Politicians with large big toes are more likely to succeed at the ballot box, according to fresh research.
American academics from the University of Strangersbarre, writing in the Journal of Biomechanical Politics, claimed to have established a striking relationship between the electoral success of politicians and the length of their largest foot phalange.
Five hundred and eighty seven politicians, mostly at state-level politics, participated in the research. Their careers were monitored over a period of ten years after initial measurements were taken in 1998.
"Our study has shown toe size can be a surprisingly important factor in the career success of a politician," lead researcher Professor Kham Elto said.
"We have known for some time that taller, larger candidates tend to do better in elections. Big toe size is closely linked to body size more generally, so this partly explains the link.
"But we did not expect the parallel to be so clear. Further research is now needed to establish whether big-toed individuals are especially good at staying in office once elected."
Of the participating politicians those with the 25% smallest toes had largely unsuccessful careers, although the researchers acknowledged that their mass failure in 2008 may have been linked to the fact that Republicans are notoriously small-toed.
The upper quartile, with the largest toes, performed the strongest. As well as winning the most elections their margins of victory were also noted to be greater, averaging wins with eight per cent margins compared to the two per cent seen among their smaller-toed rivals and colleagues.
The research, mostly conducted in America, could shine a light on an underexplored aspect of British politics.
Many UK politicians are reticent about their feet. David Cameron was photographed on his holiday to Italy last summer wearing black shoes when flip-flops, fashion editors noted, would have been more appropriate.
Labour politicians also have a history of covering up their feet. In the New Labour years the party's spin doctors sent round strict memos advising about the risks of exposing voters to their toes during election campaigns, based on fears that the unexpected shape of a politician's toe could alienate 'undecideds'. The strategy was judged to be a key reason for the party's 1997 and 2001 election landslides.
The Liberal Democrats are often pointed to as examples of what happens when toes face unfettered public scrutiny. Sandal-wearing liberals, who spent many years in the political wilderness, are often cited as a cautionary tale.