Spinners and Losers
Harry Scott-Munro takes a look at the spin behind the evermore frequent governmental U-turns and whether this is undermining their position on wider issues.
Another day, another U-turn from a government that has done more to undermine the once great values of the Conservative Party than anyone could’ve ever imagined.
Since the official declaration of a pandemic-level event back in March 2020, Boris Johnson has overseen an enormous number of U-turns in policy. A large number of these have been decisions taken by decree, without consulting the wider cabinet or putting major decisions to a vote in parliament. For a supposed ‘freedom-loving libertarian,’ the decisions taken by Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock; on the advice of SAGE, NERVTAG and groups of behavioural scientists that don’t offer a wide range of views from all sides, have seen them flip-flop in a way scarcely believable to anybody who is a keen student of politics.
It takes courage for any person, especially someone in high office, to admit that they’ve made a mistake in a policy or an approach to a topic. For them to admit this several times in an extended period, is admirable. For it to happen almost daily is chaotic and illogical. We should always champion and respect those who can admit they have made a mistake and deviate from that original course. However, we should equally be able to question the decision making when it seems to become an almost daily event.
If you look at some of the biggest U-turns of the last 10 months, one immediately is drawn to the GCSE and A Level results debacle of the summer, the announcement that schools would be kept open in January; only for the Prime Minister to cave into partisan non-scientific pressure and shut them all, without a date of reopening, just a day after the term had begun. Then, perhaps most significantly, in COVID-19 prevention policy itself. Although admittedly this flip-flop is from ministers and now prominent scientists alike, most recently with the extending of the period between vaccine dosages, against what is advised by the vaccine manufacturers, it is important throughout all of this to remember that at no point has ‘the science’ as directed by the World Health Organisation changed, the politics has.
At no point has ‘the science’ as directed by the World Health Organisation changed, the politics has
This constant U-turning, the likes of which has not been seen so publicly before from any British government, allows celebrities and others in the public eye to more readily question decisions and responses, sometimes with just reason, sometimes without any substance.
In the case of Marcus Rashford, nobody can doubt his commitment and decency in the causes he has championed, namely free school meal vouchers and his children’s book club. In both these instances, Rashford has put his money where his mouth is, speaking out in support of causes that are incredibly close to his heart and with great success. The food hampers that were sent to those usually in receipt of free school meal vouchers were completely unacceptable and the company employed by the government has since apologised for the quality of what they provided. Rashford played a crucial part in lending his voice to this cause and has admirably drawn upon his own experiences to use his position as a well-off individual in the public eye to help fund and support these causes. Sadly, too few individuals that find themselves in positions such as Marcus Rashford’s have his honesty and desire to champion these causes directly, instead choosing to merely pay lip-service.
In the instance of the free meal packages, a government U-turning on their initial decision on food hampers after considering the evidence, is admirable and does deserve praise. However, such is the number of U-turns that have already occurred throughout the last 10 months, that it looks like just another flip-flop in response to social media pressure, rather than being based on executive government policy. And of course, this situation would not have arisen if the original U-turn on schools opening in January hadn’t happened in the first place, with children continuing to get the in-person education that they need to learn and develop.
The longer that this lack of scrutiny on policy by the cabinet and the house continues, the more difficult it will be to break the cycle
Matt Hancock’s response to the food parcel issue on Good Morning Britain was obviously entertaining television, watching him squirm when reminded that he voted against free school meals. However, such is the influence that Hancock seems to hold within government decision making, are we really surprised to see him struggle to give any form of an answer to a direct question? Especially when he has spent so long dishing out policy ad-hoc, with barely anybody in the British media questioning his reasoning. Even those in cabinet that have questioned the decision-making processes he has overseen alongside Boris Johnson have been relegated to the side, left looking in on policy decisions being made by decree, with zero scrutiny, on the basis of what a small section of politicised scientists and polls suggest.
The longer that this lack of scrutiny on policy by the cabinet and the house continues, the more difficult it will be to break the cycle. So many U-turns have occurred that they have now become O-turns, with all involved sadly resigned to spiral further downwards before any improvements are to come.