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Cast your mind back to October last year and you may remember the big controversy was the way the Daily Mail shot off its (metaphorical) mouth about Labour leader Ed Miliband’s father in spectacular fashion – and spectacularly shot itself in the foot by doing so.

The ill-judged article – it claimed that Mr Miliband (senior), who immigrated here from abroad and loved his adopted nation, was “unpatriotic” – generated a storm of protest on factual grounds and built a groundswell of sympathy for Mr Miliband (junior).

Yesterday, the Press Complaints Commission released its monthly complaint summary for January 2014. The PCC is dominated by Daily Mail personnel – Paul Dacre, the Mail’s editor, sits on the PressBoF committee that dominates the PCC and also chairs the Editors’ Code Committee. Meanwhile, one of the three directors of the company that owns both the PCC and its planned successor, IPSO, is Peter Wright, editor emeritus at the Mail group – so it should be no surprise that the most interesting part of the report was tucked away at the end.

This was an acknowledgement that the PCC had received no less than 14 complaints from third parties (people not involved in the story) about the Ralph Miliband article, ‘The Man Who Hated Britain’. In its summary, Inforrm’s Blog stated: “We suspect this was one of the most complained-about stories of the last 12 months or so, but of course that’s not really clear from the PCC data.”

Thanks to the number-crunchers at Inforrm, we can see that the Daily Mail incurred 12 breaches of the Editors’ Code – more than double the five incurred by its nearest rival: The Mail on Sunday.

That’s right. Mail Group newspapers dominate the table with 53.1 per cent of the total number of breaches recorded against national newspapers and large regionals.

But it seems Inforrm is right to say the PCC exists “mainly to protect [its] paymasters from censure, keeping the public at arms length with a cynical strategy of ‘complaint’ fatigue’, that means Code breaches are not properly recorded and adjudications are avoided at all costs”. All the complaints against the Mail were said to have been resolved away with sufficient remedial action.

We learn two things from this:

  • The Press Complaints Commission is worse than useless at policing the UK’s print media.
  • The reading public is nowhere near as stupid as the Mail‘s bosses would like to think. People of all political persuasions genuinely despised the Mail for its treatment of Mr Miliband. Former Conservative cabinet minister John Moore said: “The Daily Mail is telling lies about a good man who I knew. The people of this country are good and decent too. They do not want the Daily Mail attacking the dead relatives of politicians to make political points.”

Will the Mail learn from this huge error?

Don’t count on it.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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