Top 10 Political Flip-flops

5. The Keystone XL Pipeline

One from Canada, now but which involves American interests. The Keystone Pipeline is a system of pipes from Canada to America, transporting crude oil to American refineries. The fourth phase of the whole project proposed a pipe from Alberta to Nebraska but has met with protests from environmentalists, as the route takes in the Ogallala Aquifer (a large fresh water reserve) and the Sandhills wetland, home to many delicate species of plants and animals. The idea was also stalled by lawsuits from various parties involved. The project is still a possibility, but the Canadian government are seriously rethinking their position on whether it is an “essential” part of Canada’s future oil expansion plans.


4. FDR on World War II

Now, U-turns don’t come much more spectacular than the worldwide carnage of the Second World War. When Roosevelt came to office in 1933, he was staunchly against America’s intervention in European affairs. And while Hitler took power in the same year and started the events that would culminate in war, Roosevelt maintained America’s isolationist policies, using the Atlantic gap as a reason not to to join the “stop-Hitler bloc” of France and Britain. Even as late as 1940, when FDR was seeking re-election, he vowed to keep the USA out of the war, saying to army recruits “you boys are not going to be sent into any foreign war”. Of course, this was before the attack on Pearl Harbor. As soon as that happened, anti-war sentiment in the US disappeared and FDR responded to the general feeling by declaring war on Japan, phoning Winston Churchill to say “We are all in the same boat now”. A noble and not unpopular flip-flop, but a contradiction nonetheless.


3. Political Donation Bill

One of the murkiest areas of politics is where the parties get their funding from. And a Bill in Australia to raise levels of disclosure has been backflipped over by the federal government. The Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Political Donations and Other Measures) Bill had a number of elements to it, but stealthily increased the amount that political parties could receive without disclosing it. Local MPs were “flooded with complaints” about the less-than-transparent Bill and the Labor party, who had initially approved the Bill, were forced to step down amid a barrage of criticism. Opposition leader Tony Abbott (pictured) was named as one of the people who had backflipped over the issue, but his political reputation survived and he has gone on to become the current Prime Minister of Australia.


2. Romney on Abortion

We’re back with Mitt Romney again who, to be fair, could fill the whole list with his flip-flopping. This time he’s on the subject of abortion, which he apparently continues to be ambivalent about. In 2002, he stated “I respect and will protect a woman’s right to choose” which the media, not unreasonably, interpreted as a pro-choice stance. That was backed up by his lengthy statement on the subject in 1994, in a debate with Edward Kennedy. In that statement, he said “I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country….I sustain and support that law and the right of a woman to make that choice.” So, it might have been a surprise to all concerned when he claimed to be pro-choice in 2007. But at least he was honest about it, saying he changed his position. Although the sentence immediately before admitting that might have confused the issue further – “I never said I was pro-choice, but my position was effectively pro-choice.” No wonder Edward Kennedy accused him of being “multiple choice”!


1. No New Taxes

And in the number one slot we have one of the most famous political quotes of all time – “Read my lips, No new taxes”. the speaker was then-President George Bush Snr, the year was 1988 and the promises were ambitious, if popular. You can probably guess what happened next – yes, new taxes. The 1992 election was, by this time, looming and Bush’s opponent Bill Clinton made great use of the quote in his case, hammering home the message that Bush was a liar. Clinton won, and Bush Snr went into the great book of political quotes, later to be joined by his “misspoken” son George W. Bush.

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