Prime ministers are obliged to travel from time to time and Mr Blair's current visit to Bangladesh, India and Pakistan was arranged several months ago; the fact that it has coincided with the dispute between India and Pakistan is coincidental. None the less the impression that Mr Blair is more interested in cutting a figure on the international scene than in dealing with the nitty-gritty of the public services at home is growing to the point that the public is beginning to ask what long-term ambition he has in mind - does he want to be Secretary-General of the United Nations or, as a minimum, President of the Commission of the European Union?

The prime minister has made the point in several recent speeches that national and global politics increasingly interact with each other and that therefore while doing duty overseas he is also serving the UK's more local interests. There is some truth in this, but not as much as Mr Blair appears to think. Helping to calm things down in Kashmir will have no impact whatsoever on waiting lists in the National Health Service or on the state of the Britain's railways. Telling a meeting of the Confederation of Indian Industry that Britain wants to be “a force for good” in world affairs will not impress those at home who want to see the police able to act as “a force for good” in their own communities. Mr Blair should remember why he was returned to office at the last election. If global interdependence was mentioned in his manifesto it was in the very small print. Improving the public services is what the nation wants Mr Blair to concentrate on.
RAY FLEMING

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