Douglas Carswell

30 DEC 2011

Who pulled the greatest u-turns of 2011?

Rarely do those in politics change their minds because they see the light. More often it is because they feel the heat.

Actually I think it is a jolly good thing to be able to change your mind.  Rather than criticise those who move with the facts, we should praise them instead. Here are my favourite u-turns by those who saw the light in 2011:

1.  The people on electoral reform: When the AV referendum campaign started, it looked as if there was a majority in favour. As the public got closer to the day of the poll, they reached for the brakes and pulled a u-turn, rejecting AV overwhelmingly.

2.  Danny Finkelstein on Europe: Having spent the first few years of David Cameron’s leadership of the Conservative party telling the rest of us not to bang on about Europe, Danny began to bang on about Europe.   

Shortly after 81 Conservative MPs voted in favour of an EU referendum, Danny – who just a few days before the Commons vote was fiercely critical of it – started to write brilliantly telling us all about the dangers of the EU.  

Actually, you might say that it was the commentariat that pulled a u-turn on Europe in 2011 .....  others who also saw the light include Max Hastings, who renounced years of faith in federalism with this superb column.  So, too, did Matthew Parris – one of the country’s greatest writers – who it seems is now an advocate of a referendum on our membership.

3.  Britain on Libya: Britain’s Foreign Office mandarinate spent the past decade pushing for a rapprochement with Gadaffi. Millions of ordinary Libyans were less keen on the idea, and overthrew the tyrant of Tripoli. But Britain deftly turned 180 degrees, backing the rebels.

4.  David Aaronovich on the Euro: I admire David greatly, and once when we shared a platform to discuss political reform I was delighted to discover that we seem to have a number of ideas in common. But not, it would appear, when it comes to the Euro. 

David once described those of us who had reservations about Britain joining the Euro a little uncharitably. Yesterday, however, he wrote a column in which he appears to have ditched his support for joining Euroland - and was demanding that we join the United States instead

Hummm .... up to a point, David. The idea of being independent is that you don’t subsume yourself into any bloc. The idea is to be self-governing instead (albeit with free trade agreements all round) just like many of the most successful nations around the planet. 

5.  The government on solar energy: Generous solar subsidies might have seemed like a good idea for individual households, but once large commercial enterprises moved in to harvest the subsidy, it looked more like an expensive way of generating electricity. 

Hopefully the government’s about turn signals a more fundamental rethink of our energy policy; how to supply the needs of British businesses and households, rather than meet the demands of the supranational eco bureaucracy.

6.  The Treasury on bailout-and-borrow: This time last year, the Treasury was merrily drifting along with the bailout-and-borrow consensus. As they threw billions of pounds to try to prop up a currency we choose not to join, ministers spoke of the need to defend the Euro rather as ministers once spoke of the need to remain in the ERM.

After successive Commons votes gradually whittled down the Coalition’s majority on the issue, Treasury ministers began to see the light and say they have ruled out any further bailouts.

I hope to welcome many other u-turns in 2012.  Perhaps from Ed Balls, or if we are really lucky all those Keynesian economists who said we could spend our way back to prosperity ...

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