Another bet from Boris: I will wager a fiver with any reader – proceeds to charity – that Blair will not be chosen as Europe’s president, if and when the Treaty of Lisbon proceeds
A spectre is haunting Europe, my friends. That spectre has a famously toothy grin and an eye of glistering sincerity and an almost diabolical gift of political self-reinvention. Barely two years after he stood down as prime minister, it seems that Tony Blair is about to thrust himself back into our lives. It turns out that he is not content merely to be in charge of brokering peace in the Middle East – which you would have thought was a full-time job for anyone. It isn’t enough to potter around the world making speeches about climate change and Africa. He wants more, much more, than to consecrate his remaining days to the promotion of inter-faith dialogue and school sport.
Boris challenges Blair: “With his colossal mortgages in Buckinghamshire and London’s Connaught Square, you might have thought he needed to stick firmly on the after-dinner circuit. You might have thought that the Blair finances oblige him to keep making boss-eyed speeches to armies of tuxedoed Arizona neo-cons about the importance of the special relationship and beating up Saddam Hussein. Well, not any more, it seems. Blair has evidently piled up such a fortune that he is ready for one more big public job, and we now discover that his extinction as prime minister was only the prelude for his re-emergence – like some wizard in The Lord of the Rings – in a guise more powerful than we can possibly imagine.
He wants to be President of Europe. He wants to be the one-man incarnation of the wishes of 500 million people and 27 countries. He wants to be the answer to the decades old question originally posed by Henry Kissinger: “Who should the President of the United States ring if he wants to be put in urgent contact with Europe?”
The solution used to be a delicious muddle of rotating troikas of council presidencies and secretariats in Luxembourg. But now, if and when the Lisbon Treaty is ratified, the answer is simple and elegant. Get me Europe on the line, says Barack Obama or Vladimir Putin – and instantly the phone will trill in Connaught Square, and Cherie will pick it up. “Barack! How lovely to hear you. I expect you want the President,” she will say. “Darling!” she will call upstairs to where her husband is in the bath, meditating on a vast new speech on solving the problems of the Middle East with a programme of inter-faith school sport. “It’s Barack on the hotline! He wants to know whether Europe will support fresh sanctions against Iran!” And President Blair will absently push aside his rubber duck, and shout back that Europe will ring America back as soon as Europe has finished in the bathroom.
As for leaders less powerful and insistent than Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin, they will just have to wait their turn. David Cameron will have to join the queue of 27 prime ministers all wanting a bit of face time with President Blair, who will no doubt be voted a Blair Force One Jumbo Jet and all the motorcycle outriders, marine corps bands and fresh-faced interns that go with a presidential office. It is really a monumental poke in the eye for the British electorate. They finally get rid of the fellow after 10 years, only to find that he has re-emerged as a kind of Euro-emperor. He is about to dive in like Little Jack Horner and pull out the plummest job on the world stage – and all because the Labour government was so sickeningly deceitful as to betray its election promise and ram through the new Constitution without a referendum.
If we are going to have a European President, there is a good case for having Blair rather than anyone else – and that is precisely why he won’t get it. It is not just that he is permanently and irrevocably identified with George W Bush and the dodgy pretext for war on Iraq.
I will wager a fiver with any reader – proceeds to charity – that Blair will not be chosen as Europe’s president, if and when the Treaty of Lisbon proceeds.
The job will go Buggins-style to some relatively inoffensive Luxembourg socialist or superannuated Finnish environment minister. At which point, of course, the question is posed with even more force. Who is this person? Who elected them? By what right will he or she be purporting to speak for us in the UK?
In what sense will the views of the “President of Europe” be related to the views of the British people? That is a question we deserve to have publicly debated, and that is why David Cameron and William Hague are so right and so brave to ignore the vote in Ireland and keep alive the hope that we can have our say, too.”
And I bet you another – that Boris will keep to his wager if you rise to the challenge and write to him: Mayor of London, Greater London Authority, City Hall, The Queen’s Walk, More London, London SE1 2AA.
This column appears in full today in The Daily Telegraph.