How electoral reform would have changed the result

Labour and the Lib Dems would have a majority under a different voting system.

Interest in electoral reform appears to be at an all-time high (I never thought I'd see "proportional representation" trending on Twitter), but how would Friday's result look if we'd already abandoned first-past-the-post?

Thanks to some expert number-crunching by the Electoral Reform Society, we now have some idea.

First-past-the-post

Election FPTP

Above is the result as it stands. The Tories won 36 per cent of the vote and 47 per cent of the seats, Labour won 29 per cent of the vote and 40 per cent of the seats and the Lib Dems won 23 per cent of the vote but just 9 per cent of the seats.

Single Transferable Vote

Election STV 3

But if we rerun the election under the Single Transferable Vote (STV), the proportional system favoured by the Lib Dems, a very different picture emerges. The Tories fall 60 seats to 246, while Labour falls 51 seats to 207. Meanwhile, the Lib Dems gain no fewer than 105 seats and rise to 162.

The Electoral Reform Society used data from a recent ComRes poll to work out where people's second-preference votes would go.

It's worth noting that under STV, Labour and the Lib Dems hold 369 seats between them, well over the 326 needed for a parliamentary majority. Had Labour abandoned its conservative instincts and opted for proportional representation, the chance of a coalition with Nick Clegg's party would now be much higher.

The Alternative Vote

Election AV

But if we rerun the election under the alternative vote, which is not a proportional system, the result is far less striking. Labour goes up four seats to 262, the Tories fall 25 seats to 281 and the Lib Dems rise 22 seats to 79.

Still, it's worth noting that in this scenario Labour and the Lib Dems again easily pass the 326-seat threshold, with 341 seats between them. Thus, even moderate electoral reform would significantly improve the chance of a "progressive coalition" in the future.

If, as now looks likely, the Lib Dems reach an agreement with the Conservatives, we can expect many accusations of betrayal. But it is worth remembering, looking at these figures, that it was Labour, made arrogant by its landslide victories, that betrayed the Lib Dems on electoral reform.

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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A swimming pool and a bleeding toe put my medical competency in doubt

Doctors are used to contending with Google. Sometimes the search engine wins. 

The brutal heatwave affecting southern Europe this summer has become known among locals as “Lucifer”. Having just returned from Italy, I fully understand the nickname. An early excursion caused the beginnings of sunstroke, so we abandoned plans to explore the cultural heritage of the Amalfi region and strayed no further than five metres from the hotel pool for the rest of the week.

The children were delighted, particularly my 12-year-old stepdaughter, Gracie, who proceeded to spend hours at a time playing in the water. Towelling herself after one long session, she noticed something odd.

“What’s happened there?” she asked, holding her foot aloft in front of my face.

I inspected the proffered appendage: on the underside of her big toe was an oblong area of glistening red flesh that looked like a chunk of raw steak.

“Did you injure it?”

She shook her head. “It doesn’t hurt at all.”

I shrugged and said she must have grazed it. She wasn’t convinced, pointing out that she would remember if she had done that. She has great faith in plasters, though, and once it was dressed she forgot all about it. I dismissed it, too, assuming it was one of those things.

By the end of the next day, the pulp on the underside of all of her toes looked the same. As the doctor in the family, I felt under some pressure to come up with an explanation. I made up something about burns from the hot paving slabs around the pool. Gracie didn’t say as much, but her look suggested a dawning scepticism over my claims to hold a medical degree.

The next day, Gracie and her new-found holiday playmate, Eve, abruptly terminated a marathon piggy-in-the-middle session in the pool with Eve’s dad. “Our feet are bleeding,” they announced, somewhat incredulously. Sure enough, bright-red blood was flowing, apparently painlessly, from the bottoms of their big toes.

Doctors are used to contending with Google. Often, what patients discover on the internet causes them undue alarm, and our role is to provide context and reassurance. But not infrequently, people come across information that outstrips our knowledge. On my return from our room with fresh supplies of plasters, my wife looked up from her sun lounger with an air of quiet amusement.

“It’s called ‘pool toe’,” she said, handing me her iPhone. The page she had tracked down described the girls’ situation exactly: friction burns, most commonly seen in children, caused by repetitive hopping about on the abrasive floors of swimming pools. Doctors practising in hot countries must see it all the time. I doubt it presents often to British GPs.

I remained puzzled about the lack of pain. The injuries looked bad, but neither Gracie nor Eve was particularly bothered. Here the internet drew a blank, but I suspect it has to do with the “pruning” of our skin that we’re all familiar with after a soak in the bath. This only occurs over the pulps of our fingers and toes. It was once thought to be caused by water diffusing into skin cells, making them swell, but the truth is far more fascinating.

The wrinkling is an active process, triggered by immersion, in which the blood supply to the pulp regions is switched off, causing the skin there to shrink and pucker. This creates the biological equivalent of tyre treads on our fingers and toes and markedly improves our grip – of great evolutionary advantage when grasping slippery fish in a river, or if trying to maintain balance on slick wet rocks.

The flip side of this is much greater friction, leading to abrasion of the skin through repeated micro-trauma. And the lack of blood flow causes nerves to shut down, depriving us of the pain that would otherwise alert us to the ongoing tissue damage. An adaptation that helped our ancestors hunt in rivers proves considerably less use on a modern summer holiday.

I may not have seen much of the local heritage, but the trip to Italy taught me something new all the same. 

This article first appeared in the 17 August 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump goes nuclear