The Fading Hopes of President Blair
For all the initial trumpeting of Tony Blair's candidacy as the first 'President' of Europe, it looks highly unlikely that he will actually get anywhere near the post. One might argue that the final nail in his coffin has probably been Gordon Brown's enthusiastic support, but of course the reasons are more varied than that.
First, the idea of a British politician in the post would be anathema to many European countries. Britain is one of the most reluctant of European nations, whose political leaders still prefer cosying up to America than identifying a European future. A Brit in the top euro post would be almost be seen as akin to appointing a senior Opposition politician into government. Strange and unworkable. Secondly, most European governments are centre-right ones - they are unlikely to be sympathetic to a leftist candidate, even one as blurred as Tony Blair, for the new top job. But most significantly is the personality and history of Blair himself. He is a hugely divisive character. He took Britain, squealing, into a war most of her people didn't want, and which most of Europe took exception to. He remains a divisive character in Britain, where there is absolutely no political consensus behind his nomination (unlike the last senior British appointment of Roy Jenkins, the former Labour Home Secretary, as President of the European Commission in the late 1970s). His role as George W Bush's most faithful lackey makes him an extraordinarily poor choice for any international post, and his own character would hardly fit into the 'chairman of the board' role envisaged for the new European 'president'.
David Miliband, whose reputation surely slips a little each time he makes a speech, made the extraordinary statement that he wanted Tony Blair as European President, so that he could stop the traffic in Beijing. This is hardly how the position is described in the Lisbon Treaty. The new president of Europe, who carries no democratic mandate, is intended to be a chairman of the board at meetings of properly elected European heads of government, and then a spokesman for those collectvie views. Tony Blair, whose attitude to his own cabinet was to ignore it as much as possible and rule as an individual leader, is hardly suited to that sort of consensus role. But we needn't worry - with Gordon Brown behind him, he hasn't a hope.