‘Yet it may be the Conservatives who spike Blair's chances of getting the job. William Hague, the shadow foreign secretary, has told the other EU governments that the Conservatives would see support for a Blair presidency as a "hostile act". A week ago, Blair was the clear favourite, with the likely support of Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain, plus several of the smaller countries. But on my travels around Europe last week, I have found that Hague's comments have made a huge impact.
A number of prime ministers are unwilling to take a step that would incur the wrath of an incoming Conservative government. President Sarkozy and Chancellor Merkel remain supporters of Blair, but are now hesitating over backing a man with so many opponents. The Conservatives may have achieved their first diplomatic coup in Europe, even before taking office.’
The EU must placate a fiercely Eurosceptic prospective Conservative government. Blair’s support for the Iraq war and impassioned Atlanticism make him a controversial presidency candidate in any case, but the Tories visceral animosity to Blair makes his candidature the obvious initial concession.
Brown’s government is supine at home but the apparent ditching of Blair on the back of a Hague after dinner speech illustrates just how moribund it is abroad. I don’t see why there must be a European President, and certainly one that’s unelected, but there is going to be one. The first EU President will define the role. If it is filled by some Beneluxian nonentity European nations will cease to be as prominent, both economically and diplomatically, on the world stage, which, as we emerge from recession, would be disastrous.