31 October 2009

A very odd campaign

Like him or not, Blair has been a very successful.  Luck, of course, has had much to do with it.  He was well positioned when John Smith died and having dealt with Brown, took the Labour leadership with ease.  Blair then went on to win three general elections, very much helped along the way because the Tory party was unelectable.  As an individual he is not used to failure.

Now, we come to the little matter of who will be the first President of Europe and the goings on in Brussels over the last couple of days.  Both Brown and Miliband have lead a very public campaign to secure Blair the job, even though the post does not yet exist.  Merkel and Sarkosy would appear to have other ideas, with the French President saying:

The names that first come out of the hat are not necessarily those that are finally chosen.  With Chancellor Merkel, we completely agree that we are going to have the same approach, the same vision and support the same candidate when the time comes. I think it's very important that France and Germany, on a choice that is as important as this one, show their determination to walk hand-in-hand down this road.

Then, we get this from Brown at the end of the summit:

I recognise that there are many candidates who may come forward but I do believe that Tony Blair will remain an excellent candidate.

Fair enough, but has anyone actually checked with the ex-leader that he wants the job.  Mandy rather gives the game away in his yet-to-be-shown interview with Stephen Sackur:

SS: Have you talked to Tony Blair about it.

PM: Of course, I've talked to Tony Blair about it….not recently, but in the past.

How strange that tactically astute Mandy, a close and trusted colleague of Blair, hasn't discussed the matter with him more recently.

Then we come to the actual mechanics of how one would go about organising a successful campaign where 27 countries are involved.  Mary Dejevsky believes it has been a lesson in how-not-to-it:

If, as it appears, yesterday's EU summit spelled the end of Tony Blair's undeclared ambition to be the first President of Europe, you have to ask whether he really wanted the job at all.

It is not just in the arcane world of EU diplomacy, but in the diplomatic world generally, that the cardinal rule is to ensure the invitation will be accepted before you send it. Neither as a nation, nor as a minister, do you put your head above the parapet until you are pretty sure of a favourable reception. You quietly check the lie of the land; you sound out trusted intermediaries; you do nothing that would risk losing face.

It would not have been hard to discover that opinion within individual EU states was, to put it mildly, unconvinced by the merits of Mr Blair. Most journalistic outlets teased this out days in advance. Why did Britain's diplomats in Brussels not pass the message to London – or, if they did, why were they ignored?

If Blair was serious, then surely this so-called campaign for him to become President of Europe would have been executed along the lines that Mary Dejevsky suggests.  It is most odd that Blair, who knows a thing or two about how to charm people, hasn't been more closely involved. 

Then we come to the role of Gordon Brown, who has a history of winding up the media without knowing what the outcome will be, as the 2007 non-election proved.  Little doubt that our short-term tactical leader has used Blair to deflect attention from his more immediate political problems.

You have to ask why such a successful man as Blair has allowed himself to be identified with a campaign that looks like it will end in abject failure.  It doesn't fit the Blair mould.

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