By Ray Fleming

HE must be dizzy by now. David Cameron's U-turn on NHS reform last week left him facing where he hadn't wanted to go before. Yesterday's U-turn on prison sentencing presumably puts him back where he started from. Where next? The prime minister claimed yesterday that these policy changes prove the strength of the coalition because they show its readiness to listen to others' opinions and, if necessary, accept them. The obvious question therefore is why such consultation was not undertaken before policy was settled and announced. From last May until this March Mr Cameron insisted that his Health Secretary's reforms were right and would be implemented.

But now they have been significantly changed. The case of Justice Minister Kenneth Clarke and his sentencing reforms -- designed to find the savings insisted on by Chancellor George Osborne -- is in a way even more strange. Mr Clarke is probably the most experienced minister in the Cabinet and it is inconceivable that he would have drawn up his controversial proposals without making sure that he was taking with him everyone who needed to be in the picture. He will have read the tabloids and seen the row brewing over “going easy” on criminals. Yet he was allowed by No 10 Downing Street to go ahead with proposals for a parliamentary Bill that the prime minister questioned last week and threw out yesterday. Why?