The Daily Mail’s stomach-churning attack on Ed Miliband’s father – and him by association – is a warning. The British right are preparing one of the most poisonous, vicious all-out wars against the left in post-war Britain. If this is how far into the gutter this wretched “newspaper” is already willing to plunge, what’s it going to be like six months before the election?
The logic of the campaign is three-fold. Firstly, the right believe that Ed Miliband has veered off script, abandoning the free market fundamentalist consensus established by Thatcherism in favour of what – by historical standards – is pretty mild social democracy.
Secondly, the right-wing media barons who set the terms of what is deemed politically palatable in Britain have never forgiven Ed Miliband for his endorsement of Leveson, which they believe is an unacceptable threat to their power.
Thirdly, they think Labour under Ed Miliband could actually win the 2015 election.
There’s a mixture of reasons why: the fact every time the Tories have won an election since 1955 has been on a lower share of the vote than the time before; the fact the Tories have a glass ceiling of possible support given their disappearance as a political force in Scotland, much of northern England and Wales; that the Tories haven’t won since 1992, and only won 36% in 2010 despite economic collapse and a Labour PM less popular than tuberculosis; the fact Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister in 1979, even though she woefully lagged behind Labour’s James Callaghan as the electorate’s preferred PM; that the electoral boundaries that favour Labour; that those who voted Lib Dem because they thought Labour were too right wing, and are now firmly back in Ed Miliband’s party’s fold; the fact that, even though Ukip’s current polling will subside, even a significantly smaller poll result for Farage’s party in 2015 will inflict serious damage on the Tories; and the fact that Miliband’s social-democratic populism could prove, well, pretty popular a time of ever-falling living standards.
The right fear that, if Labour were to win in 2015, it would inflict a possibly fatal blow to the free market fundamentalist political consensus. It will show it is possible to win on a different sort of programme, including one that at least hints at challenging an arrogant elite all too accustomed to wealth and power being generously shovelled in their direction by successive governments.
Therefore, a Labour victory is not acceptable to the guardians of the free market fundamentalist order.
Some will shrug off the Daily Mail attack as, well, the sort of thing you expect from this almost farcically detestable rag. The brazen hypocrisy of a paper once owned by a supporter of the Nazis and the Blackshirts has been well covered. But, in my view, this is serious. It is a warning shot.
I don’t care if the Daily Mail got someone called Geoffrey Levy to write it. As others have pointed out, this whole episode reeks of anti-Semitism – of the rootless cosmopolitan Jew with contempt for his country, and so on.
George Osborne’s speech this week lumped Ed Miliband in with Marxism. A red-baiting, McCarthyite-style campaign beckons, nearly a quarter of a century after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Jeremy Hunt today effectively endorsed the Daily Mail attack, stating that “Ralph Miliband was no friend of the free market and I have never heard Ed Miliband said he supports it.”
We already know that the Tories are employing Lynton Crosby to replicate the sort of vicious campaign he has pioneered elsewhere. Their strategy is to redirect people’s anger away from those at the top, to people’s neighbours – unemployed people, public sector workers, immigrants, and so on. Rather than be angry at the fact you’re being mugged, be angry that your less deserving neighbour isn’t being mugged enough, is the general gist. This is how they hope to win the election, combined with a possible one-off pre-election tax cut.
We’ve already had public money being spent on vans with ‘Go home’ written on them, sent to ethnically mixed communities; now we have the Daily Mail slandering Ed Miliband’s Jewish immigrant father.
There are many on the left who have misgivings about Labour and Ed Miliband. As someone who wants Labour to be more radical, I more than empathise. But let’s be clear. We’re on the verge of an all-out, frothing-at-the-mouth war against even the mildest challenge to free market fundamentalism. It will be as dirty, vicious and personal as it gets.
That’s why anybody who wants to build a different sort of country – not a Britain treated as the plaything by wealthy barons who can’t even be bothered to pay tax – needs to stand against this poison. That doesn’t mean descending to their vile, reprehensible level. We really are better than them, and in part we must hope they will discredit themselves in the eyes of people who have decency and humanity.
But it does mean fighting back. The build-up to the 2015 election really is going to be horrible. None of us can have any illusions about that now. Let’s all do everything we can to take on this bile and to drive it back. I’m afraid I don’t think it is hyperbole, or a lazy resort to a well-worn cliché, to suggest that the future of this country is at stake.