When to cut your losses: the art of the political U-turn

A U-turn is the most recognisable shorthand that the politician has gotten it wrong and there’s nowhere left for them to go, writes Salma Shah

Wednesday 10 November 2021 17:32
<p>The Paterson affair has put the PM under increasing pressure </p>

The Paterson affair has put the PM under increasing pressure

The problem with politics is the exhausting requirement to be definitive and gung-ho at all times. Conciliation and compromise are the ultimate displays of weakness in our adversarial system, which has been primarily designed for constructive conflict. How can anyone make rational and complex decisions in the face of demands for simplicity and unadulterated belief?

In the last week, we’ve had ample displays of intransigence and claims of occupying the high ground. But the danger of sticking to strong positions is you don’t really know whether people actually agree with you, until you look around and see to your surprise that it’s very lonely atop that hill you decided to climb.

In the case of the government fighting Owen Paterson’s corner, it was wrongly assumed that the Tory backbenchers would fall into line and back what looks like an egregious attack on the independence of parliament. Tory MPs, in this case, were delightfully unpredictable foot soldiers.

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