President Blair

Events seem to have already overtaken this one, given that speculation now is that Tony Blair does not have the support to be the first President of the EU council. However, for what it’s worth, today’s Telegraph has a snippet from their monthly YouGov poll that shows the public still evenly divided over whether they would like to see Tony Blair as EU President or not – 31% would, 31% wouldn’t.

33 Responses to “President Blair”

  1. That’s a lot of people who didn’t express an opinion then.

    If the 31% supporting Blair is comparable with the 27/28% supporting Labour, then as a minimum there must be 3/4% of supporters of other parties who would support a Blair candidacy. Given the distrust of Blair within the Labour left, it’s reasonable to assume that nearer 10% of others are supporting Blair.

    The interesting question is – who are these people? Presumably they aren’t Tories. And Lib Dems have hardly been fans of Blair since the Iraq invasion. At least officially.

  2. Careful – it isn’t actually comparable with the level of Labour support. Around 27% of people giving a voting intention support Labour, as opposed to 27% of the whole sample, so it’s actually much lower, and therefore there must be quite a lot of people who would like to see Blair as EU President, but wouldn’t vote Labour tomorrow.

  3. Leslie

    I doubt it is that simple, hence the high level of don’t knows.

    If one were to look at it from a European perspective, then there is a strong case for an effective EU president, and Blair fits that bill better than most. On the other hand, Blair comes with a pile of baggage that makes him unpalatable to large numbers of Europeans. So he may be effective projecting the EU globally, but he might also be highly divisive within the EU.

    If one were to look at it from a “national” perspective, then surely it must be better for Britan to have a Brit in the post – however much one might loathe Blair. It is hard to see any other plausible British candidate – try any other suitably senior name from past PMs, EU Commisioners or senior cabinet members and it is clear that they are likely to generate even more objections than Balir.

    If one were to look at from a “nationalist” (i.e. anti-EU) perspective – then obviously the last thing one would want is for the EU to have an effective president. Again, however much one might loathe Blair, one would have to concede that he is effective. On the other hand, he is marvellously divisive, and could cause such a backlash in Britain that it may push up support for the UK to leave the EU.

    The one perspective from which one should not judge this is a simple Lab v Con option.

    So, lots of pros and cons. Unless one is firmly in the pro-Blair or anti-Blair camp it is a tough call.

  4. @ Leslie

    Perhaps the non-Labour Blair-for-President supporters support him as the “British” candidate? Or perhaps they might be EU-philes who see Blair as someone who make the Presidency into something to be reckoned with?

  5. Interesting split in opinion. There is an good article in today’s Economist arguing that teh Tories position on a Blair presidency looks both petty and unpatrotic. A view that is hard to argue against.

    IMO: Mary Robinson for pres!

  6. @ at Paul HJ
    “Try any other suitably senior name from past PMs, EU Commisioners or senior cabinet members and it is clear that they are likely to generate even more objections than Balir.”

    But some of these people would be eligible. Correct me if I’m wrong but i believe that teh post can only be filled by a current or past head of state/government. Hence ruling most EU commissioners or senior cabinet members out.

    What would have been interesting would be if this poll asked questions regarding people perceptions of what the role actually is. Would be good to see if people are swallowing the scary vision that the Tories have (in my opinion – disingenuously) painted.

  7. Jack – there is no actual restriction saying it must be a past head of state or government, that just seems to be the de facto assumption.

  8. Jack,

    The post is technically a beefed up version of president of the commission. It has been the custom for that role to be filled by an ex head of government. But the exception to such a “rule” is proven by “King John 15th”, who had been both chancellor and home secretary, so holding two of the three most senior cabinet posts, before becoming President of the Commission.

  9. Rev Iain Paisley for president! ;)

    Now that would put the cat among the pigeons.

  10. Goody. We could have a president no one voted for AND a prime minister no one voted for. Thus our mission to bring the shining light of democracy to the tyranny-blighted world continues apace …

  11. It would be nice if we could all be less partisan and look beyond partisan interest and think about whether he would be good for the job in question.

    Personally I think he would be a good choice, we don’t really need another technocrat to be largely ignored by the world and make the EU seem slightly ridiculous.

  12. I think this suggests that the gap between Labour and the Tories is much closer than the polls would have us believe. It is fair to say that the Country wanted rid of Blair as PM following Iraq and Brown took some of the brunt. On that basis I fear that Labour will do much more to close the gap running up to the election. The Tories really do not seem to have a credible plan. I amnot a fan of Brown or Blair but the Tories line on Blair as EU President shows me that they are incredible. Its not as if they say Blair would be inefective they say the contrary that he is and would be and that’s what they are desperate to avoid. If Brownhad taken their advice on the economy we would (according to many economic comentators) be well into depression. I don’t pretend to be an expert but doing nothing with the econonmy and allowing banks to fail was not an option we could reasonably take. I am an objective floating voter but their attitude on the big issues worry me so much that I am afraid to say Labour are most likely to get my vote and if I had a say I would give Blair ia go (despite Iraq) he is a better bet than anybody I can think of for the new post.

    I saw Blair on the front page of the Times the other day and thought (to my surprise) he looks the part, strong, determined, decisive and highly regarded as a world statesman.

  13. If Blair “emerges” from the smoke filled rooms which stand in for democracy in EU, then the European Parliament can anticipate that he will ignore it-just like he did the House of Commons.

    This is a view from the Sofia Echo:-

    “Reported objections by Poland to Blair were along similar lines. Warsaw, similarly to Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, was said to favour a “first among equals” consensus-builder, a negotiator rather than, as the anti-Blair camp might put it, someone who would want 500 million EU citizens to be on-message. They sought a masseur, not a Messiah.”

    Spot on I reckon-this job would make Blair’s posturing ego trip through life complete…..and we would still be paying for it.

  14. The European Parliament, the only directly elected body in EU, will have no say in the selection of President of the European Council.

  15. Jayne…good post but a little off centre. The polls show strong support for the Tories, the smart money is on Labour meltdown. People know that Labour administrations always result in financial disaster, their excuses are hollow and after so many , predictable. Blair’s high profile came as a result of his closeness to Bush, in Europe this was viewed with alarm and even here he was characterised as a poodle. The Tory policies seem benign enough to appeal to most people, sensible spending constraints to counter Brown’s profligacy. Bottom line, the New Labour project and its characters are old news, people want change, anyone but Brown, any party but Labour.

  16. Colin:
    Sadly typical of the European Union, of which I used to be a strong supporter.

  17. @Jayne

    “Tories line on Blair as EU President shows me that they are incredible”

    Indeed, many think they are ‘incredible’.

  18. Ah, Jayne, you’ve swallowed the “Tories would do nothing” line Gordon Brown kept spuing out. I suppose it must have worked then.

    You can fool some of the people …

  19. When I see Blair, strong and determined aren’t words that spring to my mind. Hungry, greedy and false fit the bill better…

    As for the economy, is a Japan style decade of limbo really any better? The symptoms may be going but the underlying causes are still there.

    That’s a fair old tangent though. On the poll there’s an awful lot of different motives to vote for or against blair it’s rather tricky to draw conclusions.

  20. We should be able to vote for this position

  21. I strongly agree with Glen;

    I do not support or oppose the idea of an European President. However, it is wrong that we cannot vote on who that President is.

    We cannot vote on the president, we cannot vote on the Constitution, now known as Lisbon treaty, we cannot select the Quango Heads who have be given phenominal power over every aspect of our lives, and we cannot vote to remove key ministers as they come from the appointed second chamber.

    My question is which political party, if any, is going to halt and then reverse this erosion of our democratic rights?

  22. It appears to me that the choice of the President of the EU Council (not the President of Europe as is widely misreported) comes down to what kind Europe you want to see.

    Blair is a excellent figurehead, able to hold together a broad coalition. New Labour was a successful electorally due to this. Some people would argue that he was just a master of spin, who just told everyone what they wanted to hear. This view of New Labour is grossly simplistic and does not explain three successful election wins.

    He could provide a strong voice for the EU council, and that is what I think some people don’t like. He would be likely to dominate and lead from the front, over-shadowing those who make up the EU council. Germany and France like to think theirs is the key relationship, and a Blair Presidency would be a threat to them. I think they would prefer a modest bureaucrat, who could be controlled more easily.

    Electing Blair to that position would be a blow to those who want to limit the power of the EU too. A strong, clear leader of the council would elevate the position of the EU around the globe, in trade talks etc. Mr Cameron would not be happy about that!

  23. If Cameron is not happy by Garry K scenario, then for once I would agree with Cameron. The picture of a super-state europe bossing the rest of humanity under super-blair is not an attractive picture to me, particularly when it involves very little consultation with the people of europe.

    While Tony Blair probably owed two election victories to a very unpopular Tory party and labour spin, the third was due mainly to a very unfair political system.

  24. I am amazed that TB would want the job. Ignore the spin and look at reality. This job is just the presiding officer of the council of ministers! boring, and hardly a earth shattering role. My bet is he is glad to be no longer in the frame for what is just a boring bureaucratic post, currently held by Barrosso

  25. Ken – I take all the points made here on board but I do feel the Tories are spin central. Why so? Because the Tories did call it wrong on the economy but they still seem to be able to spin themselves into something of a credible alternative when in fact looking closely they are really just simple observers.
    I am far from any kind of political animal and as I say I am a floating voter but I do listen carefully to commentators. I have also checked Hansard to double check what Cameron and Osborne were saying when Brown was apparently being hailed as ‘flash Gordon’ for saving Northern Rock (when Bush had failed to do the same in the states), for bailing out the banks by effectively nationalising them, for pumping billions into the economy, for reducing vat (said to be pointless), for insisting on continuing investment in public sector spending. On each and every point Cameron did actually say ‘DON’T DO IT. DO NOTHING’. The fact is I didn’t have a clue whether Brown’s plan was right. I thought it was bonkers to keep pumping money into the economy and probably a massive gamble but the truth is it is working. I heard Will Hutton on Radio 4 recently saying that Browns gamble was not actually a gamble but a well executed plan which only Brown could have had the foresight to see through. He also said that Brown led the rest of the world and prevented protectionism which would have almost certainly led to depression which would have made the last one look like a fleeting downturn.
    The Tories can’t be serious about stopping the investment at this stage. I do think Brown has it right. Of course we need to be concerned about the deficit but why rush to pay it off now. You don’t go to the bank on a Monday to borrow money to buy a house and say I want to re-pay the loan a week on Saturday. I see that the Brown plan is to reduce the deficit over a period of 4 years. That will do for me; I much prefer this idea to Cameron’s plan of ‘we’re all in it together’ and a newly qualified nurse on 18k will have to suffer the brunt. Well I work in the public sector as a manager and I don’t much fancy being in it with Cameron and Osborne. I wouldn’t mind being a few pounds behind them though.
    I hope I have explained my position but if not I’ll have a go here – 12 months ago I would (probably) have given the Tories a go but not now they got it wrong and if that’s fooling ‘some of the people’ then so be it. I for one would rather play it safe and give Brown a chance. If I am wrong then what of it. I’m still in work, my mortgage is down £364 p/m, I don’t have savings so I’m not fussed about that, I have just traded in my 1999 VW Polo and got nearly £3k off the price from the car scrapage deal , I claim tax credits and use a sure start nursery which saves us a small fortune.

  26. ConHome reporting new ICM poll in Telegraph:

    C – 42% (-2%)
    Lab – 25% (-2)
    LD – 21% (+3%)

  27. Jayne,

    You don’t go to the bank on a Monday to borrow money to buy a house and say I want to re-pay the loan a week on Saturday. I see that the Brown plan is to reduce the deficit over a period of 4 years. That will do for me

    But would you go back to the bank on Tuesday (and Wednesday and Thursday) and say you want to borrow the same again even though your salary has not changed and you have nothing more to show for it other than you splashed out on wild redecorations and flash gadgets ?

    Brown’s “plan” to “reduce the deficit” is actually a plan to slow down the rate at which he is borrowing, and has no indication whatsoever as to how he ever plans to repay the principal.

    If you were increasingly over-drawn at the end of each month, would you be happy with a four-year plan to reduce the rate at which your overdraft was increasing ( bearing in mind that you will still be massively in debt at teh end of that period ?

  28. PAUL H-J

    Point taken but you don’t seem to have understood the basics. Brown pumped money into the banks. We are now shareholders. That money has not gone forever it remains in the banks balance sheets. The banks are now making profits. The money must come back to us.

  29. Jayne

    If you think the banks are making profits go buy some RBS and Lloyds shares,

  30. Jayne
    “I for one would rather play it safe and give Brown a chance”

    Play it safe!? I’m staggered that anyone could think that. Brown is the man who stole money from private pensions, sold our gold at rock bottom prices and led us into the longest-ever recorded recession. Not to mention wrecking a perfectly good bank (Lloyds) by persuading them to bail out HBOS. Sticking with him is playing safe?

  31. “Sticking with him is playing safe?”

    When the alternative is Cameron & Osbourne it is! This is the state of the british political system.

  32. Jayne.. I take all your points on board but having considered the various arguments I feel instinctively that it is time for a change. I do blame Brown for the mess we’re in, he didn’t lead the World out of recession, and as others here have pointed out he is a man of flawed character.
    Your position in the public sector determines your view and I understand your concern about the Tories, however, I think we have been victims of an even bigger spin from Labour. The economy has been out of control for years and I think that the Government is responsible, that is the nature of power, you have to accept responsibility, they spin constantly and never tell the truth, bottom line.

  33. Jayne..a colleague of mine in the office has just given us a giggle. He said that he scored a goal on Sunday when the ball went in off his bum, he referred us to Will Hutton who, in hindsight , would have put it down to a well executed plan.Dontcha’ just love journalists!