We must not let perfect become the enemy of good

The Lion thought it might be as well to frighten the Wizard, so he gave a large, loud roar, which was so fierce and dreadful that Toto jumped away from him in alarm and tipped over the screen that stood in a corner. As it fell with a crash they looked that way, and the next moment all of them were filled with wonder. For they saw, standing in just the spot the screen had hidden, a little, old man, with a bald head and a wrinkled face, who seemed to be as much surprised as they were.1

I expect to hear one particular refrain echo repeatedly in the halls of Westminster, and in lobbying meetings, throughout the passage of the Online Safety Bill and related matters:

“we must not let ‘perfect’ become the enemy of ‘good’”

It’s a wonderful phrase for legislators and lobbyists alike, since it can be used to brush aside a whole multitude of criticisms and concerns without recognising their validity, let alone addressing them.

This curt, dismissive sentence acts as both a shield and a sword.


As a shield, it’s an embodiment of a “that’ll do” approach. This is good enough.

It’s a phrase behind which people “spinning a line” to sell their services can hide, rather than answering difficult questions.

It’s an embodiment of the “we must do something, and this is something, so we must do it” thinking.


As a sword, it is a phrase which can be deployed to silence dissent, or paint critics as the enemy of progress.

Rather than welcoming, with open arms, careful expert scrutiny, the phrase can be wielded to smite criticisms aside, rather than taking them seriously and addressing them.

It’s a “screeching voices of the minority” tactic, attacking back rather than focussing on the substance.

Darned nerds. If only they’d #NerdHarder, rather than peering behind the screen.

But if you’ve promised a terrible and powerful wizard, don’t try to justify giving us a wrinkled little old man instead.