Hampstead Labour stalwart hits out at Daily Mail over Ralph Miliband attacks

Ralph Miliband

Ralph Miliband - Credit: Archant

A Hampstead Labour stalwart who knew Ralph Miliband has insisted the academic did not hate his country – and called on the Daily Mail to apologise for its “vicious and unfounded” attacks.

Barry Peskin, chairman of the Hampstead Labour Party in the 1960s and 1970s

Barry Peskin, chairman of the Hampstead Labour Party in the 1960s and 1970s - Credit: Nigel Sutton

Barry Peskin, chairman of the Hampstead Labour Party in the 1960s and 1970s when the leading Marxist thinker was a committee member, described the father of Labour leader Ed Miliband as a delightful and decent man, and urged the national newspaper to issue an unreserved apology.

Meanwhile, the leader of Camden Council, Labour Cllr Sarah Hayward, has also condemned the paper over its articles, insisting most people in the borough take a “dim view” of the criticism of the late Mr Miliband.

On Saturday, the newspaper published an article entitled The man who hated Britain, which was followed on Tuesday with further claims about Mr Miliband’s “evil” legacy.

Ed, who lives in Dartmouth Park, reacted furiously, saying he was appalled and branded the claim that his father hated his adopted country a “lie”.

Mr Peskin, 82, a former Camden councillor and retired business owner, said: “He was not someone who hated his country, he was a delightful man.

“He was a socialist and a Marxist, he had mixed views about much of the establishment of the country, but many people do that who are not Marxists.

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“Lots of people are anti-monarchy or have got doubts about the police and all of that sort of thing, and in no sense at all does this make him anti-British.

“I never heard him express an anti-British view or an anti-English view.

“What the Daily Mail is trying to do, it’s without substance and it’s vicious and unfounded.

“I’m disturbed about it because of its aggression and viciousness, and also because of its agenda.

“I think the Daily Mail should apologise and they should unreservedly apologise. He was a decent man.”

Mr Miliband, who raised sons Ed and David in Primrose Hill, was a leading Marxist academic who died in 1994, before either of his boys rose to political prominence.

He was a Jewish refugee who fled Belgium to escape the Nazis and served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War.

Some of the Daily Mail’s comments were based on entries he made in his diary as a 17-year-old, not long after he arrived in the UK.

Cllr Hayward said: “I think if people’s dead fathers are fair game in politics now, we have reached a pretty low point in politics.

“The idea that you can’t be critical of the institutions of a country and still love that country would be alien to most British people and most Camden residents. People have a pretty dim view of the Daily Mail with this.

“Overwhelmingly, it seems that the public are on the side of common decency, around preserving the memory of someone’s dead father.”

Prime minister David Cameron, deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, and Mayor of London Boris Johnson, have supported the Labour leader’s right to stand up for his father.

Mr Johnson, a pupil alongside Ed at Primrose Hill Primary School, in Princess Road, Primrose Hill, told LBC 97.3: “I’ve got ancestry that doesn’t come from this country and I think people do feel very sensitive, particularly if the patriotism of those relatives is impugned.

“I can imagine that being a very, very hurtful thing and I would definitely want to fire back if it was me.”

Yesterday’s (Wednesday) edition of the Daily Mail printed four pages in the ongoing row with an abridged version of its editorial from the previous day.

The newspaper said yesterday that it stood by every word of its coverage.