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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GP #2

So I had my GP appointment and the outcome is that I’ll be having an ultrasound scan on my right foot (not my left, because I don’t know, budget constraints?). This is OK really, the injuries are symmetric enough, although not 100%. First space is worse on the right, third space is worse on the left. Maybe I should have gone for the left. I don’t know. Probably makes no difference.

I don’t know what the waiting time will be but I guess 4-8 weeks plus another couple of weeks for the results to get back to the GP, which is fine really.

So now I will have to think more seriously about treatment. The MN on the right foot is probably not currently worth treating because it’s not affecting me much, although it does seem worse now than it has been for a long time. The MN in the left foot has been more painful and I may be tempted to try an injection, assuming there isn’t a conspicuous absence of a neuroma on the ultrasound. The pains in the first interspace are less clear; as they are relatively new I am yet to see whether they are actually problematic. They may subside over the next couple of months (the nerve feelings seem to have subsided, but there’s still discomfort at the metatarsal heads). I’m very curious to see what the ultrasound shows here, as neuromas in this space are supposedly unusual.

There’s still a big unknown in how everything will handle running from here on. I’ve had four weeks out now but I’ll start again this weekend. I have retired my Altra shoes as I suspect these exaggerate my pronation due to being inherently unstable, which likely triggered the first space problems. I bought some more supportive Asics, which I might rotate with my neutral pair. I have time to experiment with this a bit.

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So… I have a GP appointment after all.

It turns out I can book them online now, which is convenient.

I’m triggering the new ‘nerve’ feelings less by accident but I can still reproduce them when I push around my metatarsals. That’s probably an improvement but I seem to have developed a big increase in general discomfort and soreness in my feet. Some of the soreness is around/under the offending metatarsals, so, OK, that’s not a big surprise, but the other discomfort is pretty general and vague.

I probably won’t run again until after the appointment because that shuts down any “have you tried not running for a few weeks?”. It will be four weeks on the day of the appointment.

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I learnt a few things this week:

1. A neuroma between the first/second toe is not called a Joplin’s neuroma as I said previously; a Joplin’s neuroma is actually on the medial side of the big toe and is very different. Regardless, the consensus seems to be that 1st interspace neuromas are very rare for reasons no one wants to specify, such that other diagnoses are more likely to be correct even when nerve ‘feelings’ are involved (I think because inflammation of other structures can put pressure on nerves).

Whether this is true or not I don’t know, but I’m not too interested in this kind of speculation right now, because, firstly, I’ve had a light week and it feels a bit better (but maybe I’ll change my mind this week when I resume my normal walking volume), and secondly…

2. …The second thing I learnt, thanks to filming myself running, is that I have been (over-)pronating much more than I realised.

Barefoot: Right foot is fine, left foot pronates a bit more and might just be into over-pronation territory, but not by much.

Shoes (all of which are neutral): In my Asics and New Balance I’m more stable than barefoot and fairly neutral. In Altras I’m less stable than barefoot and overpronating on both feet noticeably. That’s right, the right foot goes from neutral-ish to overpronation.

I’m very surprised that this is possible, but here’s an interesting and detailed article by someone observing neutral shoes making him overpronate much more than barefoot; his theory is that some shoes absorb force unevenly and your foot will follow the motion of the shoe, or perhaps in other words, the shoe itself is overpronating.

I was running in the Altras (exclusively) for just under six weeks before I noticed these issues, so there is an obvious hypothesis here.

So, OK, I suspected over-pronation from the callusing on my feet, but seeing it in video is useful because it clears up some confusion in my mind over how much stability I want in a running shoe. I have been pushing towards less to try to promote natural mechanics, but at least in this case, what I’ve ended up with is certainly not my natural mechanics.

Current plan: rest for another week, maybe two, then try running again with more supportive shoes. GP appointment if it gets worse during any of this or if after two weeks it doesn’t feel good enough for a test run.

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