Tony Blair's candidacy is unacceptable to many EU leaders - both because of his record, particularly over the Iraq War, and because of Britain's odd-man status in Europe. Last night at the Queen's Diplomatic Reception, a senior ambassador remarked to me that if Blair had really wanted the EU job, he should have started lobbying for it a few years ago - or at least shown a post-No 10 interest in European affairs. Blair, said the envoy, could have given a speech in Berlin, an interview in a French paper and so on. But he did not.
David Milliband, in turn, could probably have walked off with the High Representative's job, and seemed to have considered the prospect seriously early on. Whether he ruled himself out because he fancies his chances in a post-election leadership contest, cares more about domestic politics than foreign policy or was blocked by the PM - for fear of the government looking even more doomed if the heir presumptive bailed - is not clear.
Nature, however, abhores a vacuum and the newspapers are now reporting Lord Mandelson may be up for the job. But I doubt it. He probably still harbours ambitions for higher office in Britain - and a Third Comming, after another tour in Brussels, would be remarkable even for this lord.
So Britain will likely walk away empty-handed after the next meeting of EU leaders. If so it will partly be down to Brown's mishandling of the process. If he had wanted a Brit in a top EU job, he should have realised Britain had no chance and no candidate for the Council President job but should have put forward Chris Patten, George Robertson or Paddy Ashdown for the High Representative's job. All three men are respected on the continent and would have put the Tories in an awkward position.