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Page last updated at 19:59 GMT, Sunday, 17 August 2008 20:59 UK

Nudge theory

Ambitious politicians, hungry for power, are always on the lookout for new ideas to help them win over the voters and defeat their opponents.

Remember a few years ago the argument that happiness should be treated as a policy objective by government?

Then there was the "Third Way" and before that "Stakeholder Democracy".

The latest idea to tickle the fancy of the Conservatives comes from the United States where two academics have written a book extolling the virtues of small scale policies to change people's behaviour.

But is there a risk that a politicians' interest can mean the kiss of death for the ideas of learned professors or can it provide a boost?

The relationship between academic thinkers and politicians is often fraught - as we saw last week when David Cameron's favourite think tank suggested some parts of northern England were beyond saving and people living there should move south. An insane idea, said Mr Cameron - hurriedly.

Mandy Baker has been talking to academics who've tried to persuade politicians to take up new ideas.

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