Blair home to focus on big picture

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The Prime Minister's office yesterday dismissed media-led distractions over the millennium dome and Montserrat, insisting that Tony Blair would be concentrating on the "big picture" when he returned to Britain after a three-week holiday last night.

Mr Blair, who has been in Tuscany and France, was going to Chequers and does not plan to go to Downing Street until tomorrow. A spokesman said yesterday that in three speeches to be delivered over the next five weeks, Mr Blair would maintain the focus on the central questions of education, health and the delivery of election promises.

The Prime Minister will be addressing a party rally in the North at the weekend, to be followed by an address to the TUC conference on 9 September. He gives his speech to the Labour Party conference, in Brighton, on 30 September.

Saturday's rally speech is expected to keep up the pressure for continued party reform, but it will also give a progress report on the delivery of election promises. Mr Blair will use his speech to set out the case for continuing reform within the party as well as spelling out the way he believes the Government is delivering on the pledges on which it was elected.

"He believes that is what matters: that we are delivering on our pledges," the spokesman said, "and we keep focused on the big picture and some of the issues that have preoccupied the press in the last week or two are far less important than that.

"It is not just about day-to-day issues of what happens to be in the news one day and the next. He will keep totally focused on the big picture.

"He is a big picture politician who keeps focused on the big picture because that is where modern politicians have to be. What is his message coming back? It is that, on the big picture and on delivering on our pledges, we are getting things right. That in the end is what matters. The rest is less important."

In preparation for the Scottish Devolution referendum on 11 September, Mr Blair plans to campaign for a "Yes Yes" vote on the creation of a Scottish Parliament with possible tax-raising powers.

Summer of '97, page 3