You don’t want to get into wreck with a Bentley, either on the road or in the marketplace. But according voluble pundit of all things motorised and irritating, Jeremy Clarkson (his Sunday Times article “Bentley Continental GT Speed: Yippee! It’s ok to be a Bentley boy again,” paywalled), they took one dramatic u-turn on the Bentley design recently. A bold move which spurred him to applause as well as mini-diatribe on the small-mindedness of people who obstinately do not accept someone embracing failure with a change of direction…
- “I don’t understand why people get so cross when politicians do a U-turn. Would you rather they were so consumed with towering self-belief that they ploughed on regardless? Because I wouldn’t. Take Michael Gove as an example here. The education secretary expressed a desire to change the way exams were run. There was much brouhaha from interested parties. And, having listened to their objections, he’s decided to abandon his plans. What’s wrong with that? If I were a politician I would constantly express a desire to invade and conquer France. I’d explain that it simply isn’t morally correct for such a lovely country to be in the hands of the French and, as a result, I’d ask the armed forces to work up some kind of plan. And what they’d do is talk me out of it. They’d explain that we simply don’t have the muscle, and that even if we did, the United Nations would impose all kinds of unpleasant sanctions. So that eventually, and much to the relief of just about everyone, I’d announce that we would be invading and conquering Spain instead. Technically that would be a U-turn. But it would also be an example of common sense. It’d be the same story with cats. I’m afraid that if I were prime minister I’d announce that they must all be executed. This would prompt a great deal of debate and eventually I’d be forced to say, “Oh, OK. Your cat can live. Just so long as it doesn’t leap into my lap and show me its anus.’ This is because I am wise. Unlike His Tonyness, who was not. He was so wrapped up in his own self-importance that after he’d decided to invade the Middle East, no amount of reasoning would cause him to back down. And look where that got us. So, no. We need to stop criticising politicians when they make U-turns and start congratulating them for being open-minded and flexible.”
I think Clarkson makes an excellent point and one I have been supporting, in the spirit of embracing failure for years. Admitting that either things have changed externally in the world or things have changed internally with your perception and understanding, and changing one’s position is a brave step to be applauded, not deplored. I too found the Labour attack on Michael Gove (when he switched his position to one Labour supported all along) to be most distasteful and just made me admire the Conservative’s boldness and sincerity of the move all the more.
Mind you I think you do need to distinguish between politicians who say one thing one day and another the next and even go back to the first thing if expedient (much like Romney did). If politicians do make a sincere a considered change, then they should be explicit about it rather than burying their previous views.