader, tweeted: "I support @Ed--Miliband defending his dad. Politics should be about playing the ball, not the man, certainly not the man's family."

But Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt also questioned Ralph Miliband's beliefs, saying he 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".

'Rabid nationalist'

Mr Levy quoted Ralph Miliband as saying 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."

But Mr Miliband said his father loved Britain and fought in the Royal Navy during the second world war.

He 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 (brother) David and me to do the same. I know they say 'you can't libel the dead' but you can smear them.

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'Character assassination'

"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'."

Mr Levy said in his article that Ralph Miliband's "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."

"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."

Twitter response - #mydadhatedbritain

Twitter has responded with a hashtag, naturally. Users have tagged unpatriotic posts about pasta, trips to Paris and Elvis #mydadhatedbritain in response to the row.