I have just come from a meeting of the European Parliament Socialists and Democrats (S & D) Group – the one which used to be called the Party of European Socialists – and I am incandescent with rage. The rage is again on behalf of Tony Blair and Britain, one of the minority of countries in the European Union to have a government from the same political family as the S & D Group.
It is, inevitably at present, about the soon to be established post of President of the European Council of Ministers. The S & D Group as a whole have, it must be said, shown no support for the Blair bid, and more of that later. My ire is more against the two S & D MEPs who tabled an anti-Blair Written Declaration (similar to an Early Day Motion) in the Parliament.
They know who they are, but for the record I am talking about Robert Goebbels from Luxembourg and German Jo Leinen. (A Written Declaration needs five signatures – the other three were from other political groups).
The Written Declaration is particularly damning, asking that the new President be a figure with whom all the people of Europe can identify and whether he/she has displayed the ability to move the EU forward. It also states the “figure” must come from a country in the Euro and the Schengen Agreement and be from a country which does not refuse to apply the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.
It doesn’t take much to work out that the “figure” is our very own TB. The attack on Tony continued in the S & D Group meeting when one of the proposers of the Written Declaration made it clear he didn’t think Socialists could support Blair due to Tony’s lack of solidarity with other socialists over the Iraq war as well as his attending the French UMP conference just before the Presidential election in France and Blair’s closeness to Berlusconi.
Tony Blair was the most successful Labour Prime Minister Britain has ever had, winning three election victories, bringing peace to Northern Ireland and improving health and education beyond all expectations. It is high time European socialist “colleagues” buried their petty jealousies and did what is best for the S & D Group and best for Europe by not continually carping about one of Europe’s most influential leaders, who also happens to be one of us.
Back to the Blair bid itself as opposed to personal animosity. The S & D Group together with the heads of government in those countries with socialist governments, wrongly in my view, decided to go for the Socialists holding the new position of High Representative for Foreign Affairs, a post which straddles both Council and Commission with the post holder also being Vice-President of the Commission. The thinking was that the EPP centre-right, who already have the President of the Commission in the form of Jose-Manuel Barroso, will probably get the Council President as well. Given this, the Socialists should have the next bite of the cherry, namely the High Representative.
This is how David Miliband came to be approached to be High Representative, rather late in the day. Sadly he declined, all but ending British hopes. EU horse trading has won the day again, showing the worst side of what happens here. I am tempted to ask, when will they ever learn? Deals done behind closed doors do not inspire confidence and cause a lot of harm. Europe will never get closer to its people as long as EU leaders behave like some out of touch clique considering only their own narrow interests.