By Tim Montgomerie
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David Cameron was on Radio 4 this morning and covered a whirlwind of topics in an interview characterised by constant interruptions from Evan Davies.
The interview began with the Prime Minister's theme of the day – a review of nursing practice to address the growing evidence of the neglect of elderly patients. Mr Cameron said that the nation has such respect for nurses that politicians had been reluctant to talk about examples of poor standards of care in some hospital settings. He said his constituency mailbag had contained some "chilling stories" of how elderly relatives have been treated and the issue now had to be a priority. He promised that the 'new nurses quality forum' (Daily Mail report) would look at ensuring proper rounds of wards, more conversation between nurses and patients, proper leadership of wards and patient-led inspections of wards so that standards could be independently verified.
Other topics of the interview:
- Low interest rates, he said, meant households and businesses can borrow cheaply and amounted to the best stimulus that the Coalition could give the economy.
- More still needed to be done to rebalance the economy, he conceded, but there was evidence of some "reindustrialisation" going on. He claimed that every car manufacturer in Britain – mentioning Nissan, Honda, Jaguar – was expanding and bringing its supply line onshore.
- These were testing economic times and deficit targets wouldn't be met because of problems in the €urozone and stubbornly high world inflation. Mentioning the council freeze and cancelled increases in petrol duty he said the Coalition was doing all it could to help households struggling to make ends meet.
- On boardroom pay Me Cameron agreed that there has been “a level of reward at the top that hasn’t been commensurate with success”. He promised more transparency and more shareholder power to tackle this and would announce more action in coming days.
On the EU Treaty he began well but things got foggy. He reaffirmed why he had vetoed the recent EU Treaty. I said I would agree a Treaty if I could get safeguards for Britain, Mr Cameron noted, but I couldn't get those safeguards and so I didn't sign up. Asked repeatedly if the members of the Fiscal Union could use EU infrastructure he hedged. He said there were legal issues as to what was possible and because European courts tended to rule in favour of "more Europe" he implied that the FU nations might get the access to EU institutions that they probably wanted. In reality, of course, it's not just a legal matter. A majority Conservative government might be willing to play hardball with the FU states on use of EU institutions. It's unlikely, however, that Nick Clegg would allow Britain to enforce the implications of David Cameron's veto.
The interview ended with David Cameron saying he'd watched The Iron Lady movie and he paid tribute to a "really staggering" piece of acting from Meryl Streep. He questioned the premise and timing of the film, however. "Why do we have to have this film right now?," he asked, "It's a film much more about ageing and dementia than about an amazing PM".