Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre
Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre

Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre has described as "hysteria" the reaction to an article in his newspaper that claimed the father of Labour leader Ed Miliband hated Britain, and said the Marxist academic "supported an ideology that caused untold misery in the world".

In the article published in today's Guardian and Daily Mail, Dacre vigorously defends the decision to publish the Geoffrey Levy piece entitled The Man Who hated Britain, and rounds on the Mail's critics.

"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," writes Dacre, defending the article headline.

He said the article was "justifiable" in the wake of Miliband's September Labour party conference speech, and said the paper was deeply concerned "that in 2013, and that after all the failures of socialism in the 20th Century, the leader of the Labour Party was announcing its return, complete with land seizures and price fixing".

He rejected claims that the article's position was based on a solitary quote lifted from Miliband's diary when he was 17, having recently arrived in Britain after fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe, but was based on views expressed over his lifetime.

"The picture that emerged was of a man who gave unqualified support to Russian totalitarianism until the mid-50s, who loathed the market economy, was in favour of a workers' revolution, denigrated British traditions and institutions such as the royal family, the church and the army and was overtly dismissive of western democracy," he writes.

Dacre said his paper had not suggested Ralph Miliband was evil, "only that the political beliefs he espoused had resulted in evil".

He said the paper was happy to accept "that in his personal life, Ralph Miliband was, as described by his son, a decent and kindly man" and that "cherished this country's traditions of tolerance and freedom - while, in a troubling paradox typical of the left, detesting the very institutions and political system that made those traditions possible."

"And yes, the headline was controversial - but popular newspapers have a long tradition of using provocative headlines to grab readers' attention," writes Dacre.

"In isolation that headline may indeed seem over the top but read in conjunction with the article we believed it was justifiable."

Ed Miliband reacted with fury to the article, and in a 1,000-word response published in the Mail highlighted the fact that his father had joined the Royal Navy to fight Germany soon after arriving in the UK, and said he "loved" Britain.

Dacre was branded a "bully and coward" by former Labour communications chief Alastair Campbell on the BBC's Newsnight, after sending his deputy Jon Steafel on to the programme to defend the piece.

The Mail on Sunday did apologise after sending reporters seeking reaction to the story to a memorial function for Miliband's uncle, with the Labour leader writing to mail proprietor Lord Rothemere asking him to review the Mail's culture and practices.

Prime Minister David Cameron said Miliband was right to challenge the Mail, and a number of senior former Tory ministers condemned the article, with former deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine claiming the attack "demeaned the political process".

But Dacre said the furore was an attempt to neutralise Associated Press, the Mail's publisher, "that dares to stand up to the liberal-left consensus that dominates so many areas of British life and instead represents the views of the ordinary people."

He rejected calls for tighter press regulation in the wake of the row, as the government unveiled a new royal press charter.

"The febrile heat, hatred, irrationality and prejudice provoked by last week's row reveals why politicians must not be allowed anywhere near press regulation," he said.

Watch the Newsnight altercation between Alasatair Campbell and Jon Steafel on the programme's YouTube channel, below: