Nick Clegg's party could lose 17 seats to Labour. Photo: Wikimedia
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Ashcroft polls: Lib Dems could lose 17 seats to Labour

The latest polling by Lord Ashcroft offers a snapshot of the wipe out facing Lib Dems in battleground seats against Labour.

The Liberal Democrats could lose 17 seats to Labour next May, according to the latest polls revealed by Lord Ashcroft today.

The junior Coalition partner’s vote has fallen by half in seats where Labour are their main challengers.

Research conducted by the Conservative peer in Bradford East, Brent Central, Manchester Withington and Norwich South found the Lib Dem share down from 38 per cent to 19 per cent, with Labour up 11 points to 47 per cent.

Overall, this 15 per cent swing would allow Labour to sweep 17 Lib Dem seats if it is repeated across the nation at the election.

Recent research by Ashcroft, combined with today’s polling report, suggest that up to half of Lib Dem MPs could be wiped out in next year’s general election.

Ashcroft warned caution, however, noting: “As we saw in my polling of Conservative-Lib Dem marginals, swings are very far from uniform where the Lib Dems are concerned. It is also important to emphasise again that like all polls, this is a snapshot not a forecast.”

Labour is not the Lib Dems only primary challenger, however. One in seven Lib Dem defectors since 2010 has switched to the Green Party. Ashcroft’s survey identifies the Greens as the new non-of-the-above vote. He suggested the party could pick up urban youth voters disaffected with the main established parties in the same way Ukip is sweeping up votes among certain rural and coastal ageing populations.

Caroline Lucas, the sole Green MP in Westminster, is currently one point behind Labour in her Brighton Pavilion seat, so the contest will be closely fought.

In Lib Dem-Labour battlegrounds, 35 per cent of voters would rather see Ed Miliband as Prime Minister than David Cameron.

Six in ten voters in these seats said they wanted to see Labour in office after the next election, either governing alone (45 per cent) or in coalition with the Lib Dems (15 per cent). Fewer than 25 per cent wanted the Tories back in government.

Lucy Fisher writes about politics and is the winner of the Anthony Howard Award 2013. She tweets @LOS_Fisher.

 

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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