Jonathan Fryer

Blair Should Not Be EU President

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 19th July, 2009

Tony Blair 1It is looking increasingly likely that the Irish will vote ‘yes’ in the re-run of their referendum on the Lisbon Treaty in the autumn, which means that the Treaty could be operational before the end of the year. Among the various important implications of that is the replacement of the cumbersome six-month rotating presidency of the EU Council of Ministers (currently held by Sweden) with a so-called ‘permanent’ president — an individual who could serve a maximum of two two-and-a-half year terms. The thinking behind this is that this will give more continuity to decision-making by the Council and could attract a person of high calibre who would have significant standing on the world stage (which is why the Euro-sceptics hate the whole idea).

The good news is that Britain’s Labour government has embraced the notion of an EU President warmly. The bad news is that they are promoting the candidacy of former Prime Minister Tony Blair. One had hoped that the campaign for  ‘Blair for President of Europe’ (as the job has been inaccurately described) was dead in the water, having been mooted long ago. But Gordon Brown and his colleagues have been injecting new blood into it; ironic, when one considers that the Brown government is itself on its last legs. Once again, Labour is ignoring public opinion, just as Blair himself turned a deaf ear to public opinion when he led Britain into the Iraq War.

According to a YouGov poll in the Sunday Times, only 28% of people interviewed thought it would be good for Britain if Tony Blair got the EU presidential job, whereas 54% believed that it would be mainly good for Tony Blair, not the country. John Rentoul, writing in the Independent on Sunday, is right to note that the polling question was pretty loaded. Nonetheless, from soundings I have been taking, the message is clear: most Britons do not want to see Tony Blair in the post. It’s not just that they haven’t forgiven him for Iraq. It’s also because he seems to be collecting titles and positions and fat salaries and fees galore without achieving great results in any one field. I was always sceptical that he could deliver anything significant in the cause of Middle East peace, on behalf of the Quartet, or that he would be perceived as an impartial mediator there, but even I have been suprised just how invisible his impact has been in the region. Meanwhile, he has been raking in the millions with lecturing and publishing deals. Let him get on with that and keep him out of the EU presidency. Blair in that job would harm not just Britain’s interests, but the interests of the whole EU.

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4 Responses to “Blair Should Not Be EU President”

  1. Luis Vega said

    Interesting observations, Jonathan.

    For good or bad former PM Tony Blair is the most well-known (although not most effective) leader the UK has had in decades. Perhaps that is why so many opportunities are coming his way, whether his national detractors like it or not. He is the political face of the United Kingdom the same way Princess Diana became the face of its monarchy.

    For us outsiders looking in Blair actually represents the problems facing the nation as a whole not only his political party. How can the UK remain relevant and in a leadership position in a rapidly changing world? For example, how is your government dealing with its participation in Afghanistan now that some segments of the population question the capability (funding) of its troops?

    It seems to me leftist liberals want to make Blair “The Conservative Whipping Boy” the same way many did with Bush in America. But after a while voters (and societies) have to understand blaming past leaders for present and future problems is good for lively conversation but bad for long time planning and nation-building.

    Instead of whining about Blair, what can UK do to improve the quality and leadership skills of its next leaders? Change is possible.

  2. Ralf Grahn said

    The President of the European Council is meant to serve the institution as a whole, not only British interests. This leads to the question of Tony Blair’s European credentials, as well as the matter of his European visions.

    Naturally, these questions need to be put with regard to every potential candidate.

    Once started, the discussion should take up the new High Representative and the new Secretary-General of the Council.

    It will be interesting to see, if the Swedish Council Presidency manages to arrange open nominations and public debate about the posts to fill, and if it is willing and capable to handle the implementation of the Liabon Treaty in an open and transparent manner.

  3. Luis Vega said

    “Former Spanish prime minister Felipe Gonzalez, a socialist, is seen as a potential rival to Mr Blair for the presidency job. French President Nicolas Sarkozy now favours Mr Gonzalez for the job. Earlier Sarkozy had been seen as a powerful Blair supporter. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi described Mr Blair as the “ideal personality” to be EU president,” BBC reports: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/8152099.stm

    I agree with “Don” Berlusconi. Felipe Gonzalez has negative reputation for the repression of the Spanish nationalist movement during his term. Which some believe made the situation far worse than it was before his tenure. Certainly there is a huge contrast between how Blair dealt with the IRA problem and Gonzalez’s own controversial national public record. Blair is a “soft leftist” (moderate).

    It can be said both are “yesterday’s news” as the BBC report concludes but since when experience disqualifies candidates for public office. Lets not repeat Thatcher’s forced exile mistake; she was retired from the political global stage way too soon.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret_Thatcher

  4. euandus said

    Although I understand there were pluses and minuses discussed in the ratification debate, I want to congratulate my European friends and say, chins up! It is difficult indeed to get unanimity among so many governments. I think it shows strength in Europe. Now you will get a president. If I haven’t disgusted you sufficiently already, I recommend the following post, http://euandus3.wordpress.com/2009/11/03/the-eu-as-a-partner-for-the-us/

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