Boris Johnson made remarks about Israel on LBC this morning. Photo: Getty
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"Disproportionate, ugly and tragic": Boris Johnson on Gaza eclipses the PM

A government minister resigned this morning over Gaza. No 10, the Chancellor and the Mayor of London have all responded to this move, revealing an increasingly untenable situation for the PM.

The minister and Tory peer Sayeeda Warsi resigned from the government this morning in protest over its policy on Gaza. The responses are interesting:

No 10

This is Downing Street's official response to Warsi's resignation:

The Prime Minister regrets that Baroness Warsi has decided to stand down and is grateful for the excellent work that she has done both as a Minister and in Opposition.

Our policy has always been consistently clear – the situation in Gaza is intolerable and we’ve urged both sides to agree to an immediate and unconditional ceasefire.

It's notable but unsurprising that there is no change in the PM's line on Gaza, his reticence over condemning Israel wholesale is still clear.
 

The Chancellor

The Telegraph reports George Osborne's far stronger reaction to the former Foreign Office minister's move:

This is a disappointing and frankly unnecessary decision. The British government is working with others in the world to bring peace to Gaza and we now have a tentative ceasefire which we all hope will hold.

The Mayor of London

Boris Johnson called the news "very sad" and voiced a hope for her return to government "as soon as possible". Yet it's his reaction to the crisis in Gaza, on LBC this morning, that is telling in how it differs from David Cameron's stance:

I can’t for the life of me see how this can be a sensible strategy. I think it is disproportionate, I think it is ugly and it is tragic and I don’t think it will do Israel any good in the long run.


Cameron so far has avoided the word "disproportionate". With a dramatic government resignation and a popular Tory figure like Johnson, a self-proclaimed Zionist, strongly condemning Israel's actions, how long will the PM be able to hold (or hold back) his position?

UPDATE 5 August 12.56

Ed Miliband has added to the responses to Warsi's resignation, calling her statement "completely right":

The government's position is wrong and I think Sayeeda Warsi's statement is completely right about this.

Miliband also called for the PM to "think much more clearly" about his policy on Gaza and to "break his silence" on the subject of Israel's actions.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at 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