What follows will delight some of you: I was wrong. It now appears to be increasingly unlikely that Tony Blair will be the first President of Europe. Failure to secure the backings of Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy last week mean that Blair’s bid is now all but redundant. In the wake of his departure, the new frontrunner is the Belgium Prime Minister, described as a man “who can barely stop the traffic in Brussels”, Herman Van Rompuy. While low on charisma, he is amply supplied in the department of shrewd operation. As the second frontrunner, he is now more than likely to be a serious contender for
But for those who would see British blood at the top of the European greasy-pole, there is hope yet. David Miliband is considered by many to be the frontrunner for the job of High Commissioner, a £275,000 a year role that would see him need to resign his seats in Parliament before the General Election. Some sources even claim that he has already been offered, and accepted, the job.
If he gets the job, expect cartoonists to have fun with the image of a rat jumping from a sinking ship. Miliband’s resignation would mean that a by-election would need to be held in his constituency, and would occur before the general election itself. Even if Labour won, Brown would be in a very weak state, with one of his closest allies, previously seen as Prime Ministerial material, having effectively abandoned him at his hour of need.
With polls in the last month predicting the Conservatives anything up to a 100-seat majority at the next election, the last thing that Brown wants now is one of his key political players taken out of the game. Sadly, he may not have this choice, and could suffer the added humiliation of having to nominate Miliband for the job for the sake of procedure.
Brown’s frustration certainly showed last week during his outburst to the Spanish Prime Minister and Austrian Chancellor, in which he said that they face “permanent irrelevance” for not backing Blair for President. He was wrong. It is Brown who now faces becoming permanently irrelevant.