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David Cameron, Nick Clegg et al: sweeten us up and the votes are all yours

Vote winner: Thailand's rulers attempt to 'return happiness to the people' in Bangkok

Vote winner: Thailand’s rulers attempt to ‘return happiness to the people’ in Bangkok Photo: AFP/Getty Images

What to make of the Thai military junta offering free haircuts (in lieu of
actual freedom) to the people?

It’s an unconventional way to capture hearts and minds, but there’s a fine
tradition in the corridors of power of generously providing bread and
circuses and tax cuts and Qatari bank transfers to ease the path of

Anyway, having ousted the democratically elected government last month, the
National Peace and Order Maintaining Council has concluded that in order to
lift the nation’s spirits, it must first raise the nation’s fringes as part
of its Bring Back Happiness Campaign.

Perhaps Thailand’s dreams really do reside in feather cuts and messy bobs, in
which case those fashion-forward army chiefs are bang on trend.

But the thing is, hair, specifically children’s hair, is already a political
issue in the draconian nation. A generation is rebelling against the ongoing
imposition of strict regulations that stipulate that all students’ hair must
be short in length and even shorter on style.

Perhaps, then, state-issue hair extensions might be a wiser form of
inducement, but in principle, and indeed practice, all politics is the art
of bribery.

In Uganda, the distribution of sugar, salt and soap is a key electoral
strategy. Blankets are the going rate in Egypt and the recent landslide
election in India was riddled with accusations that black money, booze and
guns had bought votes.

Here, we get bribed with weaselly promises of an upgrade to the increasingly
shabby analogue stuff we already have and already pay for better schools, an
NHS fit for purpose, public transport we can afford, banks that don’t rob

But in these cynical times, a few judicious backhanders would be nice, not
least because it would show us that politicians care.

Given David Cameron’s much-derided (admittedly, mostly by me) happiness index,
I can imagine he’d definitely be up for doling out a few bits and bobs to
increase the gaiety of the nation until the Cambridges get a royal move on
and provide us with a second baby to coo over.

The most recent index findings, published in July 2013 showed the British
people were two per cent happier than the previous year. Yippee!

I think I speak for all of us when I say that if Sam Cam could see her way to
discreetly doling out some freebie Smythson notebooks, that could nudge us
up from last year’s 75.9 per cent satisfaction rating to a giddy 76 per

But she’ll have to hurry. Theresa May’s leadership bid will be in the Mulberry
bag if, as rumoured (by me), she is going to commit to a canny
kitten-heels-for-votes election pledge. It’s one way to Jimmy Choos a

It would certainly outmanoeuvre Michael Gove who, bless him, has nothing more
bling to offer than a prelapsarian vision of harder exams and Mandarin in
every nursery.

Back in the day, Old Labour blandishments of warm beer and curly sandwiches in
smoke-filled rooms might have done the trick for union bosses, but New
Labour’s rarefied taste for olive ciabatta and chorizo pretty much did for
industrial relations what Bernard Matthews did for turkeys…

Meanwhile Ed Miliband’s recent misadventures with a bacon sarnie ought to have
put him off the idea of inviting us all round for brunch, but handing out
hampers of Stinking Bishop would be a nice touch and would give Ed Balls
something to do while he gets the bouncers at the Bilderberg Conference to
check the guest list for his name.

It would be simplistic, of course, to equate all bribery with corruption, just
as putting one’s ex-mistress and spouse on the European payroll could hardly
be classed as anything but good sense and good manners.

But what price the elusive Feelgood Factor? All Ukip leader Nigel Farage
needed to do was offer to stand us a pint of England’s Own, a slim Panatella
and even slimmer hopes of sealing the ports and sending Johnny Foreigner
back home, and Newark would have fallen faster than Napoleon at Waterloo.

And finally to Nick Clegg and his squabblesome party. What can he do to make
us love him? I’m at a loss. But please don’t go around trimming fringes –
the Lib Dem faithful might just see with awful clarity what a pup they were

Don’t envy the woman who marries Mr Gorgeous

Amal Alamuddin: once she’s hit the jackpot with George, what does she
do then?

Pity poor Amal Alamuddin, who is about to marry George Clooney. Yes, you
heard, pity the clever, soignée human rights legal eagle with the amazing
bone structure.

She may somehow have stolen my life (I’m considering legal action), but unless
she’s got an extraordinarily fertile imagination, she’s doomed to divorce.

According to research, the secret of a long marriage is for each partner to be
convinced their spouse is more attractive than he or she really is.

This “positive illusion” that our Homer Simpson is a Ryan Gosling is
apparently what stabilises the long-term bond, not the three kids, the
school fees, mortgage and car payments. Who knew?

Of course, for those of us who can’t always quite see the dreamilicious side
of that bloke who’s gently snoring through the denouement of Wallander on
the sofa, God invented wine. Lots and lots of wine.

But for Alamuddin, hers may be a Pyrrhic victory. Because once she’s hit the
jackpot, bagged the trophy, beaten off all the cocktail waitresses and lady
wrestlers and tied the knot with George, what does she do then?

No, don’t answer that or my heart will shatter into a million tiny pieces.
What I mean is, how in heaven’s name can she fantasise that he’s a better
catch than he actually is?

Ah, the agony, the ecstasy, the cognitive dissonance. Maybe that’s why
beautiful people stick together; they’re doing the rest of us a favour.

Tragedy of the poisoned babies

Babies poisoned by hospital drips. Could there be a more gut-wrenching image
than that of newborns lying peacefully in incubators, anxious parents by
their sides, watching and waiting, while the liquid nutrition that was
supposed to keep them alive was invisibly bringing death closer with every

Earlier this week, baby Yousef Al-Kharboush died aged just nine days after
contracting a bacterial infection from contaminated intravenous fluid
administered to him on a London neonatal intensive care ward.

At the time of writing, 21 vulnerable, in most cases premature babies are
being treated with antibiotics for septicaemia at nine hospitals throughout
the country.

It is believed a “rogue” batch of the fluid was responsible for the blood
poisoning; the tiny babies, who have virtually no immune system, had no
protection against the toxins introduced to their bodies.

All batches that could possibly have been similarly affected have now been
withdrawn. The medicine regulator has launched an investigation, and the
British couple who run the pharmaceutical company concerned have spoken of
their sadness at the events.

And all the while, mothers and fathers are maintaining their heartbreaking
vigil at the bedsides of their sons and daughters.

No parent – no person – could fail to be horrified by this terrible tragedy.
The time to call those responsible to account will come. Right now, as the
babies fight for their lives, it is a time for human empathy and prayers.

When less of a lass just won’t do

There’s nothing like science to take us all down a peg or two and demote us
from high-functioning professionals to atavistic troglodytes.

This week’s bump down to earth comes courtesy of the Cheltenham Science
Festival, where it was revealed – da da daaaaa! – that men prefer voluptuous
women when they’re hungry.

That’s the men who are hungry, not the women. Actually, nobody mentioned
whether the women were hungry, but let’s say for argument’s sake that they

Photographs of women of various body shapes were shown to men of various
degrees of peckishness. Hungry men rated women with lavish embonpoints as
significantly more attractive.

Now, there are two inferences. The first, from the researchers, is that large
breasts hint at food resources. As a result, a chap subconsciously assumes
that the curvy lassie knows where to lay her hands on a pie (although there
is a risk she might have eaten it already), unlike a skinny minny, who looks
like she could barely unwrap a sausage roll, never mind fall upon it in a
flaky pastry frenzy.

The second inference, from me, is: since when does this sort of
preposterousness qualify as cutting-edge research?

Oh there’s more. Hungry women were also shown photos of men, and they found
muscular types more attractive when they (the women, do keep up) want food.

And, in conclusion, I’m off to get a sandwich.

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(via Telegraph)