POLITICS
13/02/2015 07:22 GMT | Updated 21/02/2015 17:00 GMT

'Milly Dowler' Row Could Be The Moment The Westminster Bubble Finally Lost It

Conservatives are calling for Ed Miliband's head of press to resign over comments about the murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler that appeared in a blog by BBC Political Editor Nick Robinson.

Dowler's sister Gemma tweeted a picture of the Mail's coverage of the story, expressing her distress at her sister being used as a "pawn" in the election.

The furore was triggered after an article by Robinson suggested Miliband's stance on tax avoidance was a 'Milly Dowler moment', the turning point when the Labour leader decided to take a tough line on the phone hacking scandal.

Miliband's opponents attributed the phrase to Labour aides, specifically pointing the finger at Labour's head of press Tom Baldwin, but the phrase was used by Robinson in his blog without quote marks, and the BBC presenter has now clarified that it was not a direct quote.

Yet these were the headlines in the papers this morning:

the telegraph

daily mail

Miliband's spokesman said that “no one connected to Ed Miliband” used the phrase. “This is about standing up to the powerful as Ed Miliband did with Rupert Murdoch and the banks.”

But that didn't stop Conservative MPs and commentators calling for a man to resign over comments which they imagined him to have made.

Philip Davies, the Conservative MP for Shipley, told the Daily Telegraph that it was “utterly unforgivable and go far beyond the bounds of normal human decency”and said Labour would “stoop to any level to try and make cheap political advantage”. Baldwin "should resign immediately," Davies said.

Tory MP Mark Garnier, a member of the Commons Treasury committee, told the Mail it was "sickening". He said: "I am genuinely shocked that anyone would make such an utterly distasteful and revolting comparison."

It must be stressed, again, that there is no evidence Baldwin said anything of the sort.

Mark Lewis, the Dowlers' lawyer also told the Telegraph: “It is rather unfortunate that Ed Miliband should regard matters relating to a murdered schoolgirl as being more important as a political breakthrough rather than a family tragedy.”

Lewis, when confronted about his statement by Twitter users, said he had been clear that he was being speculative about whether the phrase had actually been used or not, and had not referred to Miliband directly in his original quote.

A Labour spokesman even told the Daily Mail: said: "An official talked about how the news story on Milly Dowler crystallised what a lot of people thought about the Press.

"And this tax avoidance story on HSBC crystallises what a lot of people thought about tax avoiders. The words 'Milly Dowler moment' never cropped up."

An original version of this story included a grab of The Times who, it was pointed out, did cover the fact that the phrase 'Milly Dowler moment' was not used