Thursday, 17 February 2011

"U" turn, we want you to.

As a result of public pressure the coalition has apparently decided to abandon its plans to sell off publicly owned forests. Thanks to any readers who signed the Woodlands Trust petition. We've done our bit.

Unfortunately this sensible decision will be mocked by the media and Labour opposition as a sign of weakness, a "U" turn, an example of the government's incompetence and unfitness to govern. I prefer to see it as, if not quite a sign of strength, at least evidence of a more "grown up" attitude towards politics.

As far as I know the term "U" turn did not exist until motorways were built and it was coined to tell us that we were not allowed to turn round on one carriageway. It entered into politics when the Tories under Ted Heath (now regarded more benignly than he was at the time) abandoned his "Selsdon Man" monetarist policies in the early 70s when Heath realised the damage they would cause to the social fabric of the nation. Among other things, having argued that the state should not rescue "lame ducks" he nationalised Rolls Royce. A great deal of unnecessary pain would have been avoided if his successor as Tory leader had shown the same flexibility.

Therefore the coalition's so called "U" turn should be welcomed,and it would improve the maturity of political debate if this term, now regarded as pejorative, were abandoned, and something more positive, such as "flexibility" or "a listening government" were substituted.

Today the Welfare Reform Bill is to be introduced. Whatever its merits and demerits, there are bound to be some mistakes in it. I have long believed that legislative rules should be altered so that every Act of Parliament is automatically reviewed after six months of its operation, and as a matter of routine re-examined by parliament and altered as necessary in the light of practical experience, without any loss of face on the part of the government and the necessity for a completely new Act.

Quakers will be aware of Advices and Queries 17, which concludes: " Avoid hurtful criticism and provocative language. Do not allow the strength of your convictions to betray you into making statements or allegations that are unfair or untrue. Think it possible that you may be mistaken." (my italics) That's a pretty good rule for politics as well as for private life.


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