04/10/2013 12:50 BST | Updated 23/01/2014 18:58 GMT

The Newspaper That Really Hates Britain

I agree with Nick Clegg. The Daily Mail hates Britain... I'd go further: the Daily Mail hates Britain because it hates what Britain has become, and yearns, achingly, for what it wrongly imagines the country once was. It hates a Britain where gay people can marry each other, where difference is celebrated, and where no one knows their place any more.

I agree with Nick Clegg. The Daily Mail hates Britain. Speaking this week on his LBC radio phone-in, he said: "They don't like working mothers, they don't like the BBC, they don't like members of the royal family, they don't like teachers, they don't like the English football team."

I'd go further: the Daily Mail hates Britain because it hates what Britain has become, and yearns, achingly, for what it wrongly imagines the country once was. It hates a Britain where gay people can marry each other, where difference is celebrated, and where no one knows their place any more.

That's one reason why, last weekend, it launched its extraordinary, dishonest, and indecent attack on Ed Miliband's late father. It can't stand the idea that the son of a Marxist intellectual - oh yes, and a foreigner - might one day be prime minister. Because the Mail also hates Marxists, it also hates intellectuals, and it's not at all keen on foreigners, especially those who ask difficult questions.

I also agree with Ed Miliband. The Mail's attack on his father was bad enough, but the decision of its sister paper, the Mail on Sunday, to send a reporter on Wednesday to gatecrash a private family memorial service crossed "a line of common decency". (The MoS's editor and proprietor have both since apologised unreservedly, and two of the paper's journalists have been suspended.)

Who cares what the Daily Mail thinks and does? Just about the entire political leadership of Britain, that's who - because they believe that the paper somehow has a mystical insight into the deepest thoughts of British voters, that it taps into the veins of the national pysche, and that to ignore it is to ignore the instincts of the British people.

The Mail is phenomenally good at hating. It's also pretty good at getting things wrong, and appalling bad at apologising when it does so. It prizes prejudice and rejects reason. It fears the future and worships the past.

In 1924, four days before a general election, it published the so-called Zinoviev letter, which purported to be an instruction from a Soviet Communist party apparatchik to "sympathetic forces" in the British Labour party. That letter was later shown to have been a forgery.

In 1977, it published another letter, this time purportedly written by the chairman of the National Enterprise Board, to the chief executive of the State-owned motor manufacturer British Leyland. It was meant to show that the Labour government had approved a plan for Leyland to pay bribes for overseas contracts; the Mail said it was exposing "the hypocritical face of socialism". That letter, too, was a forgery.

The Mail, it seems, will stop at nothing to prevent a Labour government coming to power. Not 90 years ago, not 35 years ago, not now.

The Mail sells papers by selling fear. Will eating give you cancer? Will Labour take all your money away? Criminals are everywhere. (There's even a website where you can automatically generate you own Mail-type headlines: "Have teachers made your pets obese?" "Have yobs impregnated Britain's swans?" "Could the loony left make the middle class impotent?")

But this week, it went over the top. It attacked Ed Miliband's father as "The man who hated Britain" and justified the assault by claiming: "What is so disturbing is that Miliband Jnr, with his plans for state seizures of builders' land and fixing prices by government diktat, appears to have absorbed so many of his father's ideas." In other words, vote Labour and elect the son of a Marxist who wants to turn Britain into a Stalinist hellhole.

Which is, of course, arrant, pernicious, and utterly absurd nonsense. Quite apart from the fact that Ed Miliband has said repeatedly that he does not share his late father's political views, his proposal for what the Mail calls the "state seizure of builders' land" - which led its columnist Quentin Letts to liken Mr Miliband to Robert Mugabe - exactly matches what that notorious revolutionary Marxist Boris Johnson proposed in his blueprint for London earlier this year. (Thank you, Private Eye, for pointing it out.)

The former Thatcherite Cabinet minister John Moore, who was taught by Ralph Miliband at the London School of Economics and who is no friend of the Labour party, said: "It beggars belief that the Daily Mail can accuse him of lacking patriotism. I never heard him ever say one word which was negative about Britain ... The Daily Mail is telling lies about a good man who I knew."

Margaret Thatcher's biographer, Charles Moore, former editor of the Daily Telegraph: "The Mail managed to offend against taste and decency on multiple counts - attacking a man for his deceased father's views, misrepresenting those views, attacking a Jew, attacking a refugee from Hitler."

And the former Conservative deputy prime minister Michael Heseltine: "This is carrying politics to an extent that is just demeaning ..."

It was worse than that: it was plain, outright wrong. Yes, Ralph Miliband was a Marxist, but he was no apologist for Stalinist tyranny. Here's what the Daily Telegraph, no less, said in its obituary in 1994 (which it helpfully, and tellingly, republished this week): "Though committed to socialism, he never hesitated to criticise its distortion by Stalin and other dictators."

Perhaps I sound as if this is all a bit personal. Well, it is. Because my parents, like Ed Miliband's, came to Britain as refugees from the Nazis. My parents, like his father, joined the British armed forces during the Second World War to help defeat the Nazis; they worked in a military intelligence unit so secret that its contribution to the war effort has only recently been publicly disclosed. My parents, like his, never failed to acknowledge the debt they owed this country - and like his, I imagine, never, ever read the Daily Mail.

The Mail sells more than 1.8million copies a day, making it the second most popular daily paper in the UK after the Sun. It has one of the loudest voices in what I still think of as Fleet Street, and its editor, Paul Dacre, who has been at the helm for more than 20 years, is regarded as one of the most powerful media figures in the land. He is also the current chairman of the Press Complaints Commission's Editors' Code of Practice Committee, which just goes to prove that satire is alive and well.

The former Blair spin-doctor Alastair Campbell calls him "a bully and a coward, and like most cowards ... a hypocrite as well." I've tried hard not to make this personal, just as I have (almost) resisted the temptation to refer back to the well-established admiration for Adolf Hitler of the paper's current owner's great-grandfather.

Others will not be so forbearing - and I won't blame them for a moment.