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The Week That Was: The Likeability Factor

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David Cameron will be planning more holidays if things carry on like this. While the PM has been out of office for the summer, his popularity ratings have taken an unexpected turn for the better, leaving poor Ed Miliband with egg on his face... quite literally this week.

With the housing market on the up, and the entire country enjoying the kind of feel-good factor only a summer of sun and a royal baby can muster up, a survey this week by the ICM and the Guardian showed 40% of the electorate have economic confidence in the government, while only 24% have the same trust in Miliband and Ed Balls.

And this despite the fact that 29% of us expect our personal financial situation to get worse over the next 12 months. That's an odd kind of maths we're all using to judge the people in charge.

Maybe it all comes down to perceptions. We, or at least a large number of the population, perceive Cameron stands for something, even if not everyone likes what that may be. As another survey revealed this week, half the British public doesn't know what Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg stand for. Even more worrying for the two party leaders, even members of their own parties are struggling to pin down exactly what the men leading the ranks have to offer.

The pair are also liked less than their political parties, while Cameron uniquely continues to enjoy a likeability factor that's higher than the Conservatives.

In lieu of working out exactly what he does stand for, maybe if Ed Miliband wants a crack at leading the country, it's time for him to grow himself a beard.

In the wake of Monday night's beardgate, when 'Paxman beard' started trending on Twitter just minutes after the Newsnight presenter debuted his stubble on the BBC 2 show, everyone and their uncle has been rushing to pass judgment on this apparently hot new trend.

Paxman is staying typically unperturbed by all the fuss. "I may keep it or I may shave it off, but I think I'll make my own decision," he promised.

He may be too late. According to the Times on Saturday, Gillette is seeing sales in the developing world slide as the fashion for clean shaven faces declines and, to borrow some classification from research company Euromonitor International, the "vogue for stubble" rises.

Paxman claims his beard is just the result of not being bothered to shave off his usual summer holiday facial growth, but maybe he's been swotting up on the science. According to another study (there's been a lot of them this week, clearly researchers don't get August off work), men with beards are deemed more attractive by the opposite sex, and also more likely to make good fathers.

There you go, Ed. The weather's supposed to warm up again this week, so ditch the razor, loosen your tie, and for goodness sake, steer clear of London street markets where disgruntled cycle couriers have a ready supply of eggs.

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