Sunday 1 November 2009

The Milibandwagon's European tour

I was surprised to see several Sunday papers report growing momentum behind the possibility of David Miliband becoming EU High Representative once the Lisbon Treaty is ratified shortly.

All of them failed to reflect the news that any Miliband candidacy has already been vetoed and declared dead last night by influential Tory Eurosceptic blogger Iain Dale in alliance with one of Poland's "terrible Kaczynski twins" (*).

Nor had that news reached Ladbrokes yet: they have installed Miliband as the favourite in a large field:
David Miliband 2/1
Adrian Severin 4/1
Elisabeth Guigou 5/1
Carl Bildt 7/1
Massimo D'Alema 7/1
Olli Rehn 7/1
Alfred Gusenbauer 10/1
Frank Walter Steinmeier 10/1
16/1 bar

It would be a brave gambler who entered the field without inside information from Europe's Chancellories. The two outcomes are connected: Elisabeth Guigou and Carl Bildt would be the favourites for High Representative if Blair were to prevail but neither they nor Rehn would not be contenders, if as seems likely, a centre-right President of the Council and a social democrat as High Representative. But Miliband certainly has strong credentials among a good field of social democrats.

Ladbrokes still keep Tony Blair at the head of the list for EU Council President, though joint favourite Jan-Peter Balkenende, also at 5/2, is widely thought a likelier winner. For those looking for betting value, Next Left's outside tip for the role is Vaira Vike-Freiberga of Latvia at 20/1.

The Miliband candidacy may not happen. He has said he is not a candidate, and the government continues to support the Blair bid. But I disagree with Alex Smith fof LabourList, who thinks the Labour party would and should react angrily were David Miliband to be offered the role and take it. There would be reports that Miliband had given up on Labour's election changes. But this would be an important role for anybody who cares about British and European influence on global issues, such as global security or Middle East peace; I imagine Robin Cook would have jumped at it had such a role existed and been offered to him six months before the 2001 election, just as it was natural for Defence Secretary George Robertson to take up the NATO Secretary-Generalship in 1999.

And the Labour Party has always been fortunate in having different Milibandwagons to choose from when it comes to our next generation of politicians.

(*) It naturally pains me to offend those who hold the Law and Justice party as representing all that is progressive and modern in Cameronite Conservativism, but I merely repeat the Daily Telegraph's editorial verdict celebrating the end of the Law and Justice-led "maverick regime", noting how "their willingness to pander to xenophobia, their use of state institutions to persecute political opponents and their diplomatic ineptitude repelled many younger voters", with 80 per cent of Polish voters "ashamed" of their own government as they suffered a crushing defeat in the 2007 elections.

While claims of a Polish veto are unlikely, as Left Foot Forward have noted, President Kaczynski's very public spat with his own government risks undermining Prime Minister Donald Tusk's status as the "most influential leader of the eight east European member states", though it hardly helps to counter Law and Justice's lack of influence and poor reputation with EU leaders).


Newmania said...

anybody who cares about British and European influence on global issues, such as global security or Middle East peace

...and if that influence directly contradicts the wishes of the British ?

Sunder Katwala said...

I think, in the end, how it works in practice as a real world issue is something like this:

* Where EU states do agree on overall strategy and policy, such as on the Middle East, the coordination can give them a voice at the top table. (Even Britain, France and Germany, while important in several contexts, eg UN Security Council, would not be able to influence eg the Middle East quartet process much without this)

* Where EU states don't agree - which is your question - then there is effectively no joint approach or policy. This may well prove the case at present with regard to both Russia and China. the result is that everyone freelances.

There is a perfectly respectable case to say Britain should leave the EU. I disagree, but I expect one day we will have another public referendum on this, which is the fundamental question.

I think few who would stay in would think it sensible to either abolish the current Javier Solana role, or would object to merging the EU Commissioner role with it so there is one key person, not two. Though neither role could easily prevent member governments running separate national policies where they want to.

Newmania said...

M. East ..cobblers . Where have the rest of the freeloaders been while we have been sending in the troops along NATO lines .Its like expecting the GLA to go to war and a delusion of epic proportions. Wait wait the Southern Regional Development Council have raised militia and invaded the Midlands, perhaps am wrong ?

You say ..

'Where EU states don't agree - which is your question - then there is effectively no joint approach or policy'

..and you feel that David Milliband whose interest in the job stems directly from his lack of prospects here occupying the most powerful unelected position outside Communist China , is the right person to decide which is which do you . What fun you must have through the looking glass Sunder ? What you call British influence sounds more like suffering British effluence to me

You also opine as a wistful afterthought ...

'but I expect one day we will have another public referendum on this'

You think ? Why should we , there was never one to agree handing over our birthrights only our agreement to a “ Common Market”. I would say incremental obduracy would be the best way to go ,get us the best deal and ( if you are interested ....) would reflect the broadly Euro-sceptic but small c Conservative views of the British . No need for any drama slow pressure over a two term Conservative administration out to kill it stone dead as a serious project and on the way bag opt outs and hand backs by the sackful . In the end who knows it might not be worth leaving .
I am still hoping Tony Blair provides the very face of Empire but failing him Milliband will have to do.