U-turn if we want to

That noise you could hear last night, carried across the wind, was the sound of George Osborne laughing hysterically.

How else to react to the Shadow Chancellor gifting him another foot-in-mouth moment?

It's a little over two weeks since John McDonnell insisted Labour were not "deficit deniers", promising the party would support Conservative plans for a law obliging future governments to maintain a budget surplus.

This came as something of a surprise to many Labour MPs. You might think they would focus instead on the rather odd idea of a governing party passing a law to force it to keep an election promise. You might think they'd want to question whether that means other Tory election promises, the ones without accompanying laws, are now worthless.

But instead, Labour's new leadership decided to make a bold statement of intent. "We do want to live within our means and we will tackle the deficit", Mr McDonnell said. "We will support the charter".

Fast forward a fortnight, and Mr McDonnell tells Labour MPs "We will underline our position as an anti-austerity party by voting against the charter".

You can understand why some within Labour are calling this a shambles.

Mr McDonnell insists "matters have moved on" -- pointing to new challenges to the global economy. Challenges so new, in fact, they have appeared from nowhere in the past fortnight.

This U-turn is more likely to be about pragmatism than John McDonnell's economic soothsaying. Many Labour MPs were ready to ignore the leadership, and oppose the budget surplus law. Now they'll be following Labour Party policy, always assuming it hasn't changed again by Wednesday lunchtime. No wonder Monday night's meeting at Westminster was described as "brutal".

The surprise is that Jeremy Corbyn's anti-austerity Shadow Chancellor ever fell into George Osborne's trap in the first place. The Chancellor knew Labour needed to send a message of stability to the voters who rejected the party in May.

In accepting the charter, Labour would implicitly accept its economic policy was wrong going into the General Election. In rejecting it, the Tories could paint them as reckless.

Now, George Osborne gets to do both -- Labour's admitted being wrong on the economy six months ago, and then said it was wrong about being wrong.

Labour's new leaders reject the dark arts of spin that their hated predecessors relied on. Those hated, electorally successful predecessors knew you had to pick a message and stick to it.

It's one policy that might be worth adopting.