Magazine article The Spectator

The Biggest Tent of the Lot: To Stop Blair Becoming EU President

Magazine article The Spectator

The Biggest Tent of the Lot: To Stop Blair Becoming EU President

Article excerpt

This is shaping up to be the greatest expression of European unanimity and togetherness since Abba won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974. From Gdansk in the Baltic to the Straits of Cadiz, the citizens of this fractious and culturally disparate continent are at last united.

It is a remarkable achievement, when you think about it. What other politician in living memory would be able to bring together, in fervent opposition, a German Green, a Flemish supporter of Vlaams Beland, an Italian Christian Democrat and a French Socialist?

Tony Blair has not yet so much as announced his candidacy for the post of President of Europe, but already the barricades have been manned, Poles linking hands with Spaniards, Sudeten Germans with the Alsace French. Nobody seems to want him and yet his victory is already being seen as inevitable, a given. He is, you see, a great communicator; he has stature.

It is said that he straddles the divide of old and new Europe, or at least hops between these two camps like a flea on a hotplate, one week offering succour to the Poles, the next kicking them in the teeth. His presidency would either offer a challenge to the Franco-German dominance of the European Union or ensure its survival: take your pick. Both possibilities have been suggested and that, in a way, is Mr Blair's triumph as a politician, to be all things to all people while actually being no thing at all.

On the streets of Europe, as I say, he is trusted no further than you or I could spit.

Both Left and Right are agreed that they would prefer almost anyone else in the world for the job. He has the support, we are told, of the already hopelessly beleaguered Nicolas Sarkozy, and at home of that political titan, that colossus, Denis MacShane. And yet from this narrowish base it has been blithely assumed that he will get the post. By him, at least. His old ally Angela Merkel seems to be fervently opposed, though, according to the Guardian, she expresses 'great personal sympathy for Tony'. A German government source has said: 'There is unease. . . Merkel is against. He made a lot of fine speeches about Europe but essentially stood on the sidelines when it came to concrete steps forward.' Ah, you noticed that, huh?

When Tony Blair at last left Downing Street in the summer of 2007 he was immediately appointed peace envoy to the Middle East. Most people in the world, and especially those in the Arab world, suspected some kind of satirical joke had been played; with the possible exceptions of Donald Rumsfeld and George W. Bush, was there anyone in the world less likely to secure the trust of Arab people than Tony Blair? But in fact it was an appointment which had been made in all seriousness, and so our former Prime Minister set about being the first thing the Jews and Palestinians have been able to agree about in 3,000 years.

However, the post has turned out not to his liking. He seems a little bored by it, frankly. Certainly he considered it of insufficient importance to secure his undivided attention, which is presumably why he took up extremely lucrative consultancy posts with the bankers JP Morgan and Zurich Financial. And of course proceeded to rake in the dosh with his lecture tours.

The plight of the Palestinians proved to be less than compelling for a statesman of Tony Blair's magnitude, especially when it became apparent that his role was not quite as magisterial, as self-gratifying, as he had imagined when he took up the post. And so naturally, given his stature, he began scouting around for a post which would be commensurate with his talents.

Now, at the time it was announced that he would become a Middle East peace envoy, most of us laughed like drains and wondered if it was possible for Tony Blair to have been given a less suitable post. Could there be any job in the world for which, by his previous actions, he had shown himself to be less able, we chuckled. Oh yes, indeedy -- there could. …

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