The Daily Mail's deputy editor Jon Steafel was invited on to BBC Newsnight on Tuesday evening to defend his paper's decision to accuse Ed Miliband's father Ralph of “hating Britain”. He faced Alastair Campbell, who accused the paper's editor, Paul Dacre, of being a “bully and a coward” for not appearing himself, sending his deputy instead.

Campbell, Tony Blair's former spin doctor, said the Daily Mail represented the "worst of British values" and said its editor was "a poison in our national life".

Having tried to defend his paper's initial article as well as a follow up which said Ed Miliband's deceased father had left an "evil legacy", Steafel was accused of simply reading out a "pathetic ramble" of lines written for him by his boss.

"If you do not conform to Paul Dacre's narrow twisted view of the world, as all of his employees like John Steafel have to do, you get done in," Campbell said. "Once you accept you are dealing with a bully and a coward you have absolutely nothing to fear from him."

"It's [the Daily Mail] run by a bully and a coward and like most cowards he is hypocrite as well. Paul Dacre hasn't got the guts himself to come on this programme and defend something which I know John Steafel thinks is not defensible."

Steafel also endured a grilling from Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis, who appeared perplexed by the Daily Mail's deputy editor's defence.

"Your paper wrote, and you restate today, that Ralph Miliband, who fought for this country, his country, in the Second World War, hated Britain. How can you possibly claim that?" she asked.

Steafel insisted he thought it was "reasonable" to highlight Ralph Miliband's "Marxist" views which he said were "antipathetic to the views and values of other British people".

"Ed Miliband seeks to be prime minister, he has made many speeches since he became Labour leader and in many of his speeches he refers to the story of his parents," he said. "So if you are to understand Ed Miliband... you need to understand the values that shaped him."

However he conceded it was an "error of judgement" for the Mail Online website, which is run separately from the newspaper, to use a picture of a grave to illustrate its story.

He said: "I think using that picture was an error of judgement which is why we didn't use it in the newspaper."

And he also said it was not fair to ask whether the current Viscount Rothermere, whose family own the Daily Mail, was tainted by an article written by his grandfather titled "Hurarh for the Blackshirts" in praise of British fascists.

He said: "I don't think so, and most importantly I don't think it's relevant to bring up a piece from 80 years ago that was written by am member of the Rothermere family."

Related on HuffPost:

Loading Slideshow...
  • 2Jags, the Egg and the Mullet

    Who can forget this classic? After being pelted with an egg Prescott doesn't think twice about clocking the perpetrator with a swift left hook. To be fair he deserved it just for the mullet, never mind the egg.

  • Johnson and Livingstone

    No surprise that these two would show up. In a relationship so tempestuous that it overshadows Axl Rose and Slash, Heather Mills and Paul McCartney and the time that Big Ears stole Noddy's bell, Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone are renowned for their heated confrontations. This year's London Mayoral election reached boiling point when Johnson accused Livingstone of being "a f**king liar!" How rude.

  • Stephen Pound on Sol Campbell

    Don't let his warm smile, and werthers-original-offering-cuddly-Grandad looks fool you. Stephen Pound, MP for Ealing North, is nails. Well, you'd have to be to call <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1277538/Labour-MP-Stephen-Pounds-foul-mouthed-football-rant.html" target="_blank">Sol Campbell "a big f***ing fairy."</a> In front of numerous children.

  • Eric Joyce's Brawl

    Not content with mere words and bypassing fisticuffs entirely,<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/02/23/eric-joyce-mp-in-commons-strangers-police-fight-stuart-andrew_n_1295628.html" target="_blank"> Eric Joyce upped the ante and went straight for hooligan's favourite method of violence, the headbutt</a>. After one or two too many sherries Joyce flew into a rage in a packed Westminster bar, headbutting Tory MP for Pudsey Stuart Andrew and allegedly attacking three other people. The police were called and Joyce was arrested.

  • The Summer Holiday

    South London rag, News Shopper thought that it had come up with a rather lovely idea for a piece when it decided to ask local MPs what their summer holiday plans were. Reporter Dan Keel set about collecting said information and was met with plans of sun, sand and then this.... DAN: Hi it's Dan from the News Shopper newspaper. I was just wondering if you received my email about MP holidays? HOLLOWAY: Ah the online lynch mob. Why don't you get on with doing some proper journalism. DAN: So you won't be answering any of my questions? HOLLOWAY: Yeah I will answer them - I will be going to Hawaii for 69 days - now f*ck off

  • Some Irish Venom

    We are now briefly hopping over to Ireland to present two superbly presented expletives. Note the ever so polite and calm introduction of "the most unparliamentary language", the pure venom in his words and the slightly pigeon-esque head movements. Not to mention the apology and attempted retraction after.

  • Brown Vs Boulton

    For one glorious second it almost looks like the two gents are about to come to actual blows, which lets face it, would be an utterly fantastic wonder. Our money would be on Brown.

  • Boulton Vs Campbell

    It all starts off so civilised... But three minutes in it starts to unravel. By 4:30 and we're taking bets.

  • Diane Abbot's Taxis

    Superb piece of grilling here as a continually smirking Portillo looks on clearly enjoying every squirming second...

  • John Bercow

    John Bercow, (pictured) Speaker of the House of Commons, has numerous benefits that come with his position. A £68,000 salary, a river view apartment in Westminster and a rather dashing black silk gown. But perhaps the greatest privilege is the right to walk in a straight line through Parliament, unimpeded by MPs who have to graciously bow out of your way as you pass. Unless you are Mark Pritchard. When accused by Bercow of blocking his path Pritchard shot back "you are not f***ing royalty," before rather politely adding "Mr Speaker."

  • Brown (again) vs Himself

    Watching Brown's face, not to mention election chances, crumble live on TV is a behemoth of a spectacle, Shakespearean in it's utter tragedy.

  • Nigel Farage on EU President Herman Van Rompuy

    One of the best political outbursts actually comes from the Ukip leader: "I don't want to be rude but, really, you have the charisma of a damp rag and the appearance of a low-grade bank clerk" Classic.

  • Galloway Vs The Israeli

    "I don't debate with Israelis." And that was it. The end of the debate.

  • The End...

    Finally, this is what happens if all your <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/05/25/ukrainian-parliamentary-brawl-tymoshenko_n_1544833.html" target="_blank">MPs collectively have a meltdown...</a>