A ROUND-THE-WORLD trip taking in the US and three Pacific countries is a drastic way for the Prime Minister to put his end-of- term political difficulties behind him. And it will not necessarily succeed. An itinerary that must have looked like a good idea, even a brilliant idea, when it was planned, now carries a multitude of liabilities.
By combining a brief sojourn in Washington with longer stays in Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing and Hong Kong, Tony Blair has made a statement even before he sets off. The relationship with Washington and with George Bush, he is saying, is not exclusive. Nor is it the master- poodle relationship for which he has been pilloried at home. It is one of many significant relationships around the globe, which encompass environmental concerns (Japan), trade (South Korea, China and Hong Kong) and what to do about the North Korean threat to global security.
A similar message of British pluralism on the international front was supposed to have been conveyed by last weekend's summit of progressive governance which brought together more than a dozen national leaders. Discreetly closeted in a country-house hotel outside London, they might have agreed a joint strategy for future military interventions. Unfortunately for Mr Blair, the leading proponent of the so-called "Third Way" still in power, no agreement was reached. The big diplomatic moment was lost.
The truth is that the war in Iraq casts a shadow that is longer and more enduring than anyone dreamt of, Mr Blair doubtless included, when the prospect first loomed a year ago. In the wake of the aborted "second resolution" at the UN, and the failure to persuade other countries to contribute troops or money to Iraq's reconstruction, Mr Blair has striven mightily to mend fences, …