One in five Lib Dem voters would switch to Labour

New poll shows that Clegg’s party has lost the support of almost four in ten of those who backed it

The Liberal Democrats have lost the support of almost four in ten of the voters who backed the party in May, according to a new ComRes/Independent poll.

More than one in five people who voted for the Lib Dems say they would now vote Labour. This number has risen to 22 per cent, up from 15 per cent last month. A further 7 per cent would switch to the Tories. This echoes a recent Guardian/ICM poll, which also showed that one in five Lib Dem voters would defect to Labour.

The new ComRes poll showed that just 62 per cent of those who voted Lib Dem would do so again if another election were held today. Slightly down from the ICM poll, which showed that seven in ten voters would stick with the party, this is yet more evidence that Clegg's party will take a hammering in the next general election.

The number could fall further as Lib Dem activists begin to feel disgruntled. Last week, a survey of 600 party members showed support for the coalition falling to 45 per cent in August from 57 per cent in July, although generally support for its existence was high.

It's not all bad news for the Lib Dems, though -- the headline figures in the ComRes poll showed support for the party stabilising. Despite the increased number of voters claiming they would defect to Labour, Clegg's party still gained 18 per cent of the vote (compared to the 23 per cent they secured in the general election). This is a marked improvement on a YouGov poll last week, which put them on a low of 11 per cent.

Arguably, Labour is the real winner from this. Up 1 point to 34 per cent, they are just 4 points behind the Tories, who were down 1 on 38. Quite apart from the support the party is gaining from disillusioned Lib Dem voters, it is likely to benefit once the full pain of deep public spending cuts hits.

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for 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