As political sex scandals go, the ‘dinner party’ is quite gloriously, blandly Milibandian

There is a limit to how much we want to know about our politicians

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It is progress of sorts. First the bacon sandwich, then the tea break in that drab/extravagant kitchen and now the dinner party. Soon no meal of Ed Miliband will be left unscrutinised.

A Pret worker will come out of the woodwork to recall the day, in 2011, when the Labour leader popped into the Euston branch and bought a New Yorker on Rye, which is really pretty unpatriotic if you think about it. One of his student pals will be wheeled out to detail the time Ed bought chips and cheese from the kebab van on Oxford High Street and then didn’t eat them all which, if we’re all honest, shows an alarming lack of tenacity for a potential leader.

David Miliband will provide the final twist of the knife – having removed it from his back – with a tell-all think-piece about Ed’s appalling lack of table of manners, including exclusive material on the time his little brother threw a Farley’s rusk at him across the table, aged two and a half. The signs were always there.

The dinner party in question, if we must, was the one at which Justine Thornton first set eyes on Ed Miliband, her future husband. She recalled it this week, in one of those tiresome interviews that political wives are duty bound to give during election campaigns, twittering about their man and childcare while wearing colour-block dresses and glossing over their own careers and identities. Miliband said that she was “furious” when she discovered after this dinner party that the “good-looking, clever” guy who “just wanted to talk about economics” was “secretly” dating the hostess. If talking to one woman while dating another makes you a rotter, then Miliband is a rotter. If you’re over the age of seven and not currently standing in a playground, then he is probably not.

There is an added frisson, I use the term loosely, in the titbit that the hostess was Stephanie Flanders, then Newsnight’s economics editor. So there is a minor conflict of interest at play. As political sex scandals go, it is quite gloriously, blandly Miliband-ian. It is  barely a footnote in Tracey Temple’s diary, or a twinkle in Monica Lewinsky’s eye.

That has not stopped Mrs Miliband’s rather teenaged reminiscences from setting off an unedifying trawl through Mr Miliband’s “jolly tangled” (as the Daily Mail put it) love life. To summarise, before he met Justine, he dated a few women he met through his job – political aides, journalists etc – which is how most people met other people in the pre-internet age. Perhaps there is a worrying whiff of the establishment about the web (can four women be described as a “web”?) of Oxbridge, Westminster and BBC, but dating a friend of a friend is fairly common practice.

Certainly, if I were one of Miliband’s accomplished ex-partners – and especially if I were Flanders, who finds herself relegated once again to a plus‑one in the political discourse – I would be quite enraged to be dragged into such a daft non-scandal. And for what? A ComRes Survey this week found that 71 per cent of voters asked had no interest in politicians’ families, not in their kitchens and not, one imagines, in their bedrooms. The electorate has grown wise to domestic vignettes as vote‑winners.

In fact, that statistic seems a little disingenuous. It is 100 per cent human to want to know a little more about the people who govern us, in order to understand where their politics and policies come from, in order to know if they are the real deal. But there is a limit, and for this election we have hit it.

The take-home message from this latest flurry is that Miliband is a man. Moreover, he is a man who had some cool girlfriends before he settled down with a nice wife, to whom he is happily married and with whom he has two children. For those who say down with that sort of thing, then he is a disgrace. The rest of us will await more bombshells of the non‑dom variety.

In the meantime, get ready for revelations about the time young Ed did some average coursework in O-level maths, and the week after that, a peek inside his messy sock drawer. Enough.

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