Mail on Sunday apologises to Miliband after gatecrashing his uncle's memorial service

Editor Geordie Greig suspends two journalists and says the reporter was sent without his knowledge.

Update 15:24pm: David Miliband has just responded to the story on Twitter. 

After outrage at the news that a Mail on Sunday journalist gatecrashed a private memorial service for Ed Miliband's uncle , the paper's editor Geordie Greig has just issued a statement apologising "unreservedly" and announcing that he has suspended two journalists. Here it is in full: 

I unreservedly apologise for a reporter intruding into a private memorial service for a relative of Ed Miliband. The reporter was sent without my knowledge; it was a decision which was wrong. Two journalists have been suspended and a full investigation is now being carried out. I would further like to apologise to members of the family and friends attending the service for this deplorable intrusion. I have already spoken personally to Ed Miliband and expressed my regret that such a terrible lapse of judgement should have taken place. It is completely contrary to the values and editorial standards of The Mail on Sunday. I understand that Lord Rothermere is personally writing to Ed Miliband.

Below is Miliband's earlier letter to the paper's proprietor Lord Rothermere, which revealed the paper's behaviour. 

Dear Lord Rothermere,

Yesterday I spoke at a memorial event held at Guy’s Hospital in London for my uncle, Professor Harry Keen, a distinguished doctor who died earlier this year. It was an event in a room on the 29th floor of Guy’s Hospital which was attended only by family members, close friends and colleagues.

I was told by one of my relatives late yesterday evening that a reporter from the Mail on Sunday had found her way into the event uninvited. I also discovered that, once there, she approached members of my family seeking comments on the controversy over the Daily Mail’s description of my late father as someone who “hated Britain”.

My wider family, who are not in public life, feel understandably appalled and shocked that this can have happened.

The Editor of the Mail on Sunday has since confirmed to my office that a journalist from his newspaper did indeed attend the memorial uninvited with the intention of seeking information for publication this weekend.

Sending a reporter to my late uncle’s memorial crosses a line of common decency. I believe it a symptom of the culture and practices of both the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday.

There are many decent people working at those newspapers and I know that many of them will be disgusted by this latest episode. But they will also recognise that what has happened to my family has happened to many others.

I believe no purpose would be served by me complaining to the Press Complaints Commission because it is widely discredited.

Instead, I am writing to you as the owners of the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday because I believe it is long overdue that you reflect on the culture of your newspapers. You should conduct your own swift investigation into who was responsible at a senior level for this latest episode and also who is responsible for the culture and practices of these newspapers which jar so badly with the values of your readers.

There are bigger issues for the people of Britain in the midst of the worst cost of living crisis for a century than intrusion into the life of my family. But the reaction of many people to the Daily Mail’s attacks on my father this week demonstrates that the way your newspapers have behaved does not reflect the real character of our country.

It is now your responsibility to respond.

Ed Miliband

Ed Miliband speaks at the Labour conference in Brighton last week. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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How austere will Philip Hammond be?

The Chancellor must choose between softening or abandoning George Osborne's approach in his Autumn Statement. 

After becoming Chancellor, Philip Hammond was swift to confirm that George Osborne's budget surplus target would be abandoned. The move was hailed by some as the beginning of a new era of fiscal policy - but it was more modest than it appeared. Rather than a statement of principle, the abandonment of the 2019-20 target was merely an acceptance of reality. In the absence of additional spending cuts or tax rises, it would inevitably be missed (as Osborne himself recognised following the EU referendum). The decision did not represent, as some suggested, "the end of austerity".

Ahead of his first Autumn Statement on 23 November, the defining choice facing Hammond is whether to make a more radical break. As a new Resolution Foundation report notes, the Chancellor could either delay the surplus target (the conservative option) or embrace an alternative goal. Were he to seek a current budget suplus, rather than an overall one (as Labour pledged at the last general election), Hammond would avoid the need for further austerity and give himself up to £17bn of headroom. This would allow him to borrow for investment and to provide support for the "just managing" families (as Theresa May calls them) who will be squeezed by the continuing benefits freeze.

Alternatively, should Hammond merely delay Osborne's surplus target by a year (to 2020-21), he would be forced to impose an additional £9bn of tax rises or spending cuts. Were he to reject any further fiscal tightening, a surplus would not be achieved until 2023-24 - too late to be politically relevant. 

The most logical option, as the Resolution Foundation concludes, is for Hammond to target a current surplus. But since entering office, both he and May have emphasised their continuing commitment to fiscal conservatism ("He talks about austerity – I call it living within our means," the latter told Jeremy Corbyn at her first PMQs). For Hammond to abandon the goal of the UK's first budget surplus since 2001-02 would be a defining moment. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.