Nick Clegg: it's the Daily Mail that really hates Britain

"It seems to me that if anyone excels in denigrating and often vilifying a lot about modern Britain, it's the Daily Mail," says Clegg on his LBC show.

One of the ironies of the Daily Mail's smearing of Ralph Miliband - "the man who hated Britain" - is how vulnerable the paper, with its loathing of multiculturalism, the BBC, the welfare state and immigration, is to the same charge. On his LBC phone-in this morning, Nick Clegg became the first politician to make this point, and did so brilliantly. 

He said

My honest reaction was that when I heard the Daily Mail accusing someone of saying that they did not like Britain, I'm not a regular reader of this newspaper but every time I do open it, it just seems to be overflowing with bile about modern Britain. They don't like working mothers, they don't like the BBC, they don't like members of the royal family, they don't like teachers, they don't like the English football team. The list goes on. So talk about kettles and pots ... It seems to me that if anyone excels in denigrating and often vilifying a lot about modern Britain, it's the Daily Mail.

The Lib Dem leader and the Mail have, of course, never seen eye-to-eye. At the height of Cleggmania, the paper ran a memorable hit-piece accusing him of a "Nazi slur on Britain". 

The smear was based on a 2002 Guardian piece written by Clegg in which he wrote: "All nations have a cross to bear, and none more so than Germany with its memories of Nazism. But the British cross is more insidious still.

"A misplaced sense of superiority, sustained by delusions of grandeur and a tenacious obsession with the last war, is much harder to shake off. We need to be put back in our place."

In the case of Ralph Miliband, the paper similarly misrepresented his words, in this instance an adolescent diary entry, to claim that he hated Britain (the similarity between his and Clegg's observations is striking). As a 17-year-old Jewish refugee, Miliband wrote: "The Englishman is a rabid nationalist. They are perhaps the most nationalist people in the world…You sometimes want them almost to lose [the war] to show them how things are. They have the greatest contempt for the continent. To lose their empire would be the worst possible humiliation."

The earlier Clegg affair is a reminder that the paper has form in this area and that its past support for fascism has never restrained it from lecturing others. 

Nick Clegg speaks at the UN General Assembly on September 27, 2013 in New York. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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Who will win in Manchester Gorton?

Will Labour lose in Manchester Gorton?

The death of Gerald Kaufman will trigger a by-election in his Manchester Gorton seat, which has been Labour-held since 1935.

Coming so soon after the disappointing results in Copeland – where the seat was lost to the Tories – and Stoke – where the party lost vote share – some overly excitable commentators are talking up the possibility of an upset in the Manchester seat.

But Gorton is very different to Stoke-on-Trent and to Copeland. The Labour lead is 56 points, compared to 16.5 points in Stoke-on-Trent and 6.5 points in Copeland. (As I’ve written before and will doubtless write again, it’s much more instructive to talk about vote share rather than vote numbers in British elections. Most of the country tends to vote in the same way even if they vote at different volumes.)

That 47 per cent of the seat's residents come from a non-white background and that the Labour party holds every council seat in the constituency only adds to the party's strong position here. 

But that doesn’t mean that there is no interest to be had in the contest at all. That the seat voted heavily to remain in the European Union – around 65 per cent according to Chris Hanretty’s estimates – will provide a glimmer of hope to the Liberal Democrats that they can finish a strong second, as they did consistently from 1992 to 2010, before slumping to fifth in 2015.

How they do in second place will inform how jittery Labour MPs with smaller majorities and a history of Liberal Democrat activity are about Labour’s embrace of Brexit.

They also have a narrow chance of becoming competitive should Labour’s selection turn acrimonious. The seat has been in special measures since 2004, which means the selection will be run by the party’s national executive committee, though several local candidates are tipped to run, with Afzal Khan,  a local MEP, and Julie Reid, a local councillor, both expected to run for the vacant seats.

It’s highly unlikely but if the selection occurs in a way that irritates the local party or provokes serious local in-fighting, you can just about see how the Liberal Democrats give everyone a surprise. But it’s about as likely as the United States men landing on Mars any time soon – plausible, but far-fetched. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.