David Cameron is surely right to think that Jean-Claude Juncker is not the man to relieve the European Union’s woes, but I wonder if it is worth a fight. It reminds me of a similar battle by John Major, in 1994, to prevent a fat Belgian called Jean-Luc Dehaene from getting the job, on the grounds that he was too federalist. The post then duly went to Jacques Santer — like M. Juncker, a Luxembourgeois with an alleged fondness for alcohol (he was known as ‘Sancerre’). M. Santer was no better, from the British point of view, than M. Dehaene, and some European diplomatic chips were pointlessly used up.
Given Mr Cameron’s stated wish for a move away from integration, it is impossible to imagine a candidate for the presidency of the Commission who would fit his bill. Wouldn’t it be better to accept M. Juncker, who is generally regarded as stale and unimpressive, than to try to get someone able, like Christine Lagarde? Mrs Thatcher made a similar mistake when she endorsed Jacques Delors. Now, touted by Peter Mandelson, along comes the dangerously able Pascal Lamy, once Delors’ right-hand man.