Paul Dacre says the reaction to the row between Ed Miliband and the Daily Mail over an article about the Labour leader’s father shows why politicians should not be in charge of regulating the press.
In his first public comments over the spat, Mr Dacre said the “collective hysteria” over the Mail’s piece on Ralph Miliband highlighted why statutory press regulation should not be introduced.
He made the remarks in an article published in the Mail and the Guardian as the Government and newspaper industry remained deadlocked over proposals to regulate press standards.
Mr Miliband complained after the Mail published an essay on his father who died in 1994, under the headline The Man who Hated Britain.
The Labour leader was given the right to reply, but the Mail accompanied his piece with an editorial accusing his father, a left-wing academic, of leaving an “evil legacy”.
The Daily Mail has refused to apologise for either piece, but its sister paper, the Mail on Sunday, said sorry after a reporter gatecrashed a private family memorial service for Mr Miliband’s uncle.
Mr Dacre wrote: “Some have argued that last week’s brouhaha shows the need for statutory press regulation. I would argue the opposite.
“The febrile heat, hatred, irrationality and prejudice provoked by last week’s row reveals why politicians must not be allowed anywhere near press regulation.
“And while the Mail does not agree with the Guardian over the stolen secret security files it published, I suggest that we can agree that the fury and recrimination the story is provoking reveals again why those who rule us – and who should be held to account by newspapers – cannot be allowed to sit in judgment on the press.”
The Mail is happy to accept that in his personal life, Ralph Miliband was, as described by his son, a decent and kindly man. Paul Dacre
Mr Dacre said his newspaper had not claimed that Ralph Miliband was “evil” but that the socialist beliefs he espoused had resulted in evil, and that, as a Marxist, he was “committed to smashing the institutions that make Britain distinctively British”.
He added: “Yes, the Mail is happy to accept that in his personal life, Ralph Miliband was, as described by his son, a decent and kindly man – although we won’t withdraw our view that he supported an ideology that caused untold misery in the world.
“Yes, we accept that he cherished this country’s traditions of tolerance and freedom – while, in a troubling paradox typical of the left, detesting the very institutions and political system that made those traditions possible.
“And yes, the headline was controversial – but popular newspapers have a long tradition of using provocative headlines to grab readers’ attention. In isolation that headline may indeed seem over the top, but read in conjunction with the article we believed it was justifiable.”