"Gordon Brown has asked two of his most senior civil servants to lobby discreetly within Europe for Tony Blair to become its new president amid warnings from allies in government that the former prime minister will lose his chance unless he launches a dynamic campaign.
John Cunliffe, the prime minister's most senior Europe adviser, and Kim Darroch, Britain's EU ambassador, are taking soundings at senior levels. David Miliband, meanwhile, has also intensified Britain's campaign for Blair to become the first president of the European council." Downing Street have since rejected the claims, as well they might. To my eyes, this kind of lobbying veers a bit too close to politicisation of the civil service - maybe not strictly acting on Labour's behalf, but acting at a Labour Prime Minister's behest on a former Labour Prime Minister's behalf. It doesn't look good.
But whether this lobbying is happening or not, I suspect it wouldn't have much effect. Blair is too controversial a candidate - not just because of Iraq, but also because he hails from a country which is, in many important respects, peripheral from the Continent - to be a massively popular choice with foreign governments. And that's before we consider the growing opposition to his candidacy over here. Or, indeed, whether the former PM's heart is really in it. At the end of the day, he may just have to content himself with his current portfolio.