Since he became Prime Minister David Cameron has made three statements to the House of Commons in response to important reports into failures of the state. The first was the report on ‘Bloody Sunday’, the second on the Hillsborough report and the third, yesterday, was the Francis Report.
Of course all three of these reports investigated very different sorts of failures. But importantly all three of them relate to failures by government to listen to what they were being told, again and again, by the public. In all three cases the public, who were telling the truth, saw cover-ups by different parts of the state.
On all three occasions the Prime Minister has been impressive. The tone and the substance of what he has said has been clear. He has apologised for the country.
This is what he did yesterday. He was clear. He apologised for the way the system had failed these patients. But he went further. He said,
“On behalf of the Government and the country I am sorry”.
The House of Commons is seen by many as the fulcrum of the nation’s conflicts and many dislike it for that reason.
But sometimes the House of Commons can speak for the country – and that is what the Prime Minister did yesterday. His tone was echoed by the leader of the opposition, Ed Miliband.
David Cameron could have tried developing a very different tone but instead made it clear that Francis had said that Mid Staffs was not caused by any single policy or any single Secretary of State.
He specifically rejected any attempt to scapegoat.
On all three of these occasions there have been many individuals who wanted the PM to blame someone. In rejecting that approach he has disappointed some.
In terms of Mid Staffs he will have disappointed perhaps even some readers of this blog, those who believe that the only really tough response to events such as these is to find scapegoats.
They would be wrong.
The correct response to events such as these is to put things right, and this is what the PM and the leader of the opposition began to do yesterday.
It will take three weeks for the Government to respond to Francis and it will take the rest of us at least that long to work through its 290 recommendations.