In Defence of Paul Dacre
What a wuss Paul Dacre is. I don’t mean his refusal to go on television to defend his journalism on Ed Miliband’s father. Some people don’t like going on television and are not confident in live debate, although it sounds a bit hollow, having put up your deputy to argue with Alastair Campbell, then to declare: “Fair enough, if you dish it out, you take it.”
I mean his failure to defend the headline on the article about Ralph Miliband, even when writing a safe, carefully worded and long article for The Guardian this morning.
The editor of the Daily Mail starts off by defending it:
As for the headline “The Man Who Hated Britain”, our point was simply this: Ralph Miliband was, as a Marxist, committed to smashing the institutions that make Britain distinctively British – and, with them, the liberties and democracy those institutions have fostered.
I don’t agree with him, but I think that is a perfectly reasonable argument. There is plenty about Britain that Dacre doesn’t like, and many of his critics describe him, rhetorically, as a man who hates Britain, even though he would claim to be patriotic.
This is all the stuff of debate. I have disagreed, for example, with Norman Geras, one of my heroes, about Ralph Miliband’s credentials as a democrat. Norm accepts at face value Miliband Sr’s claim to have been a “democratic socialist”; I find the commitment to democracy of revolutionary Marxists suspect. Miliband Sr might have sincerely believed that he was a democrat. My view is that he also believed other things that might have compromised that principle.
Similarly, Miliband Sr might have sincerely believed that he loved Britain, while Dacre’s opinion is that this belief was contradicted by other things in which he believed.
Then, however, Dacre retreats from this reasonable argument:
Yes, the headline was controversial – but popular newspapers have a long tradition of using provocative headlines to grab readers’ attention. In isolation that headline may indeed seem over the top, but read in conjunction with the article we believed it was justifiable.
Perhaps the “in conjunction with the article” line was simply to show solidarity with Jon Steafel, his deputy, who had deployed it in that debate with Campbell. But it was unnecessarily defensive to imply that the headline was an “over the top” expression designed to grab attention.
What a curiously weak defence. It suggests that Dacre knows that he went “over the top” in the minds of many of his readers, so he moves swiftly on to Guardian-bashing and repeating the conspiracy theory in which nearly everyone believes, and which I think really is evil, since that word has been bandied around, namely that Alastair Campbell “helped drive Dr David Kelly to his death”, as if we all know why he took his own life.Tagged in: daily mail
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