Should you be driving towards the edge of the white cliffs of Dover, hands on the wheel and pedal to the metal, you can imagine that any passengers who happened to be in the car alongside you would be encouraging you, at some volume and with no small level of profanity, to turn the thing around. Indeed that would be the prudent thing to do – to plough on simply because you’d decided it really was the quickest way to France would be idiotic, and end rather poorly for you and your passengers.
Alas in politics, changing your mind on something – the dreaded u-turn – is invariably seen as some kind of crippling embarassment. Yesterday, Rishi Sunak’s aides let it be known that the government were stepping away from a plan to effectively ban onshore wind developments, a plan that first emerged as a Sunak talking point during the (first) leadership campaign this summer. Immediately the political analysis began, questioning whether this meant Rishi Sunak had lost his authority with the party. No doubt within a few days we will see further questioning of Sunak’s ability to lead the squabbling rabble now known as the parliamentary Conservative party.
Lost in the sturm und drang of this apparent political catastrophe will be that Sunak’s made the right decision, proving that one still must campaign in poetry and govern in prose. It is one thing telling the residents of Dunny-on-the-Wold that there won’t be any turbines messing up their view of England’s green and pleasant land, but it’s quite another to stick to your guns when you’re in Downing Street and you’re informed Britain’s most vital foreign policy objective is securing genuine energy security.
The area of greater concern however is that Britain’s current energy policy is pulling in two different directions – one, to ensure we’re upping the supply of reliable power that doesn’t involve dodgy regimes, and two, to extract every penny possible for the Treasury from North Sea oil and gas firms. Ditching the windfall tax would be another welcome u-turn.