Neuroma Updates!

After what feels like a very long time I have news on my neuromas or lack thereof, because, actually, the ultrasound scan failed to show any evidence of any neuromas (or: neuromata).

I was very surprised by this and my brain didn’t kick into gear fast enough to ask my GP questions about the reliability of the scan or differential diagnoses, so I’m really none the wiser, but part of the reason for that is because by the time I’d had chance to process the situation she had already told me she would refer me to a podiatrist, which is the correct next step, sooo…

So, is this good? I don’t know. I mean, it’s nice that the nerve is apparently not damaged, but it doesn’t change the fact that it feels like it is.

It has actually felt a bit better over the last few months and since I took the four weeks off running before I saw my GP the first time, I have been running twice a week and haven’t missed a single run, even while being struck with 3 different colds in this period.

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Irish issues

I was gripped today by the coverage of the brexit Irish border issue. It started off this morning looking like no progress would be made, but then rumours started spreading that the UK was going to concede on some issues to keep Northern Ireland kind of maybe nearly almost in the single market (unofficially, but pretty much) to solve the border issue. This scared the DUP, who want no divergence with the rest of the UK and definitely no steps towards Irish reunification, into calling a hasty press conference saying they wouldn’t support it, and shortly afterwards the whole thing was called off.

There is so much detail in here.

1. Putting the border in the sea is a good idea to move negotiations forward but essentially it’s just re-categorised it from an international UK-EU issue to an internal UK issue. Without a credible way of solving the internal problem, it’s still going to block any final deal. And obviously, the logical implication of the internal problem is to keep the rest of the UK in the single market too.

2. The DUP are a only a problem because the minority Conservative government relies on their support for an effective majority, and the DUP are historically completely irrelevant to non-NI politics. This seems like a very circumstantial problem, not that this observation helps with solving it, because to shed the circumstances requires calling and winning a new election. It’s just worth taking a moment to appreciate how bonkers the situation is that the DUP, who have never wielded any power outside NI, would happen to become important during the one parliament they can veto something like this.

3. The DUP’s aims are contradictory – they want an ultra hard brexit (despite NI actually voting remain) and to fully remain part of the UK, but they also want no border with the Republic of Ireland. Irish politics is very hard to understand, I think because you need to be familiar with decades of religious and political violence for it to make any sense.

4. It seems odd that Theresa May apparently didn’t discuss this with the DUP first. She knew it would be contentious to them and that she relies on their support. Maybe she was calling their bluff and hoping they’d back her over risking the collapse of the government (and ergo their own influence)?

5. It’s possible the rumours were started by the EU side to try to drive up hype. Not sure what the aim of this would be though – to pressure TM into accepting, to stoke the DUP tensions at home, or to all-out undermine her? The EU are pretty good at this sort of thing – see how they dealt with Yanis Varafoukis, but I’m not convinced they’re doing it here.

6. However, if Theresa May didn’t intend for this to be the solution, what was her plan? It would be like turning up without doing your homework and hoping the teacher won’t notice. It’s fair to say the UK government has no expectation of a hard border in Ireland because there is no preparation going on – we’d expect them to be buying up land along the border, if so.

7. So in conclusion she was probably calling the DUP’s bluff and it backfired on her. This is the folly of trying to negotiate brexit with the weakest government in living memory, which only became so weak because people were opposed to brexit.

The only real choice Theresa May has right now is to try to fudge it to placate the DUP and hope that by the time the details matter that she has some more options, but that’s exactly what she was trying to do. Anything else will see a DUP revolt, a party revolt or EU talks break down, all of which likely see Mr Corbyn in number 10 in the not so distant future, and quite possibly no brexit after all.

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Usually I average about one cold per year. I really hate colds and since contracting a particularly bad one about six years ago I’ve become obsessive about avoiding them, mostly successfully…

…until this year, which has so far seen me have no fewer than three! I had one in March, one in October then one about four weeks later in November. Around the end of August I also started with some unusually bad seasonal allergies, which have very similar symptoms. This confuses things a bit as I never know whether I’m ill or just allergic to something until the following day when my anti-histamine tablet has or has not done anything, or the cold starts to follow a progression.

As if this isn’t enough, only two weeks after the last one, I have now developed something suspiciously similar. My throat is sore, the sinuses in my forehead head hurt, my nose is blocked, and every so often I manage to dislodge some very thick mucus in the back of my nose and work it into my mouth, which is every bit as unpleasant as it sounds, although looking at the volume of the stuff that’s coming out it’s no wonder my throat feels horrible. It’s been 48 hours now and it hasn’t developed into the usual relentless sneezing so I’m hoping I may be spared a full cold, although I’m sure it’s still YET ANOTHER viral infection.

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The brexit effect

The Hammond era budgets seem to be following the pattern of being extremely boring. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: without Osborne-style flashy give-aways, the Tories will struggle to retain their image that they are good for the economy, because the hard data strongly suggests otherwise.

The neither-good-nor-bad news is that the personal allowance rises at the same rate as inflation, stamp duty cuts will probably have no effect because the housing market is currently broken and will simply absorb that credit due to a lack of competition, and we have an 18-30 year old rail card which is fairly useless as it can’t be used at peak times. The good news is that we’re expecting to accelerate house building to 300,000 per year by some point in the future, but we’ve been literally creating money out of thin air to subsidise housing for decades (yes, literally creating money; money lent in mortgages is brought into existence by adding numbers into a database) – if we’re not building them already, it’s not because it needs more money thrown at it, so I’m sceptical this will actually happen and it wouldn’t be the first time in recent memory that a Tory house building project didn’t amount to anything.

The bad news is that growth has been cut significantly and is expected to remain low until at least 2021. If this pans out, it’ll be the longest period of such low growth since WW2. The budget deficit is now estimated to run until 2031, meaning that what was supposed to take 5 years due to the magic of austerity is actually going to take 21 years due to the magical beans not working as advertised. Worse, pay is not expected to return to 2008 levels until 2025; which means almost two lost decades for anyone who was graduating university in, say, 2008… like me.

So overall… somehow I don’t think the Conservatives are going to see much progress on their youth vote problem any time soon.

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Two notable things have happened this week, both of which reflect badly on Theresa May.

The Priti Patel debacle is quite incredible. It transpired that she, a cabinet minister, had been having secretive meetings with the Israeli prime minister and other officials. When Theresa May found out she called her into her office and made her explain herself. Apparently May was happy with whatever she said, because Patel went back to work. Only a few days later when it transpired that there had been additional meetings which she hadn’t admitted to did May sack her. This is extraordinary. If you find out your ministers are conducting their own private foreign policy then you need to sack then as soon as you find out, and you also need to get the police and possibly intelligence services involved and try to establish exactly what the Israelis thought they were getting out of it. That TM was so reluctant to sack PP is not a good reflection on her and instead makes her look like she’s paralysed by fear of upsetting her back benches.

Secondly we have team Boris. The long and the short of it is that foreign secretary Boris Johnson has endangered the well-being of a British citizen detained in Iran, by claiming she was doing something which there is no evidence to support. It was probably an honest if unfortunate mistake, but it’s typical Boris to make a mess of things and in this case it has serious consequences for the woman concerned. Boris has probably been kept in government thus far because if he was on the backbenches he’d be making a lot of noise about how brexit in’t going well and under his leadership instead it would be much better; this way he has to take (some) responsibility for it. However, he is a liability to the government because he’s an idiot. TM is unlikely to get a better justification to sack him than this, and had she capitalised on it she could have destroyed his reputation sufficiently that any rebellion led by him would never have garnered much support. We’ve had two prominent brexiters committing what would usually be described as gross misconduct within the same week – if you were waiting for the opportune moment to start sidelining them, that was it.

As if this wasn’t surreal enough already, Michael Gove now wanders in. The official line is that the woman was on holiday in Iran and taking her child to see her (Iranian) parents, but during an interview, Gove claimed he had no idea why she was there. It’s a strange detail but it looks like he was trying not to contradict Boris and it adds fuel to the otherwise unfounded speculation that she is a western Spy ergo Iran is justified in locking her up. It would have been easy to say “as far as we know, she was on holiday and we have no reason to doubt this”.

Behind the scenes there are some rumours and a leaked memo saying that Gove and Boris are together trying to pressure TM over brexit. Gove and Boris have form when it comes to brexit; when David Cameron resigned and everyone was getting their leadership bids in order, it seemed almost certain that Boris would launch his, with Gove’s close backing. According to the leaks that came out afterwards, Boris had been liberally promising prominent positions to backers, and Andrea Leadsom of all people was convinced she was going to be his chancellor. It all fell apart when they couldn’t get firm assurances out of Boris, which led to Leadsom and Gove separately launching their own campaigns – Gove, apparently, at the behest of his wife (Sarah Vine) who urged him not to trust Boris – which is ironic because he was probably the one person who could trust him. It all happened over the night before the 12:00PM deadline the next day, and when Boris found out that morning that Gove had abandoned him he felt so betrayed that he declined to stand, which he announced at the very end of what would have been his campaign launch speech, just before 12:00. The irony is that Gove’s leadership campaign was a disaster and he only achieved 14% of the votes. It’s a catalogue of amateur level political manoeuvring by a group of supposedly senior and experienced politicians.

Gove and Boris teaming up again – especially in the aftermath of a pretty serious gaff on behalf of Boris – is less Machiavelli and more a Chuckle Brothers reunion. We should be concerned that they’re cosying up again, but probably not as concerned as they should be.

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I read that we are today exactly half way between the EU referendum and the expected date of us leaving the EU.

It’s astounding how much things have changed in that time, and also how much things haven’t changed.

What hasn’t changed is that we still have no well defined or achievable aims, and therefore no credible plan for leaving the EU. This is astounding in itself.

What has changed is that we’ve gone from what used to be a fairly well respected if not overly popular Conservative government run by Cameron and Osborne who were both reasonably competent at what they did even if we didn’t always like what they did, which has transformed into a government that is not respected, not competent, and looks like it could collapse at any minute. The previously carefully managed Conservative brand has been trashed quite heavily, and Jeremy Corbyn, who was universally regarded as a bad joke on the day of the referendum, is looking like the next prime minister.

This makes it hard to predict the future. Essentially, due to the government’s precarious position, there’s an increased chance of chaos. Extreme options become more likely, but we can’t say in which direction.

Possibilities, in order of my feeling of probability:

1. Cooler heads prevail and we end up with something worse than what we have now, which causes a slide in living standards and resentment grows towards the Conservatives
2. Failure to get an acceptable deal will lead to a loss of confidence in the government and at the last minute we renege on leaving with some kind of fudge – perhaps via a second referendum (god I hope not)
3. We get no deal after all and get kicked out with no real preparation, which causes a hard economic shock and sudden logistics issues cause major disruptions in certain areas
4. The weaker-than-ever government collapses and Labour ends up negotiating the exit or lack thereof. Their end-game is anyone’s guess (not that the Tories have been any clearer), but they appear to be more willing to be pragmatic.

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Mr Tusks

With all the news about Donald Tusk, I only just noticed how familiar he looks…

Someone on Twitter agrees with me, so I’ve stolen their picture


credit: This guy

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