14 June 2011

In Praise of U-Turns

Governments have three options:

Option 1: Be a radical, reforming government, and plough on with the reforms you feel are right for the country even in the face of criticism and unpopularity at your ideas.

Option 2: Avoid any reforms that might be controversial to avoid deep unpopularity.

Option 3: Be a radical, reforming government, but be willing to change course to avoid making unpopular and flawed reforms.

Option 1 was clearly favoured by Thatcher, as espoused by her famous quote - "the lady's not for turning". The problem is that such a belligerent attitude is deeply divisive, and while you may win some praise for 'strong leadership', your reforms could create negative consequences that could be avoided if you'd listened to criticism.

Option 2 will no doubt avoid lots of negative press. But what's the point in getting into power, something you've worked for your entire life, only to not do anything with it? You also miss the chance to make changes for the better, simply out of timidity at making a decision.

Option 3 involves changing your mind, and therefore provides an easy opportunity to be attacked as being 'not in control', prone to 'U-Turns', and of 'weak leadership'. However the benefits are numerous - your more popular and less criticised reforms will get through and have a real impact, and the policies that change will end up being better for the country. While you may be painted as 'weak' as you change course, it is clearly stronger than not trying make changes in the first place, and it takes courage to alter your plans in the face of insults thrown from the opposition.

A U-Turning government is a more pragmatic government, a more courageous government, a more democratic government, and if we're to have any faith in democratic process at all, it should prove to be a more successful government.

So here's to listening, engaging, responding, reforming, and yes, U-Turns.

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