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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Northern Ireland election results: a shift beneath the status quo

The power of the largest parties has been maintained, while newer parties running on nicher subjects with no connection to Northern Ireland’s traditional religious divide are rapidly rising.

After a long day of counting and tinkering with the region’s complex PR vote transfer sytem, Northern Irish election results are slowly starting to trickle in. Overall, the status quo of the largest parties has been maintained with Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party returning as the largest nationalist and unionist party respectively. However, beyond the immediate scope of the biggest parties, interesting changes are taking place. The two smaller nationalist and unionist parties appear to be losing support, while newer parties running on nicher subjects with no connection to Northern Ireland’s traditional religious divide are rapidly rising.

The most significant win of the night so far has been Gerry Carroll from People Before Profit who topped polls in the Republican heartland of West Belfast. Traditionally a Sinn Fein safe constituency and a former seat of party leader Gerry Adams, Carroll has won hearts at a local level after years of community work and anti-austerity activism. A second People Before Profit candidate Eamon McCann also holds a strong chance of winning a seat in Foyle. The hard-left party’s passionate defence of public services and anti-austerity politics have held sway with working class families in the Republican constituencies which both feature high unemployment levels and which are increasingly finding Republicanism’s focus on the constitutional question limiting in strained economic times.

The Green party is another smaller party which is slowly edging further into the mainstream. As one of the only pro-choice parties at Stormont which advocates for abortion to be legalised on a level with Great Britain’s 1967 Abortion Act, the party has found itself thrust into the spotlight in recent months following the prosecution of a number of women on abortion related offences.

The mixed-religion, cross-community Alliance party has experienced mixed results. Although it looks set to increase its result overall, one of the best known faces of the party, party leader David Ford, faces the real possibility of losing his seat in South Antrim following a poor performance as Justice Minister. Naomi Long, who sensationally beat First Minister Peter Robinson to take his East Belfast seat at the 2011 Westminster election before losing it again to a pan-unionist candidate, has been elected as Stormont MLA for the same constituency. Following her competent performance as MP and efforts to reach out to both Protestant and Catholic voters, she has been seen by many as a rising star in the party and could now represent a more appealing leader to Ford.

As these smaller parties slowly gain a foothold in Northern Ireland’s long-established and stagnant political landscape, it appears to be the smaller two nationalist and unionist parties which are losing out to them. The moderate nationalist party the SDLP risks losing previously safe seats such as well-known former minister Alex Attwood’s West Belfast seat. The party’s traditional, conservative values such as upholding the abortion ban and failing to embrace the campaign for same-sex marriage has alienated younger voters who instead may be drawn to Alliance, the Greens or People Before Profit. Local commentators have speculate that the party may fail to get enough support to qualify for a minister at the executive table.

The UUP are in a similar position on the unionist side of the spectrum. While popular with older voters, they lack the charismatic force of the DUP and progressive policies of the newer parties. Over the course of the last parliament, the party has aired the possibility of forming an official opposition rather than propping up the mandatory power-sharing coalition set out by the peace process. A few months ago, legislation will finally past to allow such an opposition to form. The UUP would not commit to saying whether they are planning on being the first party to take up that position. However, lacklustre election results may increase the appeal. As the SDLP suffers similar circumstances, they might well also see themselves attracted to the role and form a Stormont’s first official opposition together as a way of regaining relevance and esteem in a system where smaller parties are increasingly jostling for space.