The Daily Mail doesn't exactly have the best track record when it comes to judging the mood of the nation. Whether it's giving sanctimonious banshee Samantha Brick a mouthpiece from which to spew her elitist dirge or their self-righteous crusades against anything and everything, it's fair to say that intentional or otherwise, controversy is never far away when the Mail line up their sights.
All of which makes the choice of this week's target, Labour leader Ed Miliband, all the more inexplicable. Writer Geoffrey Levy knew full well that his strongly worded (to put it lightly) article, 'The Man Who Hated Britain' (in reference to Miliband's father Ralph), would inspire some sort of response from the Labour camp. The Daily Mail's right-leaning fervour may have tempered somewhat compared to decades gone by, but there's still no denying which party that they'd rather see in charge come May 2015.
Assuming, then, that Mr Levy's article was written with the aim of going some way to derailing Miliband's bid to become the next Prime Minister, it betrays the fact that he has clearly not read his book of Political PR for Dummies. The old sporting adage of the best form of defence being attack may ring true in some other walks of life, but the political coliseum is not one of them. There, by far the best way to slay an electoral campaign is by not giving the candidate anything to say. Sure, there's always a possibility of a misplaced soundbite or a foot-in-mouth moment, but Miliband, despite his relative inexperience for a party leader, is a consummate political pro. He was never going to slip up on such an ill-conceived and ineptly executed banana peel.
Levy's article took aim at Miliband's deceased father - a terrible choice, given that few, regardless of political conviction, would begrudge a man for defending his dad (something that his since been echoed by David Cameron). However, as if that wasn't making a Labour rebuttal easy enough, it appears that Levy decided he'd help them out even more.
Using a journal entry written by an impressionable 17-year old, within his first year of living in a foreign country he'd fled to in order to escape Nazi persecution is not the most credible of sources to use when it comes to discrediting not just his entire life, but the political aspirations of his son as well. Levy's cause is in no way aided by the bizarrely outdated rhetoric employed in the piece, with many lines reading like 1950's McCarthyist propaganda, contemptuously snarling "Marxist" and "Socialist" as if the very mention of the words will be enough to get the reader's blood boiling. Finally, to refer back to the Nazism connection, as many have pointed out, including John Prescott on Twitter, the Mail's upper echelons have a few skeletons in the closest that they probably would have prefered leaving be.
Quite simply, assuming Levy isn't an ingeniously planted left-wing mole looking to pitch up Labour home runs, this article, and the Mail's refusal to back down, has been about as calamitous a misstep as one can manage in the space of few hundred words. Of course, many don't need a reason to hate the Daily Mail; what many did need, however, was a reason to like or sympathise with Ed Miliband. The Mail's vitriolic attack came across as playground-grade, "My dad's bigger than your dad"-style bullying. Miliband's response was heartfelt, sincere, and crucially, humanising to an extent that no spin doctor or photoshoot would have been capable of engineering. Who knows what repercussions this could have Miliband's leadership bid; Levy may yet find himself on Ed's Christmas card list.