President Blair?

Tony Blair

The news is full at the moment of speculation about whether Tony Blair might be a suitable candidate to be president of the European Council. The post doesn’t exist yet, but will be created by the Lisbon treaty, and thoughts are racing ahead.

This blog wrote about the possibility two months ago – read it here – so it is welcome if the mainstream media can catch up now.

Blair himself is reported to have said that he would only be interested in the post if it were given some powers. As it stands, according to the treaty, that is a hope that will not be fulfilled. But, as with pretty much any senior job in any organisation, political, government or otherwise, much rests on what the post-holder makes of the job, not only on what it says on paper. Authority and influence are not allocated solely by treaty but also by action. A president who acts in the right way will exercise more power than a president who does not. The question, then, is whether Tony Blair can act in that way.

Here, opinions differ. You will no doubt have your own, but let me point you to two others.

First, read Peter Sain ley Berry in EUobserver yesterday:

Next, there is a further argument here, by Sir Samuel Brittan, reflecting on Blair’s conduct of the business of government. His interest in “what works”, regardless of how it works, was the source of much of his success and also of much of his failure.

The European Union itself is founded on the rule of law, and a profound understanding that “what works” depends utterly on how it works. There might be some short-cuts that work in the short-term, but a long-term objective of peace and prosperity needs more solid foundations than that. It can be frustrating sometimes, but a constant reminder of this point is needed. Is Tony Blair the man to provide it?

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