How many U-turns before the government heads in the right direction?

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during his visit to Appledore Shipyard in Devon. Credit: Prime Minister Boris Johnson during his visit to Appledore Shipyard in Devon.

How many U-turns can a government make before it’s heading in the right direction?

Quite a few it turns out.

The Huff Post reckons there have been an impressive 11 U-turns on various aspects of coronavirus policy.

Some of these have been of the full-on ‘screeching’ variety; notably when sticking with moderated A-level grades became scrapping moderated A-level grades, and giving out teacher assessed grades instead.

Others have been less abrupt; such as when ending the evictions ban became extending the evictions ban by four weeks.

Less of a U-turn perhaps and more of a start-stop-start, like a learner driver struggling with the clutch.

The release of BTEC results was delayed due to a last-minute regrading. Credit: PA Images

And then there’s testing.

Again you wouldn’t really call it a U-turn; more a start-stop-start followed by some over-enthusiastic revving that fails to deliver the desired acceleration but the driver claims to be racing along anyway.

Now to be fair to ministers they are dealing with a developing crisis of uncertain duration caused by a new virus about which the science is constantly evolving.

Reactive policy making is essential, or as Keynes put it: “When the facts change, I change my mind - what do you do, sir?”

But too much mind changing doesn’t convey a sense of grip.

Even when it’s completely reasonable the backbenchers hate it, the media revel in it and the opposition leverage it for all its worth.

The bigger problem is that so much of this mind changing has come rather late in the day.

Again and again the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments seem to be making the big calls first.

Everyone else can see a U turn coming, but the government in Whitehall insists there won’t be one.

Until there is. And that looks both indecisive and slow.