In my mind a U-turn used to be a driving maneuver. Now, a U-turn seems to be a commonly used and increasingly acceptable political maneuver. This thought bubble is about Boris Johnson, the Apprentice and my frustration at a seemingly incompetent government.
Over the last 14 weeks, Boris Johnson has reversed or changed government policy 11 times. A timeline of all these U-turns reveals that they have been made on all sorts of topics from face masks in schools, eviction notices and the NHS surcharge for non-EU citizens. The U-turn on free school meals over the summer is attributed to the campaign run by Marcus Rashford, a high-profile striker. The U-turn on the NHS bereavement scheme is attributed to the moving video by Hassan Akkad, a Syrian refugee who opted to clean wards during the worst of the Coronavirus pandemic. It seems that the new trend is to make a decision, see if there is uproar, see how much uproar there is and by whom, and then decide whether to reverse the decision. Oh, and maybe see what Wales and Scotland are doing too- as was the case with the A-Level algorithm U-turn. This is worrying.
It’s as though the government don’t have a clue what they are doing and just make things up. They see how far they can make things up for before there is some retaliation. If retaliation hits they reconsider and switch some brain cells on. But, if there is no retaliation or uproar, where does that leave us? This is putting increasing pressure on people to stand up to political decisions because if we don’t, what will happen? On the plus side, the fact there have been U-turns as a result of uproar suggests that our actions do make a difference. But why the lack of thinking and empathy is there in the first is a concern. I would have hoped that the £42,501 annual fees at Eton would include some lessons in common sense and empathy, but I suppose not.
All this U-turning reminds me of the infamous, entertaining clip in series 15 of The Apprentice, a reality TV show where contestants compete to win investment by Lord Sugar. Having just left a cringey attempt at making a deal to sell lollipops, Ryan-Mark, a young, camp and well-spoken contestant criticized his teammate Dean. He said “You made a U-turn outside here and then you made a U-turn inside there. You made a U-turn, you are a U-turn” whilst gesturing a large upside down U with his hands. I’m sure if you’ve seen the show you’ll be able to picture it right now. The idea of Ryan-Mark meeting Boris Johnson and repeating those sentences but listing each one of the U-turns, and where they were, entertains me. Boris Johnson, you are a U-turn.
That entertaining image is somehow tainted by the fact that Ryan-Mark’s teammate made a U-turn on trying to make a deal to sell lollipops whilst Boris Johnson’s U-turns play with lives. With everything left last minute and decisions reversed, people up and down the country have been through emotional turmoil. Just last week evictions were due to restart on Sunday 23rd August and on Saturday 22nd there was an announcement that they had been postponed. Imagine the mental impact that these changes create, not least because impending doom has just been postponed and not transformed. There is no time for preparation and preparation that has been done is then just annulled. It won’t be long before a decision will be made that can’t be reversed. We’re heading into a no deal Brexit and once we’re there, cranking up the engine and turning the wheel 180 degrees won’t be an easy option. U-turns should be the exception not the norm. U-turns should stay as driving maneuvers and not the motto for running a country.