The Placebo Effect

BY DOMINIC WIGHTMAN

I was at school with a young man who excelled at rugby but not a lot else. He admits today that he’s still not the sharpest tool in the box but he has turned into a gentleman and a success story, he has an army of faithful friends and is the father of three beautiful daughters. Let us call him Tom.

Tom was so gullible at school that, aged fourteen, those of us who were mischievous convinced him during a dull biology lesson that humans were hatched out of eggs and that his very own mother had sat for a full nine months on the egg from which he was born. On another occasion Tom received three weeks of detention after he was convinced to go and ask buxom Matron if he could see her puppies. During a house feast Tom was asked to retrieve the roast pig from the kitchens and serve it with parsley in the ears – Tom emerged later with the pig on a platter whilst sporting parsley in his own ears.

There was a key school rugby match to be played in the Michaelmas term against a school across the moors who had a reputation as being a crack unit and one we’d need to be at our very best to beat. But on the morning of the day of the match, Tom said he felt unwell. He complained of flu and a stomach upset. In fairness he looked somewhat green.

One of the other team members had read somewhere about a British Lion who had refused to play a key match because he too was feeling unwell. Together we hatched a plan.

At break-time that morning this friend and I queued at the school tuck shop and made a choice purchase. We then headed into our biology class with Tom, who looked a bit peaky and was murmuring about heading to the school infirmary because he felt so bad.

Our friend then began to convince gullible Tom, mentioning that his father was a top doctor and that every now and again the Americans sent him pills (as I recall my friend’s father was a merchant banker not a medic at all). That last week they had sent his father a pill from Los Angeles which could cure absolutely anything. My friend lied about how he too had been suffering from flu and a dodgy tummy at the weekend but took this amazing pill and immediately felt better within minutes. How the only side effect was that his manhood had grown by a couple of inches.

“Do you have a pill left?” Tom asked. He had bought the ruse.

“What a happy coincidence! I have one right here,” said our friend, retrieving a magical orange pill from his pocket and passing it to grateful Tom.

Tom played a cracker of a match that afternoon. We dispatched the opposition team easily, while Tom cut out supply from their scrum-half almost singlehandedly with some brave flanker play.

Only after the match did we let Tom know that he had been hoodwinked. That the pill was nothing more than an orange tic-tac.

Which brings me to wonder…

If Corbyn had won the General Election on June 8th, would he have had the decency to confess that his freebies for the gullible youth were nothing more than placebo?

I guess not.

It is the duty of all of us to explain to our gullible friends (even our family members taken in by Corbyn’s Labour) how the world works, how government is not Santa Claus and how the economy really functions.

Tom still laughs about when he was hoodwinked by the orange tic-tac and how for many days afterwards he was never far away from a ruler.

In time, let us hope for Britain’s sake that the Pied Piper of Islington North has his lies undone before the chance of another match materialises.

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