by Stephen Tall on October 28, 2009
The speculation that Tony Blair might become the first President of the European Union – a post created by the soon-to-be-ratified Lisbon Treaty – continues to swirl around. The BBC reports today:
Gordon Brown has said he would be “very happy” to support a bid by his predecessor Tony Blair to be the first president of the European Council. But the prime minister told MPs the post did not yet exist as the Lisbon Treaty creating it had not become law. The BBC understands Mr Brown will put Mr Blair’s case to other EU leaders in Brussels later this week after previously denying it would do so.
But there are major potential obstacles in Mr Blair’s way – first, other qualified candidates, especially from the EU’s smaller nation states, and, secondly, the opposition of the Lib Dems and Tories to his candidacy. Here’s what Nick Clegg today said:
Tony Blair’s chances of becoming the EU president were dealt a blow today when Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, rejected his candidacy … Clegg joined the ranks opposing Blair, saying he had the wrong political skills. “Government by directive, or in his case by sofa, just does not work in the EU,” he said.
Clegg’s views carry weight because there are seven Liberal prime ministers in the EU and he leads the largest Liberal party in Europe. The Lib Dem leader, who worked in the European commission and was an MEP, said: “Blair really is the wrong person for this job. He won’t be very good at it and he will not enjoy it. This job is about giving the EU strength that is the sum of its parts, and it is not importing Hollywood stardust in the hope that a political globetrotting superstar will transform the fortunes of the EU.” …
He suggested the best UK candidates were either Lord Patten, the former Conservative party chairman, or the former Lib Dem leader Lord Ashdown.
But is Nick right? Labour’s Dennis MacShane has put forward staunchly the case for President Tony in Newsweek:
This is not a traditional contest for a big international job. Everyone knows Blair’s qualities and faults. But almost everyone also recognizes that he can put Europe on the world map in a way that no Brussels Eurocrat has ever managed. … if Europe chooses a bland, barely known former national leader for its first true president, the continent and the rest of the world will roll over in boredom and promptly ignore him or her.
… the post of EU president will be shaped by the first person who holds it. Here Blair offers a big advantage: he’ll bring with him the vision thing that Europe often lacks. Limiting himself to just a few major interventions a year, Blair could speak for Europe at a global level. He could use the post as a bully pulpit and help the EU regain the enthusiasm that was generated 25 years ago when Jacques Delors worked with Helmut Kohl and François Mitterrand to create the single market, launch the euro, and thus transform the old, cozy European Economic Community into something bigger and much more meaningful. … To make the job work, Europe’s elected leaders are also going to have to share the limelight. But if anyone can persuade them to, it’s President Blair.
What do LDV’s readers think? Does the mere notion of President Blair fill you with dismal despair? Or would you be prepared to hold your nose and vote for Tony because a Big Job needs a Big Politician? Here’s the question: Do you support or oppose Tony Blair becoming the first President of the European Union? And here are your options:
- Yes – no matter what you think of Blair, Europe needs his leadership abilities
- No – he is the wrong man for the job
Please feel free to show your working in the comments thread below …