Another day, another sharply performed about turn by the Government. This time it was funding for debt advisers, re-instated after charities highlighted the catastrophic effects on those who need a hand out of a financial mire, particularly those who were sick or elderly, if this service was to simply disappear.
Plans to sell of forestry land have also been dropped, after an almighty rumpus from pretty much anyone who thinks a tree is broadly a good thing.
In education, a month or so ago, a somewhat hasty decision to scrap a mostly successful and incredibly popular school sports programme was rapidly revised. All because it turns out that the usually apolitical Olympic athletes can not only run quickly and throw things a long way (and the rest – vault, hurdle etc) but they are also pretty adept at generating torrents of hostile media coverage, should the need arise.
Similarly, a ‘books for children’ scheme was binned and then – pardon the pun – put back on the shelf when it turned out that children’s authors can both write fun adventures in mysterious lands and draft painfully scathing letters to national newspapers.
What does all this add up to?
The Government would have us believe that this demonstrates that they are prepared to listen. It shows they are human, caring, cuddly.
The Opposition would have us believe that this reveals an incompetent administration. It shows they are dogmatic, directionless, weak in the face of pressure.
The pressure groups would have us believe that this means battles can be won. It shows the Government is persuadable, responds to a keen and sharp campaign.
Another interpretation is that these U-turns are nothing of the sort. They are mere delays; the water has been tested but the path has been set. At some point down the line the debt advisers will go, the forests will be sold, the sports scheme will be ditched and the books will be binned. The Government has just bought itself some time.
More importantly though, these very public (but ultimately misleading) U-turns serve a more important purpose. They act as a smokescreen; crumbs thrown from the table to appease and placate. This allows the Government to get on with the big, landscape-changing stuff without anything approaching a detour.
So, the violent revolution in the NHS continues unabashed; the library-closing settlement for local authorities is in place; the relentless drive for more Academy and Free schools has not paused for air since last May.
Next time you hear a Government Minister say they have listened, or the Opposition celebrates another U-turn, or campaigners say they have got what they wanted: listen with a certain scepticism.
This is not a call for surrender; campaigns must still be fought and won. But, truth be told, the only way to change the Government’s minds is to hit them where it hurts: in the ballot box. And, for that, you’ll need a little patience.