So, you may have heard that there is quite a lot of serious consideration and talk about Tony Blair becoming the first President of the European Council when the Lisbon Treaty is ratified, making him the first de facto president of the EU. If you haven't you can read up on the story here.
I'm sure that the story is overstated in the British press but he does have a lot of support and significant friendships and ties where it counts. Berlusconi will support him (whether that's a good thing or not) as, I think, will Sarkozy even if he has to sound some cautious notes and be clever about it. Obviously he can count on the current British government's support if not the next one, as well as that of the Irish. The clincher will be getting Merkel's support but I feel that could come, even if only through gritted teeth, as it looks like the choice is shaping up as a grandstanding figurehead for a strong Europe with, as David Miliband puts it, 'motorcade factor' in Blair or a chairman figure with far less international presence, like Finland's Paavo Lipponen.
I think the more influential nations of Europe, including the governments of Sarkozy and Merkel, will want the former in light of shifting power dynamics in the world and the desire to maintain Europe's relevance and develop it's diplomatic and political strength under a charismatic and well-known figure on the world scene. There's opposition, of course, but I doubt that the likes of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg will be able to resist the political will of Germany, France, Britain and Italy.
So, would Blair as president be a good idea if it were to happen? I should think that most Britons positively shudder at the idea; he is not a popular figure here and, speaking personally, I regard his premiership as characterised by a litany of disappointments, deceptions and false dawns. He is also tainted by Iraq, of course. I can, though, see the arguments for him. Although the way the Lisbon Treaty has been handled is frankly scandalous and the utter failure of our politicians to engage with and convince the people of the Europe of the importance of a strong, reformed EU is disappointing, I do strongly support the idea of the EU if not how it has been handled. If the countries of Europe want to be internationally relevant, and I think that they should because Europe can serve as a vital counterpoint to American and Chinese dominance, then a figurehead with the attributes of Blair will prove useful.
Blair as an executive or legislative force in the EU doesn't sit particularly well but, despite my reservations for his politics, Blair as a global ambassador for Europe could prove effective and he is an immensely skilled politician. He is a name that is familiar with both the people of the world and those in an authority to a far greater extent than the other candidates and is guaranteed to be listened to and have access in a way that few others are. The further strengthening and integration of the EU is inevitable and is the only way for a region half a billion strong and the largest economy in the world to represent the interests of its people effectively on the world stage as the relative significance of individual European nations wanes in comparison to the new rising powers. I would be far more comfortable if reform in Europe had come through a greater mandate and included more democratic accountability, but as we are I almost find myself thinking that perhaps, just perhaps, President Blair may not be such a bad thing.
Saying all that I find the man personally insufferable and will quite probably look back a year into a Blair presidency and wonder how on earth I could ever have thought it might have been a good idea. Still, regarding both the likelihood of it and how it would play, what do you reckon?