I'd like to think that willingness to listen and amend proposals in the light of public discussion is one of the strengths of coalition government, in contrast to the "carry on regardless" attitude of governments with a large and docile majority, of which Thatcher and the poll tax is just the prime example. However, the "U" turns of the last 72 hours seem to indicate either lack of preparation or feebleness in the face of bullying by vested interests.
The one exception is the Justice Secretary's watering down of his proposals for certain trials to be held in secret, apparently after internal pressure from Liberal Democrats in government. This is a move in the right direction, with Liberal Democrats bolstering Ken Clarke's relatively liberal instincts in the face of right-wing and tabloid pressure, though lawyers tell us further moderation is required to preserve civil liberties.
The so called "pasty tax" was clearly the result of lack of preparation, and I feel ashamed that I fell for their explanation, that it was to bring these items into line with fish and chips. Now we discover that that does not hold water, since fish and chips are meant to be sold hot, whereas pasties and sausage rolls are meant to be sold cold, but if straight from the oven may still be warm. However, estimating whether or not the item was "above the ambient temperature" was both difficult, and pointless if the purchaser intended to eat it cold anyway. A little preliminary consultation with the industry would have avoided this silliness.
With the reduction of VAT on static caravans I have no sympathy whatsoever . Why on earth should this industry be exempted from a tax almost every other has to pay? Many people see static caravans as a blot on the landscape and at least one of my friends would like to see them pay extra tax, if not be banned altogether. Since, as holiday homes, they are luxuries, they could have been taxed at a higher rate under the old purchase tax system.This turn round is clearly a case of caving in to vested interests.
I find the the climb-down on tax exemptions for charitable donations by the rich totally unacceptable. For a fuller explanation of reasons for this see an earlier post. The rich, who do quite enough tax evasion and avoidance as it is, should not be able to opt out of paying their share of the less glamorous parts of public expenditure in order to promote their favoured obsessions, which are often of little public value, still less charitable.
The one "U" turn which would be highly desirable of course, is a reversal of the wrong-headed austerity policy, which is hampering the growth which would lead to the desirable reduction in the public deficit.