Stay Away, Blair

Posted on October 29, 2009

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Lots of people have plenty to say about the prospective EU Presidency of Tony Blair, the one-time golden boy of British politics (c. 1997) turned villain of the piece. That is, everyone but Blair himself. The warmongerer remains noticeably quiet while the rest of the continent whips itself up into a frenzy (well, almost) over the prospect of the former prime minister straddling Europe.

Gordon Brown is ready to back his old colleague, and David Miliband has been particularly vocal today in stressing the positives of ‘President Blair’, should such a thing come to pass. The idea that Blair would not be a divisive choice, however, is frankly absurd. Blair’s war in Iraq has certainly divided Europe, and his campaign now hangs on whether or not he can obtain the support of Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy, with Merkel in particular believed to be doubtful over the sense of the appointment. These two leaders have the power to make or break Blair’s chances of obtaining the position.

The prospective role for the former prime minister has also proved divisive domestically, with Conservative opposition well-known. Even within the Labour Party itself the idea of Blair returning to full-scale public life in this way has provoked some disquiet. Charles Clarke’s opposition was perhaps predictable, but there are undoubtedly serious doubts amongst backbenchers over whether or not this appointment makes sense. The very name ‘Blair’ provokes a plethora of reactions in this country now, and it is unlikely that his face returning to television screens and his voice to debates on policy would be any different.

Nile Gardner’s blog on why Blair should not become President is incoherent and comes at the issue from an angle of staunch Euro-skepticism, something which I am not prepared to indulge in here. But I do find myself in agreement with the right-wing press, even the Daily Mail, in thinking that a Blair presidency would be too contentious and divisive for the man himself to ever be able to make a decent fist of his new job. Europe needs a less controversial figure with a lower profile. In any case, with Merkel and Sarkozy meeting to potentially jetison his hopes, and Blair not doing himself any favours by remaining quiet on the issue, the possibility might not even threaten to become a reality.

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Posted in: Politics