“U-Turn if you want to – the Ladies not for turning” said Mrs Thatcher at the Conservative Party Conference in 1981.
As she led Britain out of the doldrums by implementing a fiercely controversial policy agenda – even causing consternation among many of her own cabinet colleagues – the one thing that you knew about Maggie was that she would deliver what she said she would deliver, whatever the opposition and media thought about it.
Through his tenure as Labour Party Leader, Tony Blair set out his plans clearly, from rewriting his party’s Clause 4 through to radical reforms in public services, including health and education. And then of course, there was Iraq. Again, he faced huge criticism, internally and externally, but he stuck to his guns. Once Blair said he was going to do something he did it.
Now, did Thatcher and Blair get everything right? Of course not. Name me a prime minister that does.
But did we as a country know the general direction of travel? Absolutely.
Strong and decisive leadership has its disadvantages. It can lead to unnecessary stubbornness, arrogance, and hubris. But at times of crisis, decisiveness is not a ‘nice to have’ it is an ‘essential’.
So, when you look at the current occupant of Number 10 Downing Street and his record on consistency, one has to say, it is hardly inspiring.
Here is ‘random selection’ of the issues Boris Johnson has done a U-Turn on since his General Election win in 2019.
Free school meals. A Twitter storm fed by Marcus Rashford, led the government to an embarrassing row, followed by the inevitable backing down over an issue that should never have been an issue in the first place. But not before the Tory leadership had whipped their own MPs to vote for the scrapping of free dinners for the country’s most needy children.
The England team taking the knee. Johnson and his Home Secretary said at the start of the European Championships that it was okay for supporters to boo the team for what Priti Patel described as ‘gesture politics’. Following Gareth Southgate’s sides success in reaching the final, both adopted a rather different tone – with the PM claiming he had ‘never condoned’ the booing of the team.
Getting Brexit Done. Just six -months after signing a protocol agreement over trading processes on the Irish border, Johnson wants to rip it up and start again. It seems that the Irish issue, which he claimed both during and after the EU in/out referendum was ‘not a problem at all’ is, actually, a really difficult problem that his government has failed to resolve.
Saving Christmas. When announcing the mish mash of tiers and regulations for the Autumn COVID Shit fest, Boris promised that the sacrifices would mean we could ‘save Christmas’. To be fair, I don’t think he said which Christmas. Will it be this years?
Face Covering Rules. After weeks of insisting there was no evidence to support making face masks compulsory, the government did a volte-face on the issue in July, making the wearing of face coverings compulsory.
The irreversible route map out of Lockdown 3. Has been well and truly reversed.
Swerving the Pingdemic. At the weekend, we witnessed the PM and his next- door neighbour Rishi Sunak, initially claim that, like their cabinet colleague Michael Gove, they had miraculously been ‘randomly selected’ to participate in a pilot scheme which exempted them from self- isolation after being ‘pinged’ following their meeting with COVID infected Health Minister Sajid Javid. Again, a social media tirade led to Johnson and Sunak accepting the inevitable and- after just two and a half hours- doing yet another U-turn and agreeing that it wasn’t actually fair to ‘have one rule for them’ and another for the Plebs.
And, this week, the likelihood of vaccine passports is being promoted by the government – despite earlier pronouncements to say that no such legislation would ever be introduced in the UK.
The only consistent thing about Boris Johnson’s premiership has been his inconsistency. If it continues, then maybe he’ll find that his Christmas at Chequers won’t be saved this year.