Monday 24 October 2016

Cameron can savour win - but not for long

Published 09/05/2015 | 02:30

David Cameron should not underestimate the magnitude of his task
David Cameron should not underestimate the magnitude of his task

One has to go back to the fall of the Iron Lady Mrs Thatcher, or the political tornado that swept Tony Blair into Number 10 Downing Street, to register such a shock in British public life.

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Those interested in the spectacle of political blood sport will have been sated by the sight of the heads of three leaders in a bucket. As Nick Clegg, the crushed Lib Dems leader, put it: "It was a cruel night."

The results spell massive disappointment for Labour and disaster for the Liberal Democrats. David Miliband, Mr Clegg and Nigel Farage paid the price of failure.

There was broken glass all around the corridors of power. British Prime Minister David Cameron can take a moment to savour a significant personal triumph.

But protracted celebration would be inappropriate.

The arrival of Nicola Sturgeon like a lightning bolt has been a real game-changer. The landscape of British politics has also changed profoundly. Mr Cameron may remain at Downing Street but nothing is quite the same.

Britain is bitterly divided over Scotland and Europe. Both issues will dominate the agenda for his next term in office.

From an Irish standpoint, his handling of the latter is critical. Mr Cameron's slim majority means he is in hock to the 100-plus backbenchers pressing for a 'Brexit'.

He will find few friends in Brussels when he pleads for opt-outs and significant reforms.

Delivering on his promise of a referendum without key concessions from Europe will be fraught with risk.

The stakes for this country could hardly be higher.

His failure to reach out to Scotland or to court better relationships with the EU have contributed to his predicament.

Mr Cameron has said: "I want to bring our country together. I would like to lead, to reclaim a mantle that we should never have lost - the mantle of One Nation, One United Kingdom."

He should not underestimate the magnitude of his task.

Patient care is needed, not just control of cost

The findings of the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) report into the deaths of eight babies at Portlaoise Hospital, in circumstances which could have been prevented, are devastating, and it is right that it was published yesterday despite the resistance of the Health Service Executive (HSE).

We can no longer have a culture of internal investigation into such matters and this Hiqa report yesterday demonstrates the value of a thorough and independent reply.

Certainly this report calls into question the management performance at the higher levels of the HSE. For instance, it discovered that following the 'Prime Time' broadcast in 2014 which exposed the inadequacies at the hospital, that we now know led to eight babies dying, no senior HSE manager visited the hospital. We are now told that the hospital is safe, as it is now part of a hospital group. However, this report will make for disquieting reading by staff and patients alike.

Senior HSE managers were "predominantly" concerned with controlling costs rather than focused on patient care.

This is not good enough and it is clear that, while the Hiqa report is 'a work in progress', our hospitals need to be monitored closely and it is now time to rebalance our health service in favour of patient care rather than cost control.

Irish Independent

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