Friday, 8 February 2008

Happy Birthday Mr. President Blair?

Well I see the case for Tony Blair to become president of the European Union is gathering some momentum. Or at least, that's what Blair would like to think. Pushing equally hard is the campaign to prevent him from getting the job, even before the position officially exists. Here lies a petition replete with some pretty angry comments from European citizens voicing concern over Blair's possible selection. Some of the comments contained therein are pretty close to the bone (warmongerer (sic), responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths, Iraq holocaust etc. etc.). While many of these comments make reference to important aspects of Blair's premiership, particularly with respect to his "legacy" and an evaluation of his role in history, I feel there are more pertinent issues that need to be looked at when considering the case for his presidency of Europe.

Although Blair always claimed pro-European credentials, his 10 years in Downing street do little to support his protestations. In considering his suitability for the post of President of the European Union there are a few questions I would like citizens of Europe to ask themselves. First, leave behind all personal feelings that Blair may stir deep within you and think objectively about his potential as "leader" of Europe. Now, ruminate on these questions (which may refer to any potential candidate, not just to our own Tony).

As President of the European Union, do we want a person that was leader of a country that was not part of the Eurozone? A person who instead raised barriers to the possibility of Eurozone membership for the foreseeable future?

Do we want a President who was leader of a country that did not fully support freedom of movement within the European Union and had not signed up to the Schengen Agreement?

Do we want a President who does not appear to believe in electoral reform or government by proportional representation?

And finally, following the comments of many of the signatories of the aforementioned "No to Blair" petition, do we want a president who supported the initiation of the Iraq war, a view contrary to that held by the majority of European nations?

So, even putting aside all vitriol and bile (of which there is much), for me there are many aspects of Tony Blair's past performance that would not sit easily alongside the role he would play as President of the European Union. What makes this worse is that Blair does not have the defense of having had a weak government or of being part of a shaky coalition, of being a a lame duck prime minister (at least not for the first 8 years) or of having had little time to display his true European colours. Indeed, at the time of his stepping down, he was the third longest serving leader in the European Union. It is clear that Blair had ample time to push a pro-European agenda. While all of this may be true, and should be uppermost in people's minds when thinking about who we would like to represent us at the top echelons of the EU, Blair has many excellent qualities as a leader (but let's save that discussion for another day). And, as the Advertising Standards Authority demands adverts for "sure thing" investments to make clear: "Past performance is not an indicator of future results".

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