David Cameron says "red warning lights" are flashing for another economic crunch. Photo: Getty
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David Cameron's warning of another global recession could help the Tories

The Prime Minister cautions that we are on the brink of another global economic meltdown, but this could be politically expedient for his party.

David Cameron warns that we could be on the verge of another global recession. He refers to "red warning lights" flashing once again signalling another economic meltdown could be on the way, in an article for the GuardianHis opening paragraph reads:

Six years on from the financial crash that brought the world to its knees, red warning lights are once again flashing on the dashboard of the global economy.

In the piece, he writes of the economy worldwide potentially slowing down due to current affairs crises such as the ebola outbreak, the tempestuous situation in Ukraine and the Middle East, the eurozone's difficulties, and slow growth in emerging markets, as well as mentioning "stalled" global trade talks.

Labour's shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, Chris Leslie, has responded to this article suggesting Cameron is simply "making excuses for slower growth", referring to borrowing "going up so far this year" and exports falling "behind our competitors".

However, the Prime Minister's intervention is a tricky one for his opponents, because it is politically expedient for the Conservatives to suggest that the global economy remains precarious. Throughout his piece, Cameron uses the phrase "long-term plan", which is a clear echo of the Tories' slogan du jour "long-term economic plan". The way the party is fighting the upcoming election is to suggest that the only path to achieving financial stability is to stick with the government that has been tackling, with some effect, our economic problems for over four years, and not to risk changing the strategy by voting in a different party.

Cameron is undoubtedly preparing the country for the Chancellor having to explain, in the imminent Autumn Statement, awkward figures like why borrowing is increasing, and any corresponding harsh economic policies. However, as elements of a national economic recovery set in, and the Tories creep ahead in the polls, it seems the fact that they are still more trusted than the Labour party on the economy means that warning of future external destabilising factors could work in their favour. It has the added benefit of putting the economy, on which the Tories can speak with some authority, back at the top of the political agenda, as opposed to Ukip-friendly subjects such as immigration and Europe.

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