Boris Johnson has announced he will stand as an MP in May 2015.
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Where will Boris stand as an MP?

Boris appears to have at least five good options.

Boris Johnson is returning to the Commons in 2015.

I haven’t got any particular seat lined up but I do think that in all probability… I will try to find somewhere to stand in 2015.”

So where might he stand? Many lists have been made and unmade in the past five years as Boris dithered – and the bookies are now frantically re-drawing their odds.

Just in the past month three seats have been sown up. We now know Boris won’t be standing in North West Hampshire, Hornchurch and Westminster, and Louth and Horncastle.

His deputy mayor Kit Malthouse was chosen to replace the retiring Sir George Young in the first, Dame Angela Watkinson was recently re-selected in the second, and an open primary just decided the candidate in the third.

But there are five seats that look like strong possibilities:

Uxbridge and South Ruislip

Tory majority: 24.9 per cent
How “safe”: 110th safest 
Distance from City Hall: 20.2 miles (59 minute drive)

While a few seats escaped in July, the peripheral London seat of Uxbridge became Boris’s best option last month when its MP, John Randall, announced he was stepping down.

Randall won the redrawn seat by 24.9 per cent in 2010, and the party has held Uxbridge since 1970, which the pollster Anthony Wells has described as "middle-of-the-road suburbia, hidden away at the end at the far end of the Metropolitan line".

The seat could allow him to serve out his second term as London Mayor, as he committed to doing when he won in 2012. This wouldn’t be without precedent – Ken Livingstone spent 13 months as MP for Brent East after becoming London mayor in May 2000.

The constituency association is reportedly looking to select a candidate by mid-September, which would fit with the Tory leadership’s hope that Boris doesn’t distract the party conference later that month.

Hertsmere

Tory majority: 37.3 per cent
How “safe”: 13th safest
Distance from City Hall: 16.4 miles (62 minute drive)

Uxbridge is a safe seat, but Hertsmere is one of the safest Tory seats in the country. Only 12 other seats returned larger majorities in 2010.

The seat also became available last month, when James Clappison stepped down – apparently at the behest of his local association. If they were looking for a more high-profile MP, after 23 years of Clappison’s quiet localism, Boris could be their man.

The long-serving Thatcherite minister Cecil Parkinson held the seat throughout the 1980s. Selecting Boris would bring the area national stature once again.

Kensington

Tory majority: 37.3 per cent
How “safe”: 13th safest
Distance from City Hall: 6.8 miles (43 minute drive)

There is no firm indication that Kensington’s MP, Sir Malcom Rifkind, is willing to stand down, but Kensington would certainly be the ideal seat for Johnson.

Kensington – as safe a seat as Uxbridge – takes in Boris’ cultural hinterland of High Street Kensington, Knightsbridge and Notting Hill, and would be a short trip away from City Hall.

Richmond Park

Tory majority: 6.9 per cent
How “safe”: 250th safest
Distance from City Hall: 10.5 miles (57 minute drive)

Zac Goldsmith only won the leafy London seat in 2010, but rumours have often circulated that he would be willing to step aside for Boris.

The seat look less safe than others, but the Liberal Democrats are unlikely to pose anything like the threat they did in 2010, when Goldsmith still won the seat by nearly 7 per cent.

Johnson may find the seat sleepy in comparison to the bustle of Kensington, but he would still be relatively close to City Hall and Westminster.

South Cambridgeshire

Tory majority: 13.3 per cent
How “safe”: 193rd safest
Distance from City Hall: 67.7 miles (141 minute drive)

Andrew Lansley currently occupies the seat, but he is stepping down at the next election in pursuit of an “international” role.

David Cameron passed him over for EU Commissioner, but Lansley was his boss in the early 1990s, when the Prime Minister was a young staffer in the Conservative Research Department. 

Either way, his Cambridgeshire seat appears open to Boris, although it would leave him well out of London and make his bid to continue as Mayor until 2016 all the more impractical.

 

Seat data provided by May 2015 — launching this September. Distance and driving times according to Google Maps.

 

Harry Lambert was the editor of May2015, the New Statesman's election website.

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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