The Third Leader: Hugger mugger

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Inhibitions are tumbling everywhere as demonstrations of high emotion continue to break out all over. Following revelations from Alastair Campbell and David Blunkett which would be unusual, even for non-Yorkshiremen, Crystal Palace was visited yesterday by Amma, the Indian holy woman known as the Hugging Saint, who believes arms can save the world. Hoodies, it is still not safe to come out. A touchy subject, hugging. Until recently, the British, especially the males, have always rather enjoyed playing up the benefits of avoiding displays of affection, particularly in public, preferring to leave that sort of thing to the French and others. Physical contact tended to be confined to the battlefield, mothers and the rugby pitch.

Stanley, although an American, knew not to embrace Livingstone; Hillary, being a New Zealander, offered Tensing a handshake on top of Everest, even if the Sherpa did brush it aside and hug him. Hunt threw his arm round Hillary when they returned to base camp, but later apologised.

After that it was downhill. Blame, if you like, the potent combination of the 1960s, professional football and Diana, Princess of Wales, in life and death. Still, good luck to the Hugging Saint, as there is no doubt of the positive effect of an embrace (although I have noticed that it is rarely a good sign in films involving the Mafia).

Finally, a couple of pieces of advice on etiquette. First: when hugged, you must respond enthusiastically despite the risks to your suiting, because, if you don't, you look a complete prat. Second, holding your newspaper open out in front of you is a useful way of advertising your unavailability.

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