Ed Miliband sidesteps booby trap that got Nick Clegg

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Indy Politics

Ed Miliband has hit upon the easiest and most obvious way to avoid what might be called the Clegg-over Trap: you do not have to answer certain questions, and any answer you give will make you look a twit, so pass.

He was put to the test soon after becoming Labour leader when he was interviewed by Piers Morgan for an article in a men's magazine.

Morgan put the predictable questions – "How many women have you slept with?" and "When did you lose your virginity?" – both of which Mr Miliband brushed away, somewhat immodestly, by saying he "would not boast about his sexual prowess".

His reply contained a hidden dig at the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, who once told the same magazine, GQ, that he had slept with "no more than 30" women, to the horror of his advisers who were sitting in on the interview. The reply was meant as a joke, but landed the Liberal Democrat leader with the embarrassing nickname "Clegg-over".

Mr Miliband also refused to be drawn on when he plans to marry his partner, Justine Thornton, with whom he has two sons, although he did confirm that she is the owner of the £1.6 million house they cohabit in north London – giving Mr Morgan an opening to make a quip about the possibility that the leader of the Labour Party could be rendered homeless if their relationship breaks down.

But pressed about whether and when the couple intend to get married, Mr Miliband implied that the more he was pushed on this subject, the less inclined he was to rush ahead and make arrangements.

"The more people challenge me on it from a political standpoint, the more resistant I will become," he said. "We'll get married because we want to get married and love each other very much, no other reason."

On marriage generally, he said: "It's a good institution and part of having stable families, but there are also people in unmarried relationships with stable families."

He was more forthcoming when asked if he had experimented with drugs or shoplifted. He denied he had either, and owned up to being "a bit square" during his days as a student politician at Oxford. He also said he had "mixed feelings" about beating his brother David in last year's leadership contest, but denied that either had obsessively dreamed of having the job. "I was surprised when I even made it into the cabinet," he added.