POLITICS
01/10/2013 03:50 BST

Mehdi's Morning Memo: Ed Miliband Vs Paul Dacre

AP
Leader of the British opposition Labour Party Ed Miliband speaks to demonstrators at a rally in Hyde Park as they take part in a protest march against government austerity measures through central London, Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012. Tens of thousands of demonstrators descended on the British capital Saturday in a noisy but peaceful protest at a government austerity drive aimed at slashing the nation's debt. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

The five things you need to know on Tuesday 1 October 2013...

1) ED MILIBAND VS PAUL DACRE

"They should be careful, because that I find unacceptable, the notion that you start attacking my wife or my family," candidate Obama told ABC News in May 2008, as he ran for the Democratic presidential nomination and fended off personal attacks from right-wing Republicans. "These folks should lay off my wife."

Today, Ed Miliband takes a leaf out of Obama's book, hitting back at the Daily Mail's hatchet job on his late father Ralph - "The Man Who Hated Britain" - from Saturday on the pages of... the Daily Mail itself.

Yes, the Labour leader has a column in the Mail in which he mounts a robust defence of his dad, the renowned Marxist political scientist who passed away in 1994, and accuses the paper of a "character assassination".

The first two paras are worth reading in full:

"It was June 1944 and the Allies were landing in Normandy. A 20-year old man, who had arrived in Britain as a refugee just four years earlier, was part of that fight. He was my father. Fighting the Nazis and fighting for his adopted country.

On Saturday, the Daily Mail chose to publish an article about him under the banner headline 'The Man Who Hated Britain.'

"It’s part of our job description as politicians to be criticised and attacked by newspapers, including the Daily Mail. It comes with the territory. The British people have great wisdom to sort the fair from the unfair. And I have other ways of answering back. But my Dad is a different matter."

So too is his last para:

"There was a time when politicians stayed silent if this kind of thing happened, in the hope that it wouldn’t happen again. And fear that if they spoke out, it would make things worse. I will not do that. The stakes are too high for our country for politics to be conducted in this way. We owe it to Britain to have a debate which reflects the values of how we want the country run."

As with phone hacking and Rupert Murdoch, Miliband is setting down a marker. He won't be cowed by the right-wing press. And, unlike hacking, this time it's personal.

But the Mail isn't backing down (despite damning the "lack of respect for the dead" in the wake of Margaret Thatcher's death as "a disturbing new low in British life'). In an unhinged lead editorial, to accompany Miliband's rebuttal piece, the paper refers to Ralph's "evil legacy" and says it stands by every word of its original article.

A Labour spokesman said last night:

"[Ed Miliband] 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 Two veteran, Jewish refugee from the Nazis and distinguished academic reflects the values and decency we should all expect in our political debate."

Meanwhile, lots of people on Twitter keep sending round screengrabs of the Mail's pro-fascist articles from the 1930s.

Mail editor Paul Dacre may regret his decision to dig in on this...

2) SHUTDOWN!

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a shutdown. In the world's biggest economy/most powerful country. The Republicans in Congress stared over the edge, out into the abyss, and... jumped.

From the HuffPost/AP report in the US:

"For the first time in nearly two decades, the federal government staggered into a partial shutdown Monday at midnight after congressional Republicans stubbornly demanded changes in the nation's health care law as the price for essential federal funding and President Barack Obama and Democrats adamantly refused.

"As Congress gridlocked, Obama said a 'shutdown will have a very real economic impact on real people, right away,' with hundreds of thousands of federal workers furloughed and veterans' centers, national parks, most of the space agency and other government operations shuttered.

"He laid the blame at the feet of House Republicans, whom he accused of seeking to tie government funding to ideological demands, 'all to save face after making some impossible promises to the extreme right wing of their party.'"

Obama is on to something here - after all, in the mid-1990s, Bill Clinton benefitted hugely from government shutdowns while Republicans - under then speaker Newt Gingrich - suffered massive political damage. This time round, the GOP is more right-wing, more recalcitrant, more self-destructive. Meanwhile, ordinary Americans - including the 800,000 government workers who will now have to go on unpaid leave - continue to suffer...

3) 'SEVEN MORE YEARS OF PAIN'

That's the splash on the front of the Guardian, which reports:

"The chancellor, George Osborne, warned on Monday that austerity may continue until 2020 as he set out plans for a new fiscal mandate that will require further welfare cuts to build an overall budget surplus by the end of the next parliament.

"In his keynote speech to the Conservative party conference in Manchester, he said the budget surplus, a post-war rarity for UK governments, could be achieved without raising taxes, but added: 'We have to confront the costs of modern government and cap working age welfare.'

"Osborne's highly political move is designed to set out a fiscal target that Labour cannot match and refocus the public mind on the long-term battle to bring public spending under control – territory that the Tories regard as their own."

Who says the right's austerity crazies are only in the US congress? The paper adds:

"In a speech that repeatedly reflected the Tories' need to find a response to Labour leader Ed Miliband's conference pledges last week, Osborne also set out plans to freeze petrol duty until after the election and blocked the planned 2p rise in fuel duty next September."

The Telegraph, meanwhile, has some good news on its front page:

"GPs will be asked to open seven days a week for up to 12 hours and consult patients via email and internet video link under plans to make it easier for patients to see a doctor.

"David Cameron will announce proposals at the Tory conference today aimed at addressing complaints that limited GP opening hours make it hard for working people to get an appointment."

Note: If you're in Manchester, at conference, come to my 'in conversation' interview today with Tory backbencher Zac Goldsmith MP at 12.30pm in Central 7, Manchester Central, inside the secure zone.

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...

Watch this video of Michael Portillo giving his now-notorious 'SAS speech' at the Tory conference in 1995. Oh dear.

4) I'M A COMEDY RACIST

There was Ukip leader Nigel Farage stealing all the headlines from the Tories at their own party conference in Manchester when... right on cue... a la Godfrey Bloom... his press officer gaffed - from the Daily Mail:

"UKIP was hit by a fresh race row yesterday after a senior aide to leader Nigel Farage referred to a British Asian journalist as being 'of some form of ethnic extraction'.

"Gawain Towler, the party's chief press officer, came under fire after he accidentally texted the description to one of the journalist's colleagues.

"Mr Towler, who is also a lead candidate for the party in next year's European Parliament elections, insisted he meant no offence and wearily referred to himself as 'today's comedy racist'."

Oh dear.

5) BORIS' MESSAGE TO MRS FARAGE

Meanwhile, my colleague Ned Simons reports on Boris' Ukip-related antics on the Tory fringe:

"Boris Johnson has revealed he was invited to speak at the Ukip party conference in London - by Nigel Farage's wife.

"Addressing a rally for activists at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester on Monday evening, the mayor of London said he had received a 'really heartwarming letter' from Kirsten Farage who he suspected was the 'brains' and the 'power behind the throne', but had decided to decline the offer.

"... Boris was speaking one the same day that Farge [Nigel] had been attempting to draw attention away from the main conference centre by taking part in three fringe events outside the secure zone. Including one which clashed with the timing of Boris' rally.

"'My message to the charming Mrs Farage,' he said, 'is don't vote for Ukip, don't even think about it, because we will see this country sleepwalk into a Labour government'.

"Boris, who was stressing his loyalty to David Cameron and he had no plans to lead the Tories 'ever, now, whenever', also could not resist one joke at the prime minister's expense.

"'Ukip if you want to,' he said. 'David Cameron's not for kipping. Unless obviously he is at his sister-in-law's wedding.'"

QUOTE UNQUOTE

"People get very emotional about [climate change] and I think we should just accept that the climate has been changing for centuries.. It would also lead to longer growing seasons and you could extend growing a little further north into some of the colder areas." - Environment secretary Owen Paterson, speaking at a Tory fringe yesterday, downplays the threat from global warming, prompting leading scientists to dismiss his remarks as "irresponsible".

PUBLIC OPINION WATCH

From the Sun/YouGov poll:

Labour 39

Conservatives 33

Ukip 13

Lib Dems 11

That would give Labour a majority of 78.

From the Independent/ComRes poll:

Labour 37

Conservatives 33

Ukip 11

Lib Dems 11

That would give Labour a majority of 42.

140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

‏@drwollastonmp The real problem for GP access is the shortfall in GP numbers; won't achieve 7 day access without increasing primary care workforce

@janemerrick23 Ralph Miliband escaped Nazis at 16; 4 yrs later was in Normandy landings. BUT THAT'S NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR THE MAIL! Nasty stuff

@tnewtondunn Wow. Daily Mail has managed to unite David and Ed; MT @DMiliband: My dad loved Britain. Here's the truth....

900 WORDS OR MORE

Rachel Sylvester, writing in the Times, says: "Tories must balance the tough with the tender."

Judith Woods, writing in the Telegraph, says: "The PM must listen – and listen well – to what women want, or he will lose the next election."

Aditya Chakrabortty, writing in the Guardian, says: "The attendance figures for the Conservative party conference tell a tale of how David Cameron lost his core membership and let the bankers in."

Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Mehdi Hasan (mehdi.hasan@huffingtonpost.com) or Ned Simons (ned.simons@huffingtonpost.com). You can also follow us on Twitter: @mehdirhasan, @nedsimons and @huffpostukpol