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Parliament of pandas; Party leaders hate to mate - but they have to.

PERHAPS six weeks on the campaign trail has sent me stir crazy. But when I look at Britain's political leaders now I see giant pandas.

Stay with me on this one. The two species have more in common than you might think.

For starters there's statistics. Politicians pick them so selectively that they're often useless.

So are the statistics for pandas, although to be fair they don't compile those themselves.

The latest census puts the world's panda population at 1,864 - a suspi-ciously precise figure for creatures so shy that even panda experts can spend years tramping through remote bamboo forests without spotting one. They count plops of panda poo instead. I know what you're thinking: what if the same panda poops twice? To avoid double-counting, they check undigested bamboo for bitemarks, which are unique, like fingerprints.

Still hit and miss, I'd say. Nicely brought up pandas won't gobble their food but digest it properly. Others will be constipated, leaving no trace.

China may also massage the figures to show what a corker it is at conserva-tion. So the Chinese need panda numbers to rise, but not by too much. More than 2,500 and their status downgrades from "endangered" to "vulnerable". And if Western zoos lose interest, China loses a valuable international bargaining chip.

Coy So there's a lot riding on pandas. Except, it seems, other pandas. Pandas just don't fancy each other. And even when they do, boy pandas usually last only 30 seconds in the sack.

So when Kai Kai managed a marathon 40 minutes with girlfriend Jia Jia in Singapore's River Safari zoo it was one for the Guinness World Records. But Kai Kai still couldn't finish the job and his good lady had to be artificially inseminated.

Maybe pandas would be at it like rabbits if offered another species. A gorilla say, a giraffe, or Megan Fox.

But as it is they have no time for each other. How like politicians.

Nick Clegg is eager to mate with either Ed Miliband or David Cameron but fears he may not be sizeable enough to satisfy either of them.

Nicola Sturgeon spurns Cameron, but likes the look of Miliband, who coyly plays hard to get.

How like pandas.

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Title Annotation:Features; Opinion Column
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:May 3, 2015
Words:371
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