U-turning on policy, when faced with overwhelming resistance, demonstrates a government’s ability to listen to its electorate. But, not only that. It also illustrates our ability, as an electorate, to hold our government to account. However, it raises concerns when a government continually performs too many U-turns, and questions need to be asked. Does our government have the authority, the conviction and most importantly, a coherent plan to run the United Kingdom?
I believe that we currently see a government that fails to meet these requirements. In June 2020, the word U-turn was cited 69 times in parliament, which was more than any other month of this year, according to Hansard. When you inspect the last few months of government, you can understand why the term has been used so much.
A-level results were reversed to teachers’ predicted grades, and the plan to allow all primary school kids back to school has been scrapped. The NHSX Track and Trace system we were promised was never launched in June, and we may have to wait until autumn to see an app, or we may never see an app at all. Free School meals continued despite government attempts to scrap them, and the eviction ban was due to expire until the government was forced to extend it amidst mounting pressure. Boris Johnson adamantly defended the NHS surcharge on migrant healthcare workers, yet days later abolished the scheme. In June, after Jacob Rees-Mogg insisted on replacing remote voting in parliament,remote voting was reinstated after kilometre-long lines had formed outside the House of Commons. Most recently, we have seen nations gradually being removed off the list of air-bridges, that the UK had established with 73 countries, due to recent spikes in cases.
The Conservative government are simply throwing ideas into a pot and waiting to see what happens, despite clear evidence that policies will cause outrage or will blatantly not work. Gavin Williamson knew for weeks in advance that 40% of students were going to have their grades downgraded, and yet continued as planned. Remote voting was still essential due to the high number of cases and deaths, and the vulnerability of a number of MPs. British and migrant doctors, nurses, cleaners and porters, alike, have done astounding work throughout this pandemic, not to mention they saved the Prime Minister’s life. The NHS surcharge was a ridiculous idea that was certain to be met with resistance.
Instead of being proactive, the government has chosen to be reactive which demonstrates pathetic, weedy and anaemic leadership. Our Prime Minister idealises Winston Churchill’s robust, dynamic and commanding guidance, except the only character Johnson currently resembles is that of a learner driver. Whilst he may be the one driving the car, the electorate are the ones directing and steering the government away from disastrous and unpopular policies.
Boris Johnson can portray all the bottomless, meaningfulness and empty slogans he wants, but it does not hide his lack of plan and direction for the country’s affairs.
Good government leads from the top, but right now, we are leading the government. Margaret Thatcher famously said that “the lady is not for turning.” Maybe, Boris Johnson should rekindle that spirit or else he will be u-turning out of number ten.