Thursday, June 09, 2011

Prime Minister: U-Turn If You Want To

I am about to break a cardinal rule of politics; I am in favour of U-Turns.

Yes, you should read that again, because its true.

I am in favour of U-Turns. Or, as I like to put it, I am in favour of government's admitting they don't always know best, don't have all the solutions, will get somethings wrong, will have to listen, will have to adapt and change proposals and won't always push and barge things through because they know best and you don't.

Of course, British politics adhors a U-turn. We like "first past the post" because it - usually - gives us strong and stable government with a majority in parliament to put through the manifesto on which they were elected. So in the real world of politics, once you have your Commons majority and the people (well, 40% of them) love you, then you can implement what you like.

But, when suddenly we are left hung, what then happens? Well I think u-turns are a natural - and almost progressive - side effect of a hung parliament. No longer can the government use the whips to ram stuff through parliament no matter what people say. They have to build a coalition from amongst their own MPs; satisfy the Simon Hughes of this world and also those on the Tory right such as Cash, Jenkins and Redwood. They are much more fragile and therefore people power and the press will have a much bigger say on what the government does.

So when you see the left-wing press (the Mirror in particular) and opposition MPs gloating about the U-turns, I would ask what they would like instead. Would Miliband, Balls, Harman - or Toynbee or Maguire - really prefer the NHS bill in its original form, or the sale of the forests to go ahead? They see the political chance to hit the government without realising they are getting more of what they want - so the U-turn must be a good thing. Aren't these proposals betetr after the u-turn than they were before (well, if you from the left)? More grown-up politics, perhaps?

I like the idea that a government puts forward an idea, gets feedback and then changes its mind (or not) depending on what happens. Dare I say, a "listening government".

So yes, I do like u-turns. And I hope that a future majority Conservative government keep that way of working as it is one of the best features of government.

And p.s. To those who say the government should have it right first time, every time. Name me a government of any political hue, anywhere in the world, at any point in history, that has done this. Cameron isn't perfect and people will respect those who got it wrong, put their hands up, admit it, apologise, move on and learn fromt it.

No comments: