Miliband matches Clegg's pledge not to accept a pay rise. Will Cameron?

The Labour leader's promise not to accept the £7,604 pay rise to £74,000 leaves the PM as the odd one out.

After IPSA recommended that MPs' pay be increased by £7,604 to £74,000 in 2015, Ed Miliband has joined Nick Clegg in pledging not to accept the rise. 

I don't think MPs should be getting a 10% pay rise when nurses and teachers are facing either pay freezes or very low increases and people in the private sector are facing similar circumstances. I'm very clear - I don't think this package of proposals should go ahead in the current economic circumstances.

If this was to go ahead I wouldn't be accepting this pay rise but I don't think it is going to go ahead in the current circumstances because I think that when Ipsa consult the public, the public will be pretty clear that while the difficulties we have in the economy persist we can't have MPs getting a 10% pay rise.

At the first of his regular press conferences earlier this month, Clegg said: "Speaking for myself I would certainly seek to do whatever I can to make sure that either this decision is not taken in the first place - but that's out of my hands - but, secondly, if were to be taken, not to take that pay increase."

This leaves David Cameron as the only of the three main leaders not to have promised to decline the increase. Downing Street made it clear this morning that Cameron opposes the rise, but stopped short of saying that he would not accept it. The likelihood, however, that he will be forced to revise his position, possibly as early as today. As I noted earlier, the public, unsurprisingly, oppose the increase by 68 per cent to 17 per cent, with 50 per cent believing that MPs are already paid too much (their current salary of £66,396 puts them comfortably in the top 5 per cent of earners. ) 

Should MPs receive the rise, and only in a change in the law will prevent them from doing so, it will also become even harder for Cameron to oppose Miliband's call for new limits on MPs' outside earnings and a ban on them accepting paid directorships and consultancies. As the Labour leader knows, Cameron  is vulnerable to the charge that he is defending the interests of his own side. In the 2012-13 parliamentary session, Tory MPs declared more than £4.3m in outside earnings, compared to £2.4m by their Labour counterparts, £1.37m of which was accounted for by Gordon Brown, who did not personally benefit from any of the money. 

Nick Clegg, David Cameron and Ed Miliband during a reception to mark the inaugural Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering, at Buckingham Palace on June 25, 2013. Photograph: Getty Images.

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