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So Ed Miliband and Ed Balls dated the same woman? It's her I feel sorry for

Labour party leader Ed Miliband is free to prostrate himself on the alter of spin as he sees fit, but must he drag a respected BBC journalist down with him?

What, no showgirls? You do have to wonder what became of the self-respect of the British media-political establishment, when the most salacious titbit on offer is this: Leader of the Opposition Ed Miliband and Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, at different times, once dated the same person. Several years ago. Consider yourself scandalised.

Miliband was asked about his relationship with BBC economics editor Stephanie Flanders, also an ex-girlfriend of Balls, during an interview with Now magazine published today. Amid such revelations as “I don’t eat a lot of desserts” and “My two-year-old peed on the bouncy castle”, Miliband let slip / confirmed as part of a carefully orchestrated media campaign, that he did indeed date Flanders. It was  “very brief and a very long time ago”, Flanders has since clarified. 

Presumably Miliband intended to reveal his “unexpected cheeky side”, as Now magazine puts it. Meekly proffering domestic minutiae to gossip mags is a pretty transparent attempt to win over female voters. It's patronising too. But, then Miliband certainly wouldn’t be the first politician to try it. Most recently there's Julia Gilliard's infamous knitting shoot; most revoltingly there's Clegg's boast to GQ of having bedded "no more than 30" women.

Indeed Miliband is free to prostrate himself on the alter of spin as he sees fit, but must he drag Flanders down with him? Aside from what bad form it is to kiss 'n' tell, his interview has effectively reduced a respected BBC journalist to a footnote in a forthcoming biography or, worse, a pawn in some inscrutable, decades-long macho rivalry. 

Then again, if Flanders’s reputation had to be sacrificed, at least it wasn’t sacrificed in vain. Any news item which reminds the electorate how incestuous our ruling class is, and how homogenous their path to power, can’t be repeated enough. Much like the European royalty of old, the top lawyers, journalists, politicians and business leaders in this country all went to the same schools, the same universities and continue to socialise together. Is it any wonder they date each other too?