The deputy prime minister Nick Clegg suggests the Daily Mail hates Britain. Shall we count the ways?
The Mail’s charge against Ralph Miliband, father of the Labour leader Ed, was that he hated Britain’s institutions – its smug ruling orders, its established Church, its values, its democratic system, its undemocratic monarchy, its traditions. And yet the Daily Mail itself hates all these things and more. It hates Britain, ancient and modern.
If it is a matter of fathers, one might note in passing that the third Viscount Rothermere, who made the modern Daily Mail what it is to day and was father of the current chairman, loved Britain so much that he settled within 170 miles of it. He lived much of the year in Paris – since one might lay down one’s life for one’s country, but certainly not lay down one’s taxable income to the predatory instincts of that great British institution the Exchequer.
But one must play the balls, not the men. How much does the Mail hate Britain?
It hates the Church of England, that “Oh-so modern” Church which ushers in a new Archbishop with “African dancers, bongo drums and a Punjabi hymn”; all “quintessentially Anglican” with its “splodges of political correctness”.
It hates the royal family. Prince Charles, heir to the throne according to centuries of British tradition, God’s anointed (when the happy day comes) it castigates for his “meddling” influence over ministers in pushing his “pet projects” and planting moles in Whitehall (so does the Guardian; so would Ralph Miliband assuredly).
It objects to the “pampered Prince” having flunkeys employed as “Protectors Of The Privy Bottom” carrying silk pillows around for him.
It makes much of the whole Diana affair and its top columnist. Linda Lee Potter put it thus: “Transport the Windsors’ and Spencers’ behaviour to a sink estate in the North of England and they’d be two dysfunctional families under the care of social workers with occasional intervention by the police.”
Will the Mail desist from its attacks once Charles takes his legitimate place as King of England – or more likely keep them up until the British tradition of royal primogeniture is ditched and the country has the monarch that the Daily Mail prefers?
The Daily Mail hates British tolerance. It finds little good to say about gay marriage, which “didn’t feature on the agenda of anyone but a handful of militants”.
One columnist rejects “the misguided belief that same-sex marriage could help to reinforce the value of traditional marriage. And, in any case, this belief has always been absurd and is wholly undermined by the evidence”.
‘Transport the Windsors’ and Spencers’ behaviour to a sink estate in the North of England and they’d be two dysfunctional families under the care of social workers with occasional intervention by the police’ – Linda Lee Potter, Daily Mail
It does not like the British tendency to allow foreigners to find a haven in Britain. It sees nothing to praise in Britain’s having given a home to Ralph Miliband nor in the fact that he had freedom to express himself as a Marxist in a liberal nation nor that he was able to carve out a successful career as an academic.
The Daily Mail hates the great British tradition of the independent judiciary, an idea forged in the British conflicts of the 17th century and exported to the world. To the Daily Mail Britain’s judges are unaccountable, hence out of control. Unlike many politicians, when considering their judgments they do not take their lead from the stentorian columns of the Daily Mail. It hates them particularly when they bring in a privacy law by the back door “inexorably and insidiously”, according to editor-in-chief Paul Dacre.
The Daily Mail does not like privacy or notions of “family life” as a bar to its doing its business. Dacre says: “It is the others I care about – the crooks, the liars, the cheats, the rich and the corrupt sheltering behind a law of privacy being created by an unaccountable judge [Mr Justice Eady].” But we have seen his paper is also willing to intrude on a family grave, on a private family memorial service. It has apologised to the Milibands for these incursions, but would it apologise to lesser mortals if “privacy” stood in the way of a good story?
Which brings us to another great British institution that the Daily Mail hates: human rights. Specifically the European Convention on Human Rights, a largely British innovation based on largely British notions – preserved within British shores thanks to the likes of Ralph Miliband, one might point out, while the rest of Europe was riven with undemocratic doctrines and demagogic leaders (both of which, one is obliged to say at this point, the Daily Mail of the day did much to support).
The Convention was designed to ensure that such things would not happen again, that there would be international oversight and prohibitions because national governments could not always be trusted. But the values underpinning it are British – and the Daily Mail hates these British values.
So the Daily Mail hates much that Ralph Miliband hated and much about his adopted country that he did not. The Army is something the Daily Mail loves and which Miliband did not. With trades unions, the reverse is the case.
Perhaps we can be charitable. Perhaps it is possible to love one’s country yet be a friendly critic of its institutions?
Yet so devastating and insistent is the Mail’s critique of all things British that one might assume that, like Ralph Miliband, it wants a whole new system. It wants a system that would sweep aside all the things it hates. And it seems unlikely to rest until it gets it, as the legacy of the fathers is passed to the sons.