Metatarsalgia #11

Last Friday I went back to the doctors about my foot and have now been referred to a specialist, whatever that involves and when it will be I don’t know yet.

It seems to be hurting on average much less than it was in, say, February. It’s still uncomfortable at times so it’s easy to feel like it’s been going on since October with no real progress, but I do lots of things now and think “this used to hurt”. I’m still on only one run per week though, which is a bit frustrating, and walking in general can still be uncomfortable.

I feel like I’m under-pronating much less than before and my foot in general feels much happier flattening out, but there is still more work to do there. As soon as I hit rough ground it reverts back to being rigid, so running on grass is counter-intuitively a bit tough.

Unfortunately the sharp pain when I go onto my tip toes seems to be completely unchanged, despite months of literally avoiding aggravating it even a tiny bit. It’s a very sharp, localised pain that feels like a needle is being stuck into my foot. I suspect this is a Morton’s neuroma and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get better on its own, which is bad news because it doesn’t appear that modern medicine has figured out how to treat it reliably. Even cutting the nerve out doesn’t seem to always work. I will definitely mention this to the specialist, although the symptoms are practical to avoid for now, but I do wonder if my subconscious reluctance to go onto my tip toes is affecting my gait.

Overall: very slow progress, but on the plus side my CS:GO skills are going through the roof.

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Strikes

Today the Conservative government announced that workers’ strikes may only be held if they are backed by 40% of all eligible voters. This is the government which came to power after receiving the backing of 24% of all eligible voters.

Still think the Lib Dems were useless?

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Austerity protests

So… two days after the general election we have protests. Conservative governments and protests have a long and rich history, but two days is pretty impressive.

The Tories are in for a tough time and I think without the Lib Dems to distract everyone, Cameron is quickly going to find himself out of his depth.

We’ve seen that an extremely marginal, probably statistically insignificant, difference in support (0.8%) can make all the difference between having and not having a ‘legitimate’ government. They have a fairly thin 8 seat majority (including speaker), and the Tory party sweeps up a lot of diverse members because our voting system makes it near impossible to be elected as part of another party. They aren’t unified at all and that small majority isn’t safe.

Ukip has a huge piece of capital in the fact that almost four million of their voters have seen their votes discarded. We saw two Tory to Ukip defections last year. If there was a plausible means for the public to elect Ukip MPs, we’d probably see 30 defections overnight.

If Cameron treats the EU referendum with the same contempt as he did the AV referendum he’ll greatly annoy his Eurosceptic party members, but if he doesn’t, there’s a chance we’ll exit the EU, which (he knows) would be disastrous.

Cameron has to handle all of this while committing to his promised austerity, which is very likely to fail to yield any benefits while slowly exposing more and more people to its harmful effects, thereby eroding his 0.8% majority margin. And then there’s the mess he’s made in Scotland by portraying the Scots as the enemy. He may have successfully divided Labour but the SNP are hardly going to be nice to him.

History may yet be very unkind to Cameron.

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Austerity

Austerity is a good idea for personal economics because your income comes from your job and is independent of your outgoings, so lowering your outgoings will always result in saving more money. This simple identity is probably why the idea of austerity sounds right and resonates so effectively among ordinary people.

But the idea that “my country’s economy would be great if it wasn’t spending all this money” is not the same thing; it is more akin to a CEO saying “we’d be making much more money if we didn’t employ all these people”. Well, maybe you can wiggle it a bit, but if you sack everyone you’re probably not going to make much money at all. If you’re not spending money, you’re not going to make money, and you’re still probably going to have some expenses. You can’t simply stop spending money and expect the rest of your accounts to continue unchanged.

You don’t need to be an economist to see that austerity doesn’t work. It just doesn’t pass a common sense check.

Austerity is a means of transferring wealth from the poor to the rich. Poor people are hit heavily by austerity, rich people not so much. It’s a tool to increase inequality, and this is fundamentally terrible for the health of an economy, because it sucks demand out of your economy by making sure that people have less money to spend. Inequality isn’t just morally wrong, it’s economically dangerous.

The following graph demonstrates this quite clearly. The UK’s economic recovery was mirroring the USA’s until 2010 (the black vertical line is Q2 2010), at which point the Tories enacted austerity, and it’s struggled ever since. This is a completely logical, completely predictable outcome.

uk-vs-us-real-gdp-in-current-downturn

Note that Labour also wanted austerity, which might help explain why they underperformed. People probably would vote for an anti-austerity party.

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More election thoughts

Wow, that was a rollercoaster.

On the one hand I’m disappointed that Cameron and Osborne are still in power. I’m a software developer, I earn a decent wage, I might even be a couple of hundred pounds per year up with their tax breaks. But I strongly disagree that they are good for the country overall or the health of the economy in general.

As I said earlier, the Tories’ vote share is not significantly higher than it was in 2010, so this is not the voice of the British public, it is just an artefact of our stupid voting system which essentially randomises its input. Blame the system, not the voters.

I’m bitterly resentful of our FPTP system which tells me my opinion is worth less than a Tory voter’s. It’s the second general election I’ve voted in, but I still feel like I was tricked into legitimising a system that is artificially weighted against me. I think it is a complete failure that we have 3 million Ukip voters, who feel strongly enough to seek out a relatively extreme party, and we are telling them “nah sorry, your vote’s worthless because you support the wrong party”. That doesn’t address their concerns. That just makes them think they’re being marginalised. And they’re right, and they’ll come back stronger and more extreme.

I don’t blame anyone for not voting because the system is stupid and frankly I feel stupid for legitimising it.

On the other hand, I said before that I thought this was a bad election to win, and I still believe that. I don’t really class a Labour win as a personal win since I don’t really support Labour, but it would have been more of a win than what actually happened. Let’s put the feelings aside and look at this logically.

The Tories were confused about whether they even wanted to win. Their campaign was lacklustre and only late in the day did they suddenly promise lots of free money (which they can’t possibly follow through on) to everyone. Now they have won they might remember why they were hesitant, and they can’t hide behind the Lib Dems this time around.

Economic growth has been bad over the last five years, but the Tories have managed to get the public to believe that it’s on the verge of a strong upswing, even though there’s no real evidence for it. Had Labour taken over and that upswing never occurred, they would have been blamed for wrecking the Tories’ carefully laid plans. Now when that fails to materialise, the Tories have to take the blame and we might lose the absurd perception that the Tories are more economically responsible than Labour.

A crushing Labour defeat is the only outcome that could possibly cause Labour to be in a strong position in 2020. Ed Balls was never a popular figure and he’s now lost his seat, so there’s no risk of him becoming leader. Miliband was never a popular figure, rightly or wrongly, and he’s now gone. It’s not ideal, but Labour will have learnt a strong lesson about the value of choosing leaders who are not so easy to ridicule. Miliband was a bad leader of the opposition regardless of personal attacks; he spent about four and a half of the last five years staying largely out of the public eye, and when he did finally appear he focussed on shallow issues that were transparently populist. Sure, he got his act together in the last few weeks, but that’s not enough. Had Miliband got in with a minority government or coalition they’d have brushed off a lot of problems, refused to learn from their mistakes, and then been hammered in 2020. I hope that their leadership election looks to their backbenches instead of going for a senior party member, and the new leadership gives the boot to their current liabilities like Diane Abbot and Harriet Harman. I also hope that if they get it wrong, they’re willing to call a no confidence vote in 2017 like they should have done with Miliband.

The main downsides of this outcome, aside from the obvious concerns about NHS and other public spending, are:

Voting reform is off the agenda. The current system is undemocratic and frankly offensive. A possible silver lining is that as FPTP is benefiting the Tories much more than Labour, Labour might come out in favour of reform. We won’t get it while the Tories hold a majority, but it might become a pledge in the 2020 campaign.

We have to survive an EU membership referendum. It’s absurd that Cameron can simultaneously claim to have a “long term economic plan” while not knowing whether we’re going to have access to European markets in three years.

We are locked in to Tory economic policies which have so far been extremely underwhelming and quite hostile to young people. Don’t expect any wage growth for a while. This is seriously bad news for lower earners.

We now have to take the full authoritarian Tory surveillance state. The Lib Dems torpedoed their plans before, now we have no such protection. Theresa May is already promising to spend lots of taxpayer money, which we allegedly don’t have, on spying on us all. Oh the joy.

We’ll probably see a tuition fee hike in the near future. It’s an open secret that the Tories wanted them higher than £9k, and I suspect they’ll introduce that sooner rather than later – they won’t want it to be on people’s minds nearing 2020.

We’ve lost some good Lib Dem MPs like Julian Huppert and Vince Cable. We have a high enough ratio of muppets in the commons without kicking out the MPs who genuinely know what they’re talking about.

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We desperately need electoral reform

The Conservative support base is no bigger than it was in 2010. They are still getting ~37% of the vote, like they did in 2010, but they now have >50% of the seats. The fact that they’ve won so many seats is an artefact of the voting system, not a shift in public opinion. Labour has actually gained percentage points, but still lost 25 seats. Ukip have a third of the Tories’ votes but only approximately 0.3% (1/330) of the seats. Ukip, Lib Dems and the Greens put together have around 25% of the vote, but less than 2% of the seats.

This result is not about what the public voted for, so let’s not frame it like it is.

This is the result of a system that weights votes such that Conservative votes are worth more than votes for other parties. We should be ashamed to be represented by such a broken and undemocratic system.

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Exit polls

Exit polls have the Tories at 316 seats and Labour at 239.

what
the
fuck

Ok, this is interesting and astonishing and frankly disheartening. BBC predicts Lib dems are down to 10 seats (!) but 316 + 10 = a majority, so we might be in for another Con/Lib coalition. But things get interesting because if the lib dems really have lost 50/60 of their seats then there’s a good chance that Clegg’s no longer their leader, so who knows what the agreement will be.

The biggest concern now is if the tories stay in power we have to weather an EU membership referendum. Say goodbye to our stable economy if that goes through.

In some ways a crushing Labour defeat is a good thing because it gives them a fighting chance for 2020. I would have so preferred electoral reform and reducing their influence, but oh well, a 2 party system is better than a 1 party system.

And before I go to bed: let’s also remember that the exit poll is only a 20k person sample and applying that to FPTP is difficult at best.

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