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Back from Ibiza, Cameron is ready to focus on the NHS and crime. He should also start worrying about Europe.

By Tim Montgomerie
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The Prime Minister has just returned from a holiday in Ibiza. Over the next few weeks he will be addressing the two issues where polling has identified the largest gap between his government and the public: the NHS and crime. I'd also encourage him to focus on a third topic; Europe.

Top of the PM's agenda is the NHS and he'll give a speech tomorrow in which he'll set out five "guarantees" on the future of the service:

"The Prime Minister will promise to

(1) keep waiting lists low;

(2) maintain spending;

(3) not to privatise the NHS,

(4) to keep care integrated and

(5) to remain committed to the “national” part of the health service."

There is more about these guarantees in The Telegraph. It's probably good short-term politics but it's also a pretty defensive list. Where, for example, is the commitment to patient choice? There is no way that the country will be able to afford to keep "waiting lists low" if we do not accelerate the reform processes that began under the last Conservative government - and continued under Labour - and which saw more private companies provide cheaper treatments to quality standards.

16006154 Later this month the Prime Minister will turn to the issue of law and order. Hardly a day goes by without a newspaper leading with another allegation that the Coalition is going soft on crime. The News of the World yesterday reported (£) that "nearly half of all sex beasts are being freed by the courts". Tory MP Priti Patel told the newspaper that Ken Clarke's preferred sentence of community sentences and fines were "wholly inappropriate for such horrific crimes". Policing minister Nick Herbert spent the whole of an interview on yesterday's Politics Show on the back foot - dodging an explanation of why the Tory manifesto promise to jail all knife criminals wouldn't be honoured. Today the front page of the Mail suggests that 10,000 criminals will have their jail sentences "slashed" under draft Coalition proposals to reward offenders who make early guilty pleas.

The NHS is top of the PM's in-box because Downing Street knows that the Conservatives aren't trusted on health in the same way they are trusted on crime. When you've been seen as the party of law and order for decades it's easy to reaffirm that reputation. When you've only just won your reputation on the NHS it's very easy to lose it.

Europe is the third issue that should be in the PM's in-box. Mr Cameron should worry that his Eurosceptic credentials are now widely doubted. In The Sunday Telegraph Peter Oborne argued that the PM was the most pro-EU leader since Ted Heath. In Tory circles that's as offensive as it gets.

Callanan Martin 470

With every passing day it's becoming more and more obvious that the bailout for Greece, in particular, has done nothing more than delay judgment day. On BBC1 yesterday Martin Callanan (above), leader of the Tory MEPs, urged the Coalition to take a more "robust" view on "legally dubious" bailouts. He said we weren't helping already indebted countries by imposing high interest loans on them. He said it was "wrong" for taxpayers to bear all of the burden without banks writing off some of their bad lending. William Hague is understandably focused on Libya but - with the Chancellor - he needs to worry a lot more about the economic problems of our close neighbours and the sustainability of the €urozone.


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