· by RAY FLEMING WAS his journey really necessary? Seven thousand miles, the loss of two nights proper sleep, and very little to show for it. Still, Tony Blair must be given credit for sticking at his self-appointed task of making President George W Bush understand what the world looks like outside the confines of the White House and what needs to be done about it. He went to Washington with two objectives and left with only half of one of them accomplished, and then in most tentative fashion. On global warning and climate change, of course, he got nowhere. Concerning increased development aid to Africa, which EU countries have undertaken to double, he also faced a brick wall but on debt relief for the poorest of African nations he squeezed a heavily qualified promise from the president. Even experienced watchers of African aid politics were uncertain about what, exactly, Mr Bush said he will do. However, it seems that he has agreed that a carefully selected number of African nations will be conditionally freed of their crippling debt burdens and that the United States will join the other G8 industrialised countries in providing new money to compensate the World Bank and the African Development Bank for the interest payments they will lose. This appears to be a step forward in the sense that the United States had previously said that this compensation would have to come from existing aid budgets. Mr Blair gave the impression that negotiations are ongoing and that more might be on offer from the US by the time of the G8 Gleneagles meeting in July. Mr Blair's advocacy of the need for radical action on Africa will have been boosted by yesterday's UN report on the deteriorating human situation even in those parts of Africa not affected by war or natural disaster. The prime minister (and, it should be said, Gordon Brown also) have put enormous thought and energy into proving that those who think Africa is a lost cause are wrong. They deserve rather more than they have so far got from the richest nation on earth.