"When the manoeuvring [by EU leaders] is stripped out, who is their first choice [for the EU presidency]? Weirdly, 12 or 13 say Blair. Strip out the ones who are dead against – Belgium, Luxembourg and Austria (now there’s a triple alliance to conjure with – talk about surrender monkeys) – and the Swedes who hold the presidency and that leaves you a sizeable majority and the chance of winning a few more over. Mr Zapatero of Spain will go along with whatever Mr Brown wants and will square the PES on the result; Mr Sarkozy is still keen on Blair; and Angela Merkel? She wants to avoid a row and has a good history with Mr Tony. So that is why it is possible – just – to see a deal emerge, when minds are focused around that table, when the EU realises that the first choice is often the best one."