Why is the right silent over Peter Lilley's links to the oil industry?

The Tory MP the right wants to replace Tim Yeo as chair of the energy and climate change committee has been paid £70,500 by oil company Tethys Petroleum since 2012.

After being caught allegedly offering to advise energy companies for cash, Conservative MP Tim Yeo has bowed to the inevitable and stepped down as chair of the energy and climate change committee. It's true, as Fraser Nelson argues, that his appointment was wrong to begin with. Yeo is a paid director of three renewable energy companies - AFC Energy, Eco City Vehicles and TMO Renewables - and has earned more than £400,000 from the sector since 2009. If that isn't a conflict of interest, then nothing is.

But if Yeo isn't fit to lead the committee then neither is the man the right wants to replace him: Tory MP Peter Lilley. After criticising Yeo's business interests, Nelson wrote: "It’s not yet clear who’ll replace him but Peter Lilley, who is more of a climate realist, is the likely candidate. And a recent Spectator cover boy", while Guido Fawkes tweeted: "I for one welcome Peter Lilley as our new Energy and Climate Change Select Committee Chairman. Thanks to Labour for getting rid of Yeo."

In the event, it was Lib Dem Robert Smith, rather than Lilley, who took the chair when the committee met this morning. As Guido points out, Smith his own interests, with registrable shareholdings in Shell and Rio Tinto. But they pale in comparison to those of Lilley. The former Tory social security secretary ("I have a little list") is a paid director of Cayman Islands-based oil and gas company Tethys Petroleum and has received £70,500 since January 2012 for 180 hours' work "attending meetings and advising on business developments". He has also received share options worth at least $400,000. Again, if that's not a conflict of interest, nothing is. 

But, strangely, none of Lilley's supporters thought it fit to mention any of this. One possible explanation is that Lilley, unlike the green Yeo, is a self-described "global lukewarmist" and one of just three MPs who voted against the Climate Change Act in 2008. Where parliamentary ethics are concerned, it seems it's one standard for a friend and another for a foe. 

Conservative MP Peter Lilley was one of just three MPs to vote against the Climate Change Act.

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