Britain’s Labor Party leader Ed Miliband defended his late father against a newspaper’s claim that he was an unpatriotic Jewish Marxist who “hated Britain.”
The right-wing Daily Mail, in an article published Saturday under the headline “The Man Who Hated Britain,” reported that Ralph Miliband, a Jewish refugee from Belgium who fled to Britain before World War II, hated Britain and its establishment.
Ralph Miliband fought for Britain against the Nazis. He died in 1994.
The article questioned whether the elder Miliband’s Marxist views may have influenced Ed and his brother, David, a former British foreign secretary.
Ed Miliband published a personal right of reply on Tuesday.
“It’s part of our job description as politicians to be criticized and attacked by newspapers, including the Daily Mail. It comes with the territory,” he wrote. “But my Dad is a different matter. I loved him and he loved Britain. And there is no credible argument in the article or evidence from his life which can remotely justify the lurid headline and its accompanying claim that it would ‘disturb everyone who loves this country.’”
The Daily Mail published an editorial on Tuesday refusing to apologize for the original article and reasserting what it called Ralph Miliband’s “evil legacy.” It said it stood by “every word” of the story.
The article comes amid a political battle over media regulation.
Ed Miliband, who defeated his brother David to become Labor leader in 2010, is faring relatively well in opinion polls and stands a reasonable chance of ousting Prime Minister David Cameron in the UK’s next general elections in 2015. A poll at the weekend gave Labor 42 percent, a lead of 11 over Cameron’s Conservatives.
Last month, he successfully led the opposition to a government motion in Parliament on military intervention in response to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s alleged chemical weapons attack that killed a reported 1,400-plus civilians, humiliatingly defeating Cameron and isolating US President Barack Obama who, having threatened military intervention, then said he would consult Congress and ultimately back Russian-initiated diplomacy aimed to strip Assad of chemical weapons..
If elected, Miliband would not be the first British Jewish-born prime minister, but would be the first to hold the post while retaining fealty to his religion. Benjamin Disraeli (prime minister from 1874 to 1880), was born Jewish, but later baptized, reportedly after a dispute between his father and their synagogue. (Disraeli reportedly told Queen Victoria, when she inquired as to his religion, “I am the blank page between the Old Testament and the New.”)
In March, at an evening Q&A with Britain’s Jewish community, Miliband spoke of how his Belgian father Ralph escaped the Nazis in 1940 on one of the last boats out of the country, seeking refuge in London and leaving behind a mother, sister and more than 20 other family members, all of whom were sheltered by a farmer for the duration of the war. His Polish mother was hidden in a convent by Catholic nuns.
He also recounted how he visited his maternal grandmother in Israel as a 7-year-old, and noticed a picture of his grandfather, who had been killed in the camps, on the mantelpiece.
“From that moment onward, I realized Israel was giving my grandmother an incredible sanctuary,” he said to applause. “I have respect, admiration and indeed a debt to Israel for the sanctuary it gave my grandmother.”
Growing up with a Marxist academic father in north London, he admitted that the family was “not very involved” in the Jewish community, but said that politics was in his blood. Influenced by their own background as refugees, his parents taught him that injustice must be tackled.
“It was tikkun olam. I didn’t know it when I was growing up, but my upbringing was about caring about the world,” said Miliband.