Ed MILIBAND is calling on the owners of the Daily Mail to mount an urgent inquiry into the “culture and practices” of their newspapers after a reporter turned up uninvited at a private family memorial service.
The editor of the Mail on Sunday – the Daily Mail’s sister title – apologised unreservedly after one of his paper’s reporters was said to have tried to question relatives of the Labour leader who were attending the service held on Wednesday for his late uncle.
Geordie Greig said that two journalists on the paper had been suspended pending a full investigation into what he said was “a terrible lapse of judgment”.
Labour said the apology was “an important step” but insisted there was a need for a wider inquiry at the newspaper group in the wake of the continuing row over the Daily Mail’s denunciation of Mr Miliband’s late father, the Marxist intellectual Ralph Miliband, as a man “who hated Britain”.
The latest twist follows the disclosure that a Mail on Sunday journalist found her way into the memorial service for Mr Miliband’s late uncle, Professor Harry Keen, being held on the 29th floor of Guy’s Hospital in central London.
Labour sources said that at the end of the service, Prof Keen’s daughter was approached by a woman who shook her hand and offered her condolences, before introducing herself as a reporter from the paper.
The reporter asked whether the daughter wished to comment on the Daily Mail article about Mr Miliband senior and was told “no comment”.
When the reporter asked again, she was given the same answer, at which point she left.
In a letter to Lord Rothermere, the chairman of Daily Mail and General Trust, which owns Mail publisher Associated Newspapers, Mr Miliband said his wider family, who were not in public life, had been “understandably appalled and shocked” by what had happened.
He said the paper’s actions crossed “a line of common decency” and suggested they were “a symptom of the culture and practices” of both the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday.
“There are many decent people working at those newspapers and I know that many of them will be disgusted by this latest episode,” he wrote.
“But they will also recognise that what has happened to my family has happened to many others.”
He said that he saw no purpose in referring the matter to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) “because it is widely discredited”.
“Instead, I am writing to you as the owners of the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday because I believe it is long overdue that you reflect on the culture of your newspapers,” he wrote.
“You should conduct your own swift investigation into who was responsible at a senior level for this latest episode.”
In a statement, Mr Greig said the decision to send a reporter to the service had been taken without his knowledge and represented a “deplorable intrusion” at a private event.
“I unreservedly apologise for a reporter intruding into a private memorial service for a relative of Ed Miliband,” he said.
“I have already spoken personally to Ed Miliband and expressed my regret that such a terrible lapse of judgment should have taken place.”
The chair of the PCC, Lord Hunt of Wirral, said he was “deeply concerned” about what had happened and that the commission would continue to monitor the situation closely.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg accused the paper of “overflowing with bile” about modern Britain, and said that Mr Miliband’s response was “quite understandable”.
“I’m not a regular reader but every time I do open it, it just seems to be overflowing with bile about modern Britain,” he said on his radio phone-in show. “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 – the list goes on.”