Sir David Davis comments on press regulation in light of Daily Mail article on Ralph Miliband


As reported in The Guardian

Ed Miliband has majority backing over Daily Mail slur

YouGov poll shows 72% believe opinions were wrong, as paper refuses to apologise over Ralph Miliband piece

Around 72% of the public believe that the Daily Mail was wrong to call Labour leader Ed Miliband’s father Ralph the “man who hated Britain”, while about 69% of people in general and 57% of Daily Mail readers think the newspaper should apologise, according to an opinion poll published on Sunday.

The YouGov poll, conducted on behalf of the Sunday Times, came as about 200 protesters gathered outside the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday offices in London following the publication of the Ralph Miliband article last week, which the Labour leader said had left him “appalled”.

The row over the treatment of Miliband’s late father, a Marxist academic, has reached a stalemate, with Labour demanding an apology but the Daily Mail refusing to retract its article.

Late Sunday the campaign group Hacked Off said it had written to the Daily Mail proprietor Lord Rothermere asking him to reconsider his rejection of an inquiry into ethics at the paper, called for by Miliband.

The dispute will be a part of the context for a meeting of the privy council on Wednesday, at which politicians are expected to make a decision about the future of press regulation. They are likely to look at a royal charter proposed by the newspaper industry, which has been examined by eight Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs over the summer. If this is rejected, the privy council is likely to back a royal charter agreed by all three leading political parties but rejected by some elements of the press.

The press industry is likely to set up its own form of regulation, even if it does not receive the seal of a royal charter.

In an interview with the BBC on Sunday, Miliband said he would never disparage David Cameron in the same way that Miliband’s father Ralph had been by the Daily Mail, even though he believes the prime minister’s policies are “profoundly misguided”.

“I say judge him by his deeds,” he told the BBC. “Let me put it this way: I would never say about David Cameron that he hates Britain, I would never say he doesn’t want the best for this country. Of course he wants the best for this country. So what the Mail said about my dad, I would never say about David Cameron.”

At the protest outside the Daily Mail offices, demonstrators said they were expressing anger in the wake of the Ralph Miliband story. “The message is clear,” said the journalist and campaigner Owen Jones, addressing the crowd. “Enough is enough: stop your campaign of hatred.”

Jones said the newspapers had spent years demonising large sections of society, from public sector workers to women and trade union members. “We are speaking up for decency … this is a show of cheerful defiance by all the people who have been picked on by the Daily Mail.”

Some Tory politicians have expressed fears that the backlash against Miliband’s treatment will influence this week’s discussions on press regulation at the privy council. David Davis, a senior Conservative and former leadership candidate, said David Cameron had ended up being forced to accept newspaper regulation because he “didn’t know how to deal” with the phone-hacking scandal which led to the Leveson inquiry. “I think he didn’t know how to deal with it, truthfully. I actually don’t think this is what they planned. I think the idea was … I’m guessing what they thought was Leveson would come out with was a very ponderous and sort of sonorous condemnation of bad practices but the preservation of the free press – and in a way he sort of did – and that would be the end of it.

“But actually the Hacked Off campaign, the Labour party has very strong campaigners – Tom Watson’s one good example – drove the issue I think to the wrong conclusion. Maybe with the best intentions, but to the wrong conclusion.”

David Davis, a senior Conservative and former leadership candidate, said the Daily Mail had been “horribly heavy-handed” towards Miliband but Labour is “wrong to go down this route” of pushing for strict press regulation.