#TheYP comment (January 1): PM must focus on the positives

THE electoral challenge facing David Cameron and the Conservatives in 2015 is a formidable one which will define the political landscape for the remainder of the decade.

If the Tories are to win an outright majority, they need to win a long list of seats which eluded the party in 2010 before its austerity programme started.

Even though the coalition’s cuts, and wider efficiencies, have not been universally well received, they were a price that Britain was going to have to pay in order to return the public finances to some semblance of control. The Prime Minister’s challenge is maintaining a tight grip on spending while using his aspiration agenda and wider social policy reforms to win over new supporters.

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In this regard, Mr Cameron should not shy away from talking to the electorate about the importance of work – and how employment holds the key to reducing Britain’s benefits bill. He does have a positive message to sell, and at a time of prevailing apathy, many voters do want their party leaders to spend more time outlining their blueprint for the future rather than ridiculing the plans of their opponents.

Ahead of 127 days of political campaigning in Yorkshire, it would also be prudent of the Tory leader to take on board the significance of Tony Blair’s warning to Ed Miliband that Labour will struggle to win on the election on a “traditional left-wing” platform. This does not just apply to the Opposition – it is also very pertinent to those Conservatives tempted to pursue an even more Eurosceptic agenda in response to Ukip’s emergence as a significant political force.

Elections are won from the political centre ground by the party that can build the broadest coalition of support. If Mr Cameron doubts this, he only has to ask William Hague whose ‘save the pound’ crusade in 2001 made no difference whatsoever to the final outcome.

Ebola emergency

Pauline Cafferkey, the nurse diagnosed with Ebola after returning home from Sierra Leone, can be assured of the best treatment as she spends the New Year in a specially-designed hospital quarantine tent.

Yet, despite the efforts being undertaken to give Mrs Cafferkey the best chance of making a full recovery, her plight needs to be put into further context. She is just one victim and, as more details emerge about this case, screening protocols at Britain’s airports needs to be reviewed.

Not only is it deeply worrying that Mrs Cafferkey’s condition escaped detection at Heathrow, even though she was part of a group of health workers expected by the authorities, but it begs the question whether other travellers arriving from disease-hit countries should undergo more stringent checks.

The case is also a reminder of the work being undertaken by those NHS staff who have volunteered, after undergoing training with the Army at Strensall Barracks near York, to join all those battling to contain this disease, and without the expertise available at hospitals which specialise in the containment of contagious diseases.

Their humanity, and willingness to respond to one of the biggest medical emergencies of these times, is inspiring and indicative of the importance of Britain’s vital role in providing aid and assistance to the less fortunate. This should not be forgotten, even more so at a time when spending on overseas aid is coming under such scrutiny.

Cricket’s new test

IN LIEU of the seemingly endless diet of repeats that the BBC and other terrestrial broadcasters have served up to television viewers over the festive period, perhaps they would like to begin 2015 by reviewing their obligations to Britain’s national sports, and cricket in particular.

For, while it is certainly true that Sky continue to pay significant sums for exclusive rights, a reported lack of interest from free-to-air broadcasters – even over coverage of highlights – has played into the hands of the satellite broadcaster.

A lack of terrestrial coverage is also not helping cricket, with attendances, and general interest in the great game, in steady decline since the momentous summer of 2005 when Michael Vaughan’s England side finally won back the
Ashes. This landmark
series remains so memorable because 7.4 million viewers watched its denouement, a number which remains beyond the reach of Sky. Cricket, and the terrestrial broadcasters, should not forget this ahead of another Ashes series which will only be witnessed by those viewers prepared to pay a premium for the privilege.