Blunkett's world

LAST week Norfolk - this week China. David Blunkett has exchanged the clean air of the Broads, where he spent a pleasant night swapping tales of Sanctuary Buildings with Gillian Shephard, for the sweltering pea-soup smog of Beijing.

Blunkett headed east to "strengthen our good relations", spread the gospel of globalisation and share ideas about higher education.

This is code, of course, for: "Please send more students" - applications from the Chinese doubled last year - and: "Please employ English teachers to teach English, not Yanks." (Chinese students of English apparently outnumber the entre UK population).

The late Deng Xiaoping had his own approach to students, sending in tanks to Tiananmen Square. Let's hope that's one idea David doesn't bring back.

The trip is a chance for Blunkett's right-hand man, Conor Ryan, to add to the long list of Communist countries whose stamps adorn his passport.

Conor travelled extensively in Eastern Europe as a younger man, before the Wall fell. With most of those nations now further right than New Labour, he must have felt nostalgic in a land where the writ of Marx and Mao still (theoretically) runs red. Next stop North Korea?

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