Blair Should Not Be EU President
Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 19th July, 2009
It 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.