Napoleon. Hitler. Tony Blair. The first two tried and failed to become emperors of Europe, and it looked as if Blair might just have succeeded. They were even calling him “El Presidente”. That was until Gordon Brown stepped in with his fulsome endorsement last week. It was the kiss of death.
Within hours European leaders were taking fright at the thought of George Bush’s poodle becoming the face of the European Union. By Friday, the game was almost over for Blair, as the cheese-eating surrender monkeys got together to block him. The French president Nicolas Sarkozy and the German chancellor Angela Merkel - both conservatives - decided that the former Labour leader was far too right wing. Then there was the thought of Cherie getting here hands on all those Euro-freebies, and buying up houses in Paris, Berlin, Milan. Soon it was only rational and sensible Silvio Berlusconi, the priapic Italian prime minister who was still batting for Blair.
In the nick of time, Europe remembered that that Tony Blair is a paranoid egomaniac, who might just decide to declare war on Iran. Or invade Norway for refusing to accept the Common Fisheries Policy. The President of the European Council doesn’t have any armed forces or any real executive power. But that wouldn’t have stopped Blair behaving as if he did. He might have invited America to place nuclear weapons in Belgium; annexed the Balkans; demanded reparations from Russia. Anything could have happened.
So why was he ever taken seriously? Why would Europe want to be represented by an unpopular politician who led his country into an illegal war? Well, he’s got “motorcade appeal”,apparently, meaning that when his limo passes people crane their necks to see who it is. This is a good thing - so long as the punters aren’t too disappointed when they see it’s not Simon Cowell.
Given the history of Britain’s frosty relations with the EU - and our refusal to adopt the euro and join Shengen group of borderless nations - it was always a big ask for a Brit to become president. Like electing as chairman of a club someone who doesn’t want to be a member of it. But the intriguing question remains: why did Brown support him so eloquently, only hours before he was unceremoniously dumped?
Did the PM sense that things weren’t going Blair’s way and that it was the moment to highlight his misfortune. Was this yet more pay back for the “Granita” deal? It would have been excruciating for Brown, just as he is about to be thrown out of Number Ten, to have seen his arch rival being hailed as the first ever leader of the EU. Now Blair is just another ex-politician looking for a job. He who laughs last laughs loudest.