Thursday, 6 September 2012

Of mice, men, and politicans

"Tough decisions".  It’s one of those phrases politicians in power love.  It generally seems to mean that they want to do the opposite of what they said that they would do before they were elected. It’s a very macho thing; apparently doing the opposite of what they promised shows great strength whilst keeping a promise is a sign of weakness.
At least, that seems to be the interpretation of a number of prominent Tories.  According to Tim Yeo and an increasingly vocal group of Tories, keeping to the promise which both the Tory party and the Lib Dems made prior to the last election not to build a third runway at Heathrow makes the Prime Minister a mouse.  To become a man instead, he has to do the opposite and build the runway. 
And to listen to some of them talk, once would think that sacking the minister who’s implementing the party’s pre-election promise is somehow enough to free the PM of any responsibility to keep to his word.
Another of his alleged ‘supporters’, Nadine Dorries has accused the PM of being a sheep in wolf’s clothing.  Again, it seems that she wants him to take decisions which run directly contrary to what he’s said he’ll do, and contrary to the agreement which he signed with the Liberal Democrats.
On the specific issue of the third runway, with his Chancellor of the Exchequer apparently wavering on the issue as well, David Cameron certainly looks to be losing the support of his own party, other than those who won their seats on the basis of that specific promise.  (Even his party’s leader in Scotland – somewhat bizarrely I thought – last week claimed that a third runway at Heathrow would be good for Scotland.)
But the question that strikes me is this.  Which is the greater sign of weakness – sticking by a clear and explicit promise, or rolling over at the first sign of internal criticism?

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