So there we have it – a government U-turn on pasties and caravans and secret courts to boot and the inevitable howls from the opposition. But let’s be clear, critics can’t have it both ways: the government can’t be blasted for being cavalier when they carry on regardless and then chaotic when they listen and change tack. We should welcome it when common sense prevails. The more pain it takes for government’s of all political hues to “do the right thing” the less likely concessions will be, after all why take all the flack for a bad-idea and then take some more for seeing sense?
The reality is that the pasty tax wasn’t an issue that was going to go away for the government – it played to too many of the critical narratives: out of touch, posh and London-centric. There were plenty of times for it to come back and the government’s position was, in any event, unworkable.
As well as uniting coalition MPs in the south-west in opposition, the issue took root at street level with 500,000 people across the country signing a petition and it was picked up and championed by regional and national media as a totemic cause celebre. Yes, parliamentary pressure helped too: a PMQ, a significant rebellion on a forced division in the Commons, continued constituency level pressure on coalition MPs and an alternative that worked.
But despite the inevitable inclination to baton-down the hatches the government did engage with the industry and understood the clear constituency interest of its own MPs. The alternative actually delivers the bulk of what the government intended without any of the negative impacts: all the upside with none of the economic downside.
There’s no doubt that caravans and pasties were unforced errors. Hindsight is a great thing and nobody claims a monopoly of wisdom. Opposition can snipe, but here’s the thing, and whisper it quietly, the government listened to the people and Parliament - that’s surely a good thing?
Stephen Gilbert is the Liberal Democrat MP for St Austell and Newquay