Friday, October 30, 2009

Tony Blair's bid for EU presidency sinks.

Tony Blair's hopes of assuming the presidency of the European Union appeared to be slipping away fast last night as the right wing governments of France and Germany listed the reasons why a British politician was not ideal:

"The UK is not in the eurozone, nor in the Schengen [free travel area in the EU] and it has a number of opt outs. These are not advantageous in this search for a candidate."
And Europe's left wing politicians made it very clear that they do not think that Blair is the man for the job:
Jean Asselborn, Luxembourg's foreign minister, said: "Now in the United States, Obama is the president, it is no more Mr Bush. We have a new treaty, we have to reset Europe and we need to start with some new ideas. There is and will remain a link for the next generation between Iraq, Bush and Tony Blair."
The truth is that Europe, with the exception of Spain and the United Kingdom, did not back the Iraq war. That war truly belonged to the US and the UK.

With Barack Obama determined to take the US in a new direction, it would be perverse in the extreme to ask him to have to deal with one of the architects of that war as Europe's chief representative.

Even Gordon Brown is now admitting that Blair's star is rapidly fading:

Brown hinted that Blair's candidacy was fading when he qualified his strong backing for his predecessor by saying that there were also other candidates for the job. "Of course it may not happen; there are other candidates as well," he said.

The prime minister's remarks came after an acrimonious meeting of European centre-left leaders. Brown was understood to have had a tense exchange with Martin Schulz, the German leader of the Socialists in the European parliament, who wants the left to assume the EU's new foreign policy post, leaving the presidency to the centre right.

Brown told the meeting: "You need to get real. This is a unique opportunity to get a progressive politician to be the president of the council."

But it soon became clear that Blair had no support on the left, let alone on the centre right.

Why would anyone on the European left support Tony Blair? He was always a politician of the centre right persuasion, selling himself as a supposed progressive.

But, when push came to shove, Tony was always - reluctantly - on the side of the right wingers. Whether it was invading Iraq , or charging students for a university education, Tony always found himself pushing the right wing line, whilst telling the rest of us that the Tories would only offer a more extreme version of what he was selling us.

Tony was the British version of Clinton's triangulation taken to the extreme. He seemed to operate from the presumption that the right wing were right and that our job as progressives was to simply hold them back from their worst excesses.

It simply never occurred to him that they might be wrong.

The collapse of the financial markets and the election of Barack Obama has heralded a new dawn for progressive politics. It would be perverse in the extreme were Europe to choose this moment to have Tony Blair as their international representative.

I am delighted that Blair's hopes of being the new European president are fading. I could think of nothing worse than Tony finding himself once more at the centre of the world stage, pedalling that right wing bullshit and pretending that he represents the left wing side of any argument.

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