Heat up the pasty! U can turn if you want to
‘You turn if you want to: the lady’s not for turning’. Yes, the mother of the odium surrounding U-turns was almost certainly Mrs. Thatcher herself, speaking at a Tory party conference at the zenith of her power.
Her speech writers wallowed in their conjuring of Christopher Fry’s ‘The lady’s not for burning’.
Yet in that one vainglorious moment they incinerated any lurking respect there might be for changing one’s mind in public life.
Far from attempting any U-turn on U-turns, Labour used the fear of loss and of eighteen more years in the wilderness, to consolidate the Thatcher view of being caught changing one’s mind. Find ‘U-turn’ in any newspaper headline in Labour’s warrior age, and it heralds bad news indeed.
Last night, the gentle scent of heating pasties indicated that we are indeed entering a new era. The coalition government appears to have lit the Jubilee bonfires ahead of time. But the scent is not that of sizzling meat battling to break out of thick crusts of pastry, but of pig headed recent history in which changing ones mind on an often bad idea was seen as an act of cowardice. So, all the signs are that the unpopular idea of charging VAT on a hot pasty, but not on a cold one, has perfectly reasonably been binned. So too proposed plans for the level of VAT on fixed caravans.
I Googled this government’s U-turns in its first two and years in office. I counted 45 before giving up for lack of justifiable time. These included one of the most celebrated – that of the decision earlier this month to change the type of plane to put on Britain’s new aircraft carriers. Those who whine that there is an even more rewarding U-turnavailable – that of scrapping the entire aircraft carrier project altogether, are quite simply getting ahead of the curve, and becoming carried away themselves.
So let’s hear it for the U-turn; the listening turn; the pragmatic turn; the turn that accepts that sometimes, even politicians are allowed to accept that the original idea was, quite simply, bonkers.
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