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LONDON (Reuters) - British left-wing leader Ed Miliband hoped to win more votes by inviting a TV crew into his home. Instead his election rivals have gleefully seized on the revelation that the would-be "man of the people" has two kitchens in his 2 million pound home.
With around two months to go before what's expected to be an unusually close national poll, Miliband is now facing a barrage of jeers from Britain's mainly right-wing press who claim the face of the main opposition party is a hypocrite for campaigning on a promise that he understands the working class.
"Exposed: Eddie Two Kitchens," said a headline in the right-leaning Sun newspaper, owned by Rupert Murdoch, on Friday. It has long mocked the Labour leader as a socially awkward left-wing nerd.
Criticizing someone for having two kitchens may sound odd to non-Britons. But in a country still obsessed by the remnants of its class system, by house prices, and by the gap between the rich and poor, it carries a peculiar political force.
The existence of Miliband's second kitchen only came to light after the Labour leader - whose personal popularity trails that of Prime Minister David Cameron - agreed to a BBC interview with his wife Justine, who portrayed her husband as a victim of vicious media attacks.
The couple were filmed in a small plain kitchen drinking mugs of tea and wearing casual clothes.
The press initially mocked the kitchen for appearing too modest. A columnist for the Daily Mail - also the wife of a senior Conservative and close Cameron ally - said it looked like a communist housing project and showed the Milibands were "aliens".
That prompted a friend of the couple's to defend them, saying it was only their second kitchen and that the main kitchen was "lovely" - upon which the press pounced in earnest.
Miliband's perceived sin in the eyes of his critics is all the greater because he has often accused Cameron - a descendant of King William IV who is regularly filmed at his luxurious Oxfordshire country house - of not emphasizing with poorer voters and of presiding over a cost of living crisis.
"Clearly there's no cost of living crisis for 'Two Kitchens' Miliband," said Nigel Adams, a lawmaker from Cameron's Conservatives.
"It's a bit rich lecturing people about poverty from his 2 million pound mansion."
Miliband denied he had sought to buttress his popular image by being filmed in the smaller kitchen.
"The house we bought had a kitchen downstairs when we bought it. And it is not the one we use. We use the small one upstairs," he told The Birmingham Mail newspaper.
Friday's row is not the first time the press have taken Miliband to task over his "man of the people" credentials.
The son of a left-wing intellectual who grew up in an affluent part of London, Miliband once failed to tell an interviewer how much his weekly groceries bill cost, an omission that jarred given that he was railing about a cost of living crisis.
"Kitchengate" has handed his critics new ammunition, however. Their accusations echo those aimed at John Prescott, a former Labour deputy prime minister and left-wing firebrand, who was accused of hypocrisy for owning two luxury Jaguar automobiles and christened "Two Jags."
Editing by Sophie Walker