Saturday, June 02, 2012


Been so much stuff in the media about U-turns lately that its become rather 'old hat'. I'm featuring in an article in today's Western Mail by the ever-thoughtful David Williamson.  As always I'm very content with what he wrote.  What usually happens is that we talk freely for a good 10 minutes about an issue, and he picks a line or two to suit. Its always risky from my position because he makes me think aloud. Dangerous practise.
Question is how should we look at Gov't U-turns (or changing of minds in response to public reaction).  Since Mrs T made a virtue out of of not U-turning, its generally portrayed as a sign of weakness. But is it?  In passing, I reckon Mrs T would have been better off if she had U-turned on the Community Charge/Poll Tax! Whatever, lets take some of the budget proposals.
Firstly the most important change of policy - the decision not to impose 20% VAT on static caravans. Its no secret to those I discussed this with that I did not think this was a great idea. I understand why it was put forward. Logical that mobile and static caravans should be treated equally - but it would be too disruptive, particularly to manufacturing businesses.  The new proposal for a 5% rate is sensible.  So I'm rather pleased with this U-turn. I still remember the first time I was left up a tree without a paddle - on the proposals to change forestry ownership. I thought that proposal was right too, said so publicly and was well stranded by a U-turn - the day after I wrote to 250 constituents backing it. But it was what the people wanted, and no-one mentioned my embarrassment to me - not one single person.
Secondly the pasty tax. I agreed with this proposal and went on national TV to support it. My constituency has lots of good fish and chip shops! The U-turn left me stranded. But I can see that it was a highly unpopular. Left me stranded - but its what the people wanted.  I'll soon get over my discomfort - already have! Would we really have been right to push on with it. Perhaps its better to be wise than strong. Much the same can be said about the changes to charitable donations.
The big changes in the budget have been left intact.  This is being completely ignored by the media, and there is little public debate about it. There has been no U-turn on the proposals to equalise the level of tax free allowances across age groups, taking huge numbers of people out of the tax system altogether - or about the important Corporation Tax changes.
OK, so the media have had a field day over what were less important issues in the budget. But Mrs D, who is a good judge of these things doesn't like it at all. She likes the idea of 'you turn if you want to, I'm not'. But I'm left asking myself whether this is all a bit of old fashioned 'macho'. At a very basic philosophical level, every Gov't makes proposals which it comes to regret, but its only a very stupid Gov't which carries on after realising it. Discuss.


John Jones said...

Is this a lead up to the next U-Turn "The Greenest Government Ever"
We all know that David C is passionate about renewable energy (as I am), but if the 101 are not rowing in beat with the coxswain then the boat is likely to capsize!
Regarding Mrs Thatcher, remember when we had electricity rationed because of the Miners strike and the whole country was held to ransom. She was right not to be held to ransom. So the same With David C He must hold fast his course through the storm of opposition by a minority against onshore wind.

Anonymous said...

I think it's ok when Government make U-turns, but the number this Government has (even on minor issues) is rather embarrassing.

I particularly take note with the pasty tax. After weeks of bad news about it, the story finally went quiet. There wasn't really any complaints. From nowhere the Gov resurrected the story unnecessarily and did a U-turn!- I still don't know why!.

So to conclude- yes do U-turns when necessary, however don't do as much otherwise you'll be stuck on the same stretch of motorway for years!! Think policies through before announcing them!
Oh yes and whilst I'm commenting: yes if the boundaries are to be reformed, then there should be changes to the Assembly. STV is my preference (I don't like "regional AM's" as they just walk into a job). However if that isn't an option I'd prefer 30/30. If possible try not to change boundaries too much- there is already a concentration of AM's on the M4 corridor (what about North/Mid).
I also think that no Lord should be allowed to sit in the Assembly. And also if one is elected MP and AM a time limit should be in place to ensure they must quite one.
But above all else- keep PR in place... it's a very health thing!