Sunday 6 January 2008

Gordon's New Year promise

The Prime Minister was on fairly good form on the Andrew Marr show this morning, once he got away from sounding like the former Chancellor talking about the economy. He was particularly good when he upstaged Marr's cynicism over hospital cleanliness by clearly describing the government's plan to address the problem. But he was less convincing when he started trying to set himself up as the politician with the right long-term solutions. As Matthew Parris suggested in an insightful piece in yesterday's Times, what the government now needs is to demonstrate competence in a number of areas - hospital cleanliness is probably one. Brown should set his more able ministers the task of sorting out perhaps ten to a dozen problems that really bug voters, over the next eighteen months. By all means, let's have the grand plans for 2020, but we need a set of challenging but achievable goals that the government can deliver by 2009, some very clear delivery plans and a tough line with recalcitrant civil servants. By doing so, the government can regain its reputation for competence - and the narrower Tory poll leads at the end of 2007 suggest this is not as hard as some commentators seem to think - as well as exposing the shallowness of the Tory strategy which is all about 'leaving it to the professionals' to decide whether or not they want to cut waiting lists.

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