Given their longstanding rivalry, it is slightly surprising that Gordon Brown has openly backed Tony Blair to be the first ever President of the EU. (Technically speaking, president of the European Council, a job that will come into being, if and when the Lisbon Treaty is finally ratified later this year.)
I cannot imagine that Brown would really relish greeting Blair back to Downing Street as “president of Europe”. So why has he done it? Here are some possible motives:
1) Explanation one: He doesn’t really want Blair to have the job – and this is all a Machiavellian manoeuvre. Experience teaches that the most talked-about candidates for top European jobs rarely get them in the end. Chuck a name into the hat, and you give time for the opposition to coalesece. When Jose Manuel Barroso won the post of president of the European Commission for the first time, his name emerged only at the very end of the process.
2) Explanation two: National ties matter more than personal antipathy. Brown may not like Blair much. But there is an ingrained national instinct to try to secure any top job for a British candidate. Or as Brown certainly wouldn’t put it – “Blair may be a bastard, but he’s our bastard.”