Friday, October 30, 2009

Have Socialists let Centre-Right choose a candidate just to spike Blair?

What has been most surprising about last nights dinner discussions in Brussels the role of the Presidency and Foreign representative jobs being created by the Lisbon Treaty is that the European Left have capitulated so quickly on the Presidency job.

Are we expected to believe that the socialist parties are more interested in holding the office of Foreign Representatives when the President job should be alot more powerful in terms of setting the political agenda for the EU. Of course, it's still not clear just how big the job will be - and that was something EU leaders did discuss only very loosely at dinner last night - but it will still be a powerful counterpoint to the position of the European Commission President - and if a member of the centre-right EPP has just been appointed to Commission President position then it is reasonable for the Socialists to go for the top Council job.

I can only assume that opposition among the socialist parties to Blair's candidacy is so great that they conceded this early to spike any potential Blair bandwagon. Blair was counting not so much on the support of Socialist PMs like Zaparto in any case. He did however need the firm support of Merckel and Sarkozy. The Franco-German axis is back - and unconstrained by any centre-right partners in the UK. Sarkozy was enthusiastic in his early support for Blair but has shown he is quite fickle lately -while Merckel has cannily kept counsel on who her favourite contender would be.

The British Press have now assumed that with Blair out of the running for President, then UK Foreign Secretary David Milliband is somehow favourte for the EU Foreign Affairs job. He would make a good candidate certainly - he is from a Centre-Left party and he gave a very-well recieved speech recently mapping out his vision of a post-Lisbon Europe - however, there are stronger candidates such as the French Socialist former Europe minister, Elizabeth Guigou. While Milliband could certainly match Ms Guigou's talents, No 10 would be very reluctant to let him go - his departure would force a by-election in his South Shields constituency. EU think tank veteran Stanley Crossick suggests that if the UK nominate Chris Patten for the post, we would be more likely to win it. Mr Patten - a former EU Commissioner - is hugely experienced in international affairs and would be a restraining influence on his more eurosceptic conservative colleagues. However he is from the centre-right and of course the Socialists will want one of their own for this post.

As for the Presidency job - I am going to be brave and make a prediction. If Tony Blair is too rich for their blood - then the Franco-German axis will go for a compromise candidate - and Herman van Rompoy - Belgian PM would be the classic compromise candidate.

Its not so surprising that this has come down to a tradition Left-Right fight but the fact that the Socialists have just simply sat back and let the Centre-Right pick the top job for one of their own warrants further explanation.


  1. I see the High Representative's job as more important. So does Timothy Garton Ash. So, I believe, see the socialist leaders.

  2. Guigou? Not a name I have heard in the frame from France for the High Rep job. They might try to push Barnier for that position I had heard... My sources might be wrong though.

  3. Why would the socialists want the job of European Council president while most EU states are governed by right-wing governments? That would be a little suicidal, don't you think? The European left is already suffering from a lack of obvious differentiation with the right in the eyes of the voters. A socialist at the head of the European council would just blur political differences even further.
    Guigou is a fantastic candidate for the High Rep job. However, she's a socialist and the French government is right-wing. So there is little chance the French government accepts Guigou as the high rep and thus French member of the European Commission.