Something has happened to Ed Miliband in the past week. It is as if, in that what-doesn’t-kill-you-makes-you-stronger way, Michael Fallon’s accusation that the Labour leader would stab the country in the back, together with a Daily Mail front page of his former girlfriends in which he was portrayed as a “cad”, has drawn Miliband out of himself.

In his first newspaper interview since these twin incidents, Miliband seems unburdened and, it must be said, for someone so often criticised for looking awkward, comfortable in his own skin.

The Fallon attack, in which the Defence Secretary also accused Miliband of stabbing his brother David in the back, backfired, with even a Telegraph leader calling it “ill-judged”. Miliband adds: “Critically it’s not going to work for them, it looks far too desperate. But they haven’t really got much to say. I was really struck, standing in the debate with Cameron, that his opening statement was backward-looking … it sometimes looks as though he doesn’t know why he’s there.”

Even though the Mail front page seems to have had the inadvertent effect of helping to de-geek Miliband and turning him into an unlikely Lothario, why does he think that newspaper and others go for him? “Because they can. I’m not at all bothered about attacks on me, but I don’t think it’s very nice for the other people who are not in the public eye. Just because they’ve gone out with me, they shouldn’t suddenly find themselves splashed across the front of the Mail.”

The Conservatives thought they could run a nasty campaign against me, and for some reason they thought that that would do the trick. Instead, what the campaign has done is give me the opportunity to show the real me, not the caricature. And that’s why doing the TV debates are important.

More: The election attacks on Ed Miliband are getting weirder and weirder

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