Miliband is locked in battle with Mail
Miliband is locked in battle with Mail (Reuters)

When Ed Miliband decided to take on the Daily Mail over its attack on his dead father there was always the fear, as suggested here, that it would not end the matter and he might risk getting dragged into a public slanging match with the paper.

The Mail allowed him his right of reply but, unsurprisingly, not only repeated it's claim that the famous Marxist thinker and teacher, Ralph Miliband hated Britain but reprinted the original offending article and went further by accusing him of leaving an "evil legacy."

That has infuriated Ed Miliband further and he is accusing the paper of telling lies about his father and needing "boundaries", immediately raising fears he may be talking about a form of press regulation.

He insists he isn't, but with the Privy Council set to debate the Leveson reforms next week it has added heat to that ongoing debate. It may even be that that partly inspired the Mail's approach, to flex it's freedom of the press muscles. But, if that is the case, it may yet backfire.

Professor of Journalism at City University, Ivor Gaber, told IBTimes UK: "The Daily Mail's continuing attacks on Ed Miliband's father - and by direct implication, the Labour leader himself - vividly demonstrates how this particular newspaper deals with those it regards as 'enemies'.

"It is likely it will strengthen his resolve to try and ensure that the recommendation of the Leveson Report, that press regulation should have some form of statutory backing, is not diluted by the current coalition government."

Play the man

As for Miliband, he should probably now step back for a while and avoid getting involved in a public slanging match with the Mail while the public and commentators make their own judgements which, so far, have been largely in his favour.

He may not have made the political calculation that taking on the Mail might give him the same popularity boost as when he took on Murdoch over phone tapping or the energy companies over prices, but it is certainly a factor now.

And that leaves the Tories in the difficult position of leaving themselves open to being accused once again of standing on the side of the strong and powerful, particularly a newspaper that is one of their greatest supporters.

So far, Miliband has won widespread support from across the political spectrum. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg tweeting: "Politics should be about playing the ball, not the man, certainly not the man's family."

David Cameron said he had not read the original piece - an answer that is not going to go unchallenged for long - but that he too would have wanted to defend his father if attacked. He refused to condemn the Mail.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, however, was far less supportive, saying: "Ralph Miliband was no friend of the free market economy, he thought that was wrong. And I've never heard Ed Miliband say he supports the free market economy.

"The important thing for voters is to know exactly where Ed Miliband stands on these fundamental issues about our society."

Miliband's response to the original Mail piece, which accused his father of hating Britain declared: "Fierce debate about politics does not justify character assassination of my father, questioning the patriotism of a man who risked his life for our country in the Second World War."

But the paper hit back saying it stood by every word of the original piece and spoke about Miliband Snr's: "evil legacy and why we won't apologise".

That led to a further retort from Miliband who said in interviews : "I'm even more appalled that they repeated that lie today and they've gone further and described my father's legacy as evil. Evil is a word reserved for particular cases and I wasn't willing to let that stand."

He said there needed to be boundaries for newspapers when it came to families but insisted: "It's not about regulation. It is about me saying I think morality and our approach to these things matters."

And that is where this rumbling row currently lies. But with the post-Leveson review continuing and Miliband talking about boundaries, it is bound to feed into that debate and possibly in a way the Mail most fears.