Daniel Korski

Even under the Tories, President Blair will be our man in Brussels 

Even under the Tories, President Blair will be our man in Brussels 
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In his column, James asks the key question about Tony Blair’s candidature for President of the European Council: what would it do for the Tories and Britain’s foreign policy. William Hague clearly thinks it would be a bad thing and has been lobbying against Blair’s candidacy.  

The Shadow Foreign Secretary is letting his anti-EU, anti-Labour views cloud his judgement. Let me explain.

If the Tories win, Labour will be in the doldrums, a shadow of its former self. The idea that the party will mount a challenge to a Conservative government by rallying around an EU-focused Tony Blair is unbelievable. Romani Prodi may have jumped from an EU job to the top of Italian politics, but Britain works differently. Peter Mandelson is the exception, Roy Jenkins the rule.

But even if Blair has a useful pedestal from where he can exert influence, that may not be so bad. As President of the European Council, Blair will be the mouthpiece of the EU states, a post that was created to counterbalance the Commission on behalf of EU governments.  

In fulfilling his role, Blair could side with Britain; side with France and Germany; or triangulate between the three major powers, using the smaller states as help. Everything about Blair suggests he will try to do the former. In doing so, he will need all the help he can get, given that the Lisbon Treaty provides the EU foreign minister, not the Council President, with the lion's share of staff and money. This means Blair will need Prime Minister Cameron far more than vice versa. Blair will be the supplicant, not Cameron.  

This is not conjecture. Look at the way in which Brits in international jobs act, regardless of their political hue.

Paddy Ashdown in Bosnia and Chris Patten in Brussels cooperated with the Labour government, relying on the back-up from the FCO and the support of successive foreign secretaries. David Cameron has in fact already played this game: he backed Lord Ashdown’s appointment as the UN’s man in Kabul, both in public and private. For that’s the way international politics works. Being a former PM, Blair is of course a bigger beast, but the same pressure, above all of time, expedience and convention, will make itself felt on Blair.  

So the Tories have nothing to be afraid of. Even under a Tory government, Blair will be our man in Brussels.