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Why Blair might make a good President of the EU Council...

by Frank Schnittger Tue Feb 12th, 2008 at 02:00:29 PM EST

William Hague does a very good job of ridiculing the prospect of a Blair Presidency in the video above.  But are the Eurosceptic Tories afraid that Blair might actually make the EU a much more powerful and relevant body in Britain and throughout the world?

Let me make it clear at the outset that I admire the enterprise, resourcefulness, collaboration and speed of action by all involved in the StopBlair  campaign.  Drafting quite a complex petition, gaining consensus agreement on it, translating it into more than a dozen languages, implementing it on a petition website complete with logos and some bells and whistles, and publicising it quite widely, all within a couple of days, is a very impressive achievement.  I hope we will see many other similarly impressive campaigns like this in the future.
 


So why haven't I signed the petition (yet)? Update [2008-2-13 4:40:41 by Frank Schnittger]: I've signed today, partly in response to arguments in comments below. My thanks to all who responded to this debate. 

I can certainly understand all the reasons for opposing his appointment:  The visceral dislike of Blair - particularly in Britain, the sense of betrayal of his party's socialist ideals, the Iraq war, the selling out to an imperialist and warmongering US regime, the betrayal of European ideals and achievements such as the Bill of Rights, the Euro and Schengen, the incessant deception and spin.  The case should really be as open and shut as they come.

And yet I have my doubts as to whether his appointment to the Presidency of the Council would necessarily be such a bad thing.  First of all, the job, as defined by the Treaty is something of a non-job.  It has no direct policy or executive powers and consists largely of a responsibility to Chair and progress the business of the Council as efficiently and effectively as possible.  Although the President of the Council is supposed to represent the EU abroad, all power over foreign policy is vested in the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.  Virtually all administrative resources, and power to initiate legislation in the European Parliament is vested in the European Commission.  So arguably, the Presidency of the Commission is a much more substantial role.  

The Presidency of the Council role is currently rotated between the 27 member Governments -which means there is a huge lack of continuity, consistency and sometimes even competence.  It has virtually no independent power except insofar as the holder can "knock heads together" and achieve a weighted majority on the Council in support of his proposals.  It is hard to see Sarkozy, Merkel, Brown et al rolling over if a proposal is not to their liking, or if the President does not fulfill his duties in line with their overall priorities.  Blair comes with a lot of baggage.  That also means people will see him coming if he comes up with some mad cap schemes.

The whole problem with the EU Reform Treaty is that it does create such a crazy structure that there is bound to be a lot of institutionalised conflict between the Commission, Parliament, High representative and European Council.  The Idea that the President of the Council should be a high profile appointment with the respect of his peers (if no one else) is not necessarily a bad one, as it will increase the profile of the EU within Europe and the world as a whole and create an expectation that more and more decisions, previously made at national level, will now be made at EU level.

Of course many ordinary EU citizens will also be quite horrified that they are being represented by someone like Tony Blair.  There will be demonstrations and protests, and rightly so.  However, the very fact that a key EU (and currently very opaque) institution will then achieve a much more prominent place in public discourse throughout the EU will also be a good thing.  Governments will be under enormous pressure to ensure that Tony Blair does not drag the EU off in a direction that their electorates will not tolerate.  His every utterance will be parsed for nuances that might betray a less than full commitment to the European ideals as enshrined in the Reform Treaty.

Whatever about the merits of what Blair will actually achieve during his term of office, there seems little doubt that a key EU institution will have achieved some considerable prominence in the lives of EU citizens and in their political imaginations.  Calls for a directly elected President of the Council can only increase if that becomes the case, and is that really such a bad outcome?

The logic of all this may seem to be unbearably Machiavellian, for most, if not all readers here.  Europe has a bad history of failing to control some seriously deranged leaders.  The price of achieving greater prominence for EU institutions may be altogether too high if Blair does succeed in (say) persuading the European Council  to adopt draconian security measures which restrict human rights in response to the "War on Terror".  My own guess is that Blair would resign in utter frustration after a relatively short period in office, because the role is in reality little more than that of a back-room fixer: the sort of job Solana currently does in his spare time.

But it is high time that the EU began to exert some real influence in world affairs - somewhat more in line with its status as the largest economic entity in the world.  Climate change, peak oil, non-renewable resource depletion, the Middle East, terrorism, human rights, world trade, currency and financial stability - are all issues that require dramatically more proactive leadership at a world level.  At the moment the US is able to ride roughshod over all other world powers almost by default - regardless of the merits of the case - and almost always in the interests of a small wealthy elite obsessed with expanding their power and wealth at everybody else's expense.

Tony Blair's last role as British Prime Minister was almost entirely consumed by his self-perceived need to shore up a medium sized power's delusions of past grandeur by maintaining a largely illusory "special relationship" with the US.  His next role, as EU Council President, would be to help build up an EU power structure which could, in due course, become an alternative or counterpoint to US hegemony.  The main question is "who would he be working for?" if he was appointed Council President.  EU Council members would have to leave him in no doubt that he is working for THEM.  The question is would the Council members succeed in managing and controlling him, where the UK Parliament and the Labour party failed so dismally.

I have confidence that the EU Council would be able to ensure that he works in the EU's best collective interests, and that EU itself would be strengthened by the battles fought to ensure that that was the case.  If you are a Europhile and want to see the EU gain in influence in European and world affairs sooner rather than later, there is an argument for appointing Tony Blair.  

It is a very difficult argument to sustain, and I'm not sure I really want to make it.  I may yet end up signing the StopBlair petition.  But in the meantime I think its worth having the debate, if only to demonstrate that the European Tribune encourages debate on a wide range of issues, and that no political view is above questioning and criticism, however widely held by the membership here.

Poll
If appointed Blair will:
. Destroy the EU 7%
. Make it very difficult for the Reform Treaty to be implemented properly 15%
. Provide a profile to the Council it never had before 7%
. Help make the EU a real player in world politics 7%
. Increase popular engagement (+/-) with EU Council 0%
. Put pressure on the EU to manage its affairs more transprently 0%
. Create an upsurge in demands for greater democratic accountability and transparency in EU decision making 7%
. Be totally irrelevant, or have no impact whatsoever 7%
. Just make the EU unpopular with its own citizens 38%
. None of the above 7%

Votes: 13
Results | Other Polls
Display:
and you bring up some interesting arguments. Your "there's no bad publicity" notion that the interest for him would drive up interest for the EU makes sense.

However, my worry, and I expect it is shared to some extent by others on the site, is that the Council is the wrong institution to reinforce. We don't need more intergovernmental decision-making: we need more federal, (and accountable) EU-level decision-making, and thus we need to reinforce the power of the Commission a bit and of the European Parliament even more.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Feb 12th, 2008 at 03:00:43 PM EST
Fair point, but we are working within the constraints of what is actually in the Reform Treaty, not what we might like it to contain.  

Much political theory would argue that you have to harness the real power centres in a situation if you are going to develop a "greater than the sum of the parts" political entity such as the EU.

Whether we like it or not the EU exists only insofar as it has been delegated powers by its nation state members by way of Treaties which pool their sovereignty.  

The really important bits of the member nation states have yet to be pooled - fiscal policy, taxation, defense, nuclear deterrents etc. and thus much real power is still vested in member Governments as represented by the council.  And at least the Council does have (albeit indirect) democratic legitimacy in that all its mebers are democratically elected.

The EU Commission, by way of contrast, is like a large civil service with almost no democratic legitimacy in its own right - except those competencies which have been delegated to it by member Governments and those decisions made by the Council for it to implement.

I agree the structures now and as proposed in the Reform Treaty are very awkward - a legacy of where we have come from and how far we have to go.  But that is not an argument for making the best of what we have got in the Reform Treaty, and if Blair makes even part of that structure work more effectively, is that not a good thing?

Let others take responsibility for making the Commission and Parliament work more effectively - you can't blame him for everything - even if, in his previous role, representing a largely eurosceptic polity, he too resisted attempts to divest more powers to Parliament and the Commission.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Feb 12th, 2008 at 03:28:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Blair won't make the Council "work more effectively". By his own admission he'd be bored to death with the key diplomatic part of his role: brokering agreements and fostering coalitions of member states. His track record in the council as a head of government is not as a builder of coalitions or skillful negotiator, but as someone who comes to the table with his mind made up and expects everyone else to fall into line without compensation. And clearly all he wants the job for is self-aggrandizement.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Feb 12th, 2008 at 03:36:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ok, but this is an entirely different and opposing point to Jerome's - who was worried he might succeed in enhancing the Council's effectiveness relative to the Commission or Parliament.

Blair did have a good track record and a great deal of dedication and resilience in negotiating the Irish Peace process, and it's not as if he has a lot of other high profile political career options at his disposal.

On balance I tend to agree that Bertie Ahern would be better at the negotiating/coalition building end of things - and wouldn't carry Blair's negative baggage.  But we are not arguing here who our ideal candidate might be, but rather whether Blair would be as bad for the EU as everyone here seems to fear.  

Expectations are so low that it wouldn't be hard for Blair to surprise on the upside, and I think he might just do that.  But is it a risk we want to take?  Probably not - especially when there are other more suitable candidates around.

It does matter whether EU citizens should actually like their President and be proud to be represented by him.  So on balance I will probably end up falling in line with the prevailing consensus.  

I just felt that it was possible to make a contrary case, and given that we have led such a high profile campaign against him, we should at least be seen to have given reasonable consideration to the opposite view.

Call me old fashioned, but I believe even a criminal deserves to have a defense counsel!

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Feb 12th, 2008 at 03:58:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd prefer a show trial at the Hague for the war criminal, followed by a long prison sentence.
by redstar on Tue Feb 12th, 2008 at 04:05:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Only people who lose wars or offend the major powers get to have a show trial as a war criminal

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Feb 12th, 2008 at 04:21:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Only people who lose wars or offend the major powers get to have a show trial as a war criminal

I presume you mean "and" rather than "or", because the first criterion is fulfilled, twice - or do you think that Iraq and Afghanistan are not lost (except for the standard  "I won't admit I've lost so i haven't")

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Feb 12th, 2008 at 05:14:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
McCain is running on the "fact" that the surge is working, and Gates seems to be blaming Afghanistan on incompetent NATO allies - possibly a reference to Brown's less that Blair-like enthusiasm for the fray.  So its Brown's fault!  And of course Vietnam was only lost because the peacenics and assorted lefties betrayed their country.  Do not underestimate the power of denial.

I put in the "or" because with extraordinary renditions you don't have to lose a war - offending a major power is quite enough.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Feb 12th, 2008 at 05:27:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yanks haven't yet come to admit to themselves that they've pissed away a good part of American power doesn't mean they haven't.
by redstar on Tue Feb 12th, 2008 at 05:30:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I like your signature.  I'm thinking of changing mine.

Even if America is in decline, it looks like China rather than Europe is picking up the slack.  Somehow that doesn't fill me with joy and confidence for better human rights in the future.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Feb 12th, 2008 at 05:47:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I will say that your contribution here is helpful, keeps everyone honest. And in vie wof this little discussion forum, Rosa Luxemburg's quote fits you more than me.
by redstar on Wed Feb 13th, 2008 at 10:20:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ok, but this is an entirely different and opposing point to Jerome's

Yes, and I am an entirely different blogger to Jerome, often taking opposing points of view on EU issues.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Feb 12th, 2008 at 04:36:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And I would never confuse the two of you - the only point I am making is that I am taking shots from different directions and you posted your comment in a thread which he initiated with a particular line of argument which was other than that implicit in your point

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Feb 12th, 2008 at 04:48:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I replied to the content of your comment. The content of the top-level comment in the trhead is irrelevant. The fact that your position is assailable from more than one direction is also not a refutation of my comment.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Feb 12th, 2008 at 04:52:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
yep -  and I was only pointing out that you were making a different point to that which I was responding to in my reply to Jerome. All arguments are assailable from different directions, and I try to engage with each on their merits

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Feb 12th, 2008 at 05:04:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If a debate has three sides, I think lack of confrontation on one of the three fronts might be a legit point.

(On the other hand, in this case, I don't think you and Jérôme really disagreed: efficiency in getting others to agree does not equal power.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Feb 13th, 2008 at 06:18:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ok, but this is an entirely different and opposing point to Jerome's - who was worried he might succeed in enhancing the Council's effectiveness relative to the Commission or Parliament.

I think appointing Blair would:

  1. Do nothing for the Council's effectiveness in decision-making.
  2. Shift more power to the Council, by way of media portraying it as more important when led by famous president Blair.
  3. Shift the Overton window by rewarding a war-criminal and placing him in a central position of power.

I find number 3 the worst.

A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES in 2009!
by A swedish kind of death on Tue Feb 12th, 2008 at 09:00:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think this is a very succinct summary of the case against and I find it very persuasive.  On balance, even if Blair did improve the effectiveness of the Council (possible) or increase the power of the Council and of the EU overall (quite likely), would it be worth the moral and political cost of seeming to endorse the manner in which the Iraq war was conceived and executed?  Perhaps we have to draw one of Blair's own famous red lines here to show that that is simply not what the EU is about.

I wrote this Diary because I felt there was a case to be made that a Blair Presidency might not be quite as disastrous as many here failed, chiefly because of Blair's contribution to the Peace Process and an awareness of how people do one job is not always a good predictor of how they will do another.

But being a political leader is more than being good at the nuts and bolts of the job (arguable in this case).  It is also to provide moral leadership and to provide a figurehead with which people can identify and trust in the conduct of their affairs in Europe and beyond.

Clearly Blair has forfeited that trust, and,(to a lesser extent) the UK, by remaining outside the Bill of Rights, the Euro and Schengen, has demonstrated a less than full commitment to what the EU is all about - as determined by the vast majority of its people.

Politics is also about engaging with people and inspiring them to move forward collectively towards a greater vision.  I do not care greatly for a vision which requires the conquest of other countries on patently false premises.

You win, I'll sign the Petition.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Feb 13th, 2008 at 04:15:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
about working within the institution we have, not those we'd like.

But I'd argue that this is precisely the point: as we have a new 'institution' (that president of the EC), its exact role is not quite defined yet, and will to some extent be so by its first titular.

In that context, Blair would probably set a number of dangerous precedents, by pulling all the attention to him, and to the Council: it would reinforce the impression that the EU is about the Council more than the Commission (which is democratic: it is chosen by the Council AND voted in by the European Parliament, a double legitimacy), and it would likely be even more about the personality clashes (and the national chest thumping that tags along) ratherthan about pan-European policies.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Feb 12th, 2008 at 03:53:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's not really all that new - except that the office holder holds it for 2.5 years and not 6 months (or 18 months as part of the troika), and can't combine it with being a leader/foreign minister of a national Government as well.  You could argue it will be more of a "functionary" job under the Treaty than it is now.

We are also assuming that Blair will bring the attitudes, behaviours and policies he pursued in Downing Street into his new role.  Any competent politician/manager adopts a style and program appropriate to his new role which in this case is completely different.

Again the Irish experience of Blair is completely different.  He engaged with the Irish issue more than any other British Prime Minister and did more than anyone who resolve historic antagonisms because he treated us as an equal - not as a colonial overlord or a condescending git - regrettably our "DEFAULT" experience of British PMs.

He didn't have to devote all that time to tedious negotiations on the N.I. issue - he could have delegated, and there wasn't much political capital in it for him in Britain at the time.  Ironically it is now recognised as probably his one major achievement.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Feb 12th, 2008 at 04:18:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I thought success on the Northern Ireland question is owed as much to Mo Mowlam as it is to Blair.

To me, Blair's greatest legacy is the Human Rights Act 1998. In terms of self-government the Stormont agreement is a joke compared with the Basque autonomous statute of 1979, and Blair eventually was forced to suspend the NI Assembly.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Feb 12th, 2008 at 04:33:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Mo Mowlam was very popular with Nationalists (and people who admired her personal qualities) but she was disliked and distrusted by Unionist/Loyalists and could therefore not have brokered an agreement.  She was important in assuaging the historic sense of grievance amongst the Nationalist Community, and in that sense made a vital contribution, but if anything forced loyalists to retreat further into their bunker.  

After a lot of hiccups the NI assembly is functioning quite well but there is still a lot of work to be done.  However the war is over - which cannot be said for the Basque conflict.

I agree that the HR act was a great achievement, and from a British perspective perhaps as important.  It has always puzzled me why Blair braved a lot of opposition to that Act, and yet derogated from the Charter of Fundamental rights.  Perhaps you can explain...

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Feb 12th, 2008 at 04:44:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Frank Schnittger:
I agree that the HR act was a great achievement, and from a British perspective perhaps as important.  It has always puzzled me why Blair braved a lot of opposition to that Act, and yet derogated from the Charter of Fundamental rights.  Perhaps you can explain...
Oh, that one's easy: 9/11 changed everything, and since I came to the UK in 2005 it's clear that both the Labour Front Bench and the Tories would like to see the HRA1998 repealed. Eurosceptics wrongly blame the EU for it (the European Convention of Human Rights which the HRA1998 incorporates is the key treaty of the Council of Europe and I used to joke that the UK would find itself in the dubious company of Belarus if they decided to drop it).

So, given that Blair was a coward on the Euro, on Schengen, and on Police and Judicial cooperation, it's not surprising that he would also be a coward on the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

In fact, the only issue where he stuck to his guns was Iraq, and on all these issues he did what the Murdoch press wanted. He's clearly not a man of character

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Feb 12th, 2008 at 04:58:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Migeru:
I used to joke that the UK would find itself in the dubious company of Belarus if they decided to drop it

Have you dropped the joke because it isn't funny anymore because the UK IS now in some rather dubious company and doesn't seem too ashamed about it?

I have to say I have little time for a political position/culture which freely signs up to a Treaty and then does nothing but gripe about the fact that the Treaty is actually being implemented in line with its letter and intent.

If Brits want to blame someone, they should blame the Government which signed the Treaty, not the organisation which promotes it - which as you say, is in this case not the EU in any case.  Edwards used to joke that he represented the "grown-up wing of the Dem party".  I wish some people would grow up and and take ownership/responsibility for what they signed up to.

I don't know if British Eurosceptics realise how little time everyone else has for them and how much they are simply holding Britain back gaining all the positives that are available from the Treaties they have signed up to..

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Feb 12th, 2008 at 05:17:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, I don't use the joke any more mostly because the political "debate" has since moved on from bashing the European Union on the misdirected excuse of the European Convention on Human Rights.

On your other points about Britain's euroscepticism, no challenge from me.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Feb 13th, 2008 at 05:01:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Reform Treaty is a constraint, but just on the Council Presidency, it is also unclear (how much power is shared with the High Representative?) and underdefined (how is he nominated, what exactly can he do in the framework of 'driving forward' the Council's work). Institutions don't grow out of codified rules only, but practice too, and this seems a strong factor for the EU Council Presidency.

Bliar already signalled that he'd like to get "real power" over defense and trade, competencies of the Commission, if he is to be Council President. Thus his candidacy would enhance the Council's power (as opposed to 'efficiency') at the expense of the other two institutions in a very direct way, not just via the media as Jérôme wrote.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Feb 13th, 2008 at 06:12:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Defence is not a Commission competence, it's a High Representative competence and the High Representative (just like the Commission President) will attend Council meetings. The HR is also nominated by the Commission and Council jointly.

Trade is a Commission competence.

The problem with Blair's "real power" demands is that they hint that Blair's mental model of the Council under his presidency is like his cabinet, where he was be the Prime Minister and the minister were all yes-men. That's not at all the situation in the Council, and it is not even like that with the Commission's president vis-a-vis the rest of the Commissioners.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Feb 13th, 2008 at 06:36:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Under Lisbon, the High Representative will also become a member of the Commission. But I submit that the ESDP itself is Council competency.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Feb 13th, 2008 at 06:53:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, currently it's "second pillar".

One point that I didn't make in my The Bigger Picture diary is that I don't think the Member States will again make the "mistake" of creating an agency like the European Commission directly in charge of entire policy areas. Any additional powers that the EU gets will be Council competences.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Feb 13th, 2008 at 06:57:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't follow Blair's logic here - unless he setting up an excuse for when he doesn't get/take the job - defense and Trade are quite clearly High Rep and Commission competencies as codified in the Reform Treaty.  It would be illegal/unconstitutional to give him what he says he wants - it would be open to challenge in the Euro Court.  If he want the President of the Council to be a much more powerful role, he should have negotiated that as part of the Treaty negotiations - something his "Euroscepticism" probably prevented him from doing.  He is hoisted on his own petard and it is entirely disingenuous for him to complain now that the post doesn't have "real power".  That is what "Britain" under him wanted.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Feb 14th, 2008 at 06:24:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If he want the President of the Council to be a much more powerful role, he should have negotiated that as part of the Treaty negotiations

But He did just that. I think you have it completely backwards: as I remember it, the permanent Council Presidency was his idea. The Independent remembers that way, too:

The new EU president is due to start work next January but the date could be put back by delays in ratifying the new treaty in some member states. Mr Blair was one of the main architects of the new post. He argued that a permanent leader for the body on which EU prime ministers and presidents sit would be more effective than the current system, under which the chairmanship rotates among EU countries every six months.

Lemme scrap together some old sources.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Feb 14th, 2008 at 12:44:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The idea of a permanent EU Council President has been first argued in public by then French President Chirac. However, the British government is said to be its real origin, and was first to publicly agree, with Jack Straw laying it out in The Economist. BBC NEWS | Politics | Straw calls for president of Europe:

The new role would put an end to the rotation of "musical chairs" where each EU member state takes its turn at the presidency every six months.

 Conservative shadow foreign secretary Michael Ancram suggested Mr Straw was lining up a future position for Prime Minister Tony Blair as "president of the united states of Europe".

This was back in 2002! Now, what is this idea really about? Certainly not more democracy. Nor more federalism, for that would demand the strengthening of the Commission and the Parliament, not the Council. But this could be about strengthening the leading role of the large member states. (Remember that this was once an explicit idea of Bliar, when he proposed an "EU Directorium" made up of the biggest kids on the block.) Unfortunately, that's exactly how the fighting lines were drawn, and the biggies won. Convention backs Blair's plan for EU presidency - Times Online:

TONY BLAIR's plans for a powerful new full-time president of Europe look set to become reality after the man charged with drafting a European Union constitution backed the project yesterday.

Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, the former French President who chairs the convention on Europe's future, supported the EU's biggest member states who argue that the Union needs a president if it is to punch its weight on the international stage.

However, well-organised opposition from the EU's small states, which have joined forces with the ten new entrants from Central and Eastern Europe, means that weeks of horsetrading lie ahead.

...[Giscard] also noted that two smaller states, Denmark and Sweden, had just swung behind the idea, which originated in London but was first publicly proposed by President Chirac of France.

The really sad part for me in this was that Chirac got the Schröder government on-board. Opinion Editorial No.11:

Especially the traditional coalition partners of Germany in former IGCs [Inter-Governmental Councils], the Benelux-Countries (and Italy, too), felt estranged by a German behavior of neglect towards them. It was Germany who tilted the balance in the Convention in favor of the "ABC-camp" (Aznar, Blair and Chirac) favoring a full time president of the European Council. This idea was declared "unacceptable" by the Benelux-countries fearing an intergovernmental drift of the EU-system and a domination of the big member states. The German government sided with the big and powerful member states of the EU on this most disputed issue of the Convention.

I note that with Bliar's intentions to be the first holder of this position he himself pushed having been reported six years ago, it was highly disingenous of his circle to spread spin about 'considering' this 'recent proposal'.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Feb 14th, 2008 at 01:09:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I bow to your greater knowledge of the origins of the post.  The final job spec for the post clearly is a compromise between those who want a high profile position - the larger powers who would also control the appointment process - and the smaller members who would be loath to lose their turn at the current rotating Presidency.  Ireland is certainly very proud of how its managed its last two Presidencies - which resulted in agreement to the EU Constitution and the appointment of Barrosso etc.

Given that smaller countries got a good deal on the Commission - Malta has the same rights to appoint a Commissioner as Germany - agreement to giving up their turn at the rotating Presidency was probably the quid pro quo.

The final choice of President, and the degree of power/influence accorded to him/her may also be subject to similar bargaining.  In terms of potential support amongst council members, its hard to look beyond Blair, Fischer, Ahern unless someone like Prodi becomes available.  I'm sure the Eastern European countries will want to have their say, and they may actually like Blair's atlanticism because of fears of a Russian resurgence.  They may want someone like Blair to assure their security through strong ties with the US.

If Obama becomes President, anti US sentiment elsewhere will also decline, although I'm not sure whether this will meake Blair look lik a dinosaur of the Bush age, or more acceptable to e.g. the German Government who opposed Iraq.

We must remember that Iraq was much less of a negative issue for the European political elite than it was for the citizenry as a whole.  They will probably see Iraq as "water under the bridge" by the time the final decision is made.  If a smaller southern state like Portugal continues to hold the Commission Presidency, then a larger northern State like the UK might get the Council Presidency - with the Eastern states having to wait for their turn.  France already holds the Central Bank Presidency.  Will Merkel really fight for Fischer?

It may come down to a choice between Ahern and Blair - and the very contrasting views of the profile of the post which either appointment would embody.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Feb 15th, 2008 at 07:21:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The really important bits of the member nation states have yet to be pooled - fiscal policy, taxation, defense, nuclear deterrents etc. and thus much real power is still vested in member Governments as represented by the council.  And at least the Council does have (albeit indirect) democratic legitimacy in that all its mebers are democratically elected.

The EU Commission, by way of contrast, is like a large civil service with almost no democratic legitimacy in its own right - except those competencies which have been delegated to it by member Governments and those decisions made by the Council for it to implement.

I disagree with this assessment. The Council is responsible to no-one. European issues are not among the top priorities for national elections (nor will they be until and unless the Union becomes a more coherent, powerful entity, which it won't be until people trust it, which they won't do until it's become more transparent, which it won't become until people take an active interest in it - i.e. make it an issue in national elections). So the heads of government that make up the Council can screw us over in a number of creative and painful ways that do not (quite) create the the level of public ire that is required to oust a national government.

The Commission, by way of contrast, is somewhat responsible to Parliament, because Parliament has to approve a Commission. Used judiciously, the Parliament should be able to leverage this right to consent to even greater oversight powers over the Commission. But it has no such tool w.r.t. the Council.

As an aside, I think we should aim for making the Commission completely subordinate to Parliament, as is the government in a parliamentary system.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Feb 13th, 2008 at 12:33:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How political debates/election are handled within individual member states is a matter for citizens within those polities - and at this stage I doubt that many are under any illusion that a key role for the PM and government ministers is how they represent their country on the Council.  In Ireland and smaller members it is now probably recognised as their KEY role, and certainly a factor in national elections.

We also mustn't lose sight of the fact that the Commission and Parliament can only act within their competencies.  Any issue - even Iraq or tax harmonisation - can be brought up at Council level and decisions can be made provide they are  supported by the council by a weighted majority - except those few remaining areas which still require unanimity under the Reform Treaty.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Feb 14th, 2008 at 06:32:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How political debates/election are handled within individual member states is a matter for citizens within those polities

From a purely formal point of view, that's certainly correct. But it's a very, very formal argument that I doubt has much traction. If the facts on the ground are that the majority of the people who are sitting on the Council are subjected to insufficient oversight, then the fact that this lack of oversight is due to a weakness in the national systems does not reduce its negative impact on the trustworthiness of the Council.

- and at this stage I doubt that many are under any illusion that a key role for the PM and government ministers is how they represent their country on the Council.

Colour me sceptical. Taxation policy, education policy, social policies. Those are all more important than what the Union does. Or at least more immediately important. And those are all exclusively national competences.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Feb 14th, 2008 at 09:21:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The EU is having quite large influence on higher education reforms.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misčres
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Thu Feb 14th, 2008 at 10:40:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Why should Blair be promoted? Did he show competence in his job as chief of government?

Blair's job fell on his lap. First the country was fed up with the conservatives, who were in government for 19 years, then John Smith died.
Finally, his staying in power coincided with North Sea's Oil & Gas one-time bonanza.

What did he do with its majority? Early on, Lady Thatcher worried that the Conservative Party [1] might never more get into power, if the electoral system were changed. (I assume she was referring to uninominal character of electoral circles). But when he got into power, realised that the current situation favoured him, so no change.
In economy, there was plenty of cash pouring into the City, in spite persistent trade imbalances relatively higher than the American - the pound was a petro-currency -, while British industry was being sold out.

Grand-standing and de-industrialisation: this is Thatcher part II. If I were the Chinese government I would know who to support.

[1] However, a small change in the power base and some politics would make a reformed Conservative party competitive again.

by findmeaDoorIntoSummer on Tue Feb 12th, 2008 at 06:59:45 PM EST
  1. The job of Council President, as I have argued above, is hardly a promotion for Blair

  2. He did win 3 general elections which is v. rare for a PM - who was the last to do so?

  3. Whatever the reasons, the British economy had the longest period of continuous growth since records began under his Premiership

  4. He then blew it all on Iraq, in trying to maintain an alliance with the US which has been a long-standing feature of all UK Governments

  5. Maintaining good EU/US relations (albeit on a much more equal footing than the UK/US one) will be a key part of the job spec for any Council President, and Blair is uniquely placed to do this

  6.  Sarkozy/Brown support him, Merkel might.  Italy has no Government to speak of - Spain - I don't know (Aznar was a key ally - Zapatero hardly) - Poland and Eastern Europe think he's great.  Ireland owes him.  Looks like he might not be too far off a qualified weighted majority on the council.

Don't blame me, blame your Governments. I'm only trying to look on the bright side...

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Feb 12th, 2008 at 07:38:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Whatever the reason? Is that an answer?
Politics is more than a celebrity show.
by findmeaDoorIntoSummer on Tue Feb 12th, 2008 at 08:51:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It wasn't intended as an answer to your economic analysis of the reasons behind Britain's economic success under Blair - that is an entirely different topic which I don't intend to engage in here.  I completely agree with your second point - see my response to "A Swedish..." above.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Feb 13th, 2008 at 04:23:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The comment I sent at the start of the thread reflects my major concerns. Frank, you may not want to discuss it, and it is fine. I did not demand your reply.

Independently of the former, respect for the the work of other people is important. You dedicated your time in the creation of the long text above, expecting that the discussion would be restricted to a certain perspective.

I thought a little more.

How much should a discussion should be limited?  Don't know how to answer it in abstract, but, in this context, I find the questions I raised off-topic. So I move out.

by findmeaDoorIntoSummer on Wed Feb 13th, 2008 at 01:06:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Please write a Diary on why Blair deserves no credit for how he led Britain as PM -it is a major topic and worth a discussion - to which I will try to contribute - however economic analysis of how the North See Oil/Gas was squandered wouldn't be my forte.  I will leave that to others here.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Feb 14th, 2008 at 06:37:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Frank Schnittger:
The job of Council President, as I have argued above, is hardly a promotion for Blair

Why not? What is he now - some sort of envoy to the Middle East?

A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES in 2009!

by A swedish kind of death on Tue Feb 12th, 2008 at 09:10:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If its purely promotion he wants (and doing part of what Solano does now (his Director General Brief) combined with part of what he did before (when the UK held the Presidency) isn't necessarily a very exciting mix.  He could probably sit on the Board of a number of huge Global firms if its money he's after.  What I find more worrying is that Blair probably believed or was capable of convincing himself that what he was doing  in Iraq was right.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Feb 13th, 2008 at 04:28:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
On the subject of his war on Iraq: In a BBC series of the Blair years, Blair mentioned "I felt it was the right thing to do", "It was the right thing to do", I truly believed it was the right thing to do", etc. several times.

I think he was not only "capable of convincing himself that what he was doing in Iraq was right" but he had believed it from the start. There were comments from his party mates about Blair's Messianic complex.

by The3rdColumn on Wed Feb 13th, 2008 at 05:27:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
He will want to make the job look like a promotion, so will do every effort to promote the job (and indeed, as pointed out above, the European Council) and splash it with the "President of Europe" label, with the risk of making that an institutional reality, which would be a bad thing.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Feb 13th, 2008 at 04:51:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Frank Schnittger:
Sarkozy/Brown support him, Merkel might.  Italy has no Government to speak of - Spain - I don't know (Aznar was a key ally - Zapatero hardly) - Poland and Eastern Europe think he's great.  Ireland owes him.  Looks like he might not be too far off a qualified weighted majority on the council.
That is probably the reason we now have a petition going on. Our governments cannot be trusted not to put Blair in a position to seriously damage the EU.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Feb 13th, 2008 at 05:04:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Maintaining good EU/US relations (albeit on a much more equal footing than the UK/US one) will be a key part of the job spec for any Council President, and Blair is uniquely placed to do this

I am not convinced that the notion of 'co-operation between equals' exists in the way the US thinks about foreign policy. It treats all its nominal allies more like vassals and client states than genuine allies. And that didn't start with Bush the Lesser either.

Sarkozy/Brown support him, Merkel might.  Italy has no Government to speak of - Spain - I don't know (Aznar was a key ally - Zapatero hardly) - Poland and Eastern Europe think he's great.  Ireland owes him.  Looks like he might not be too far off a qualified weighted majority on the council. [My emphasis.]

And the support of the three most reactionary and/or neoliberal governments in Europe is a recommendation because [fill in this blank].

Help me out here, please. I'm really not seeing it.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Feb 13th, 2008 at 12:51:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And the support of the three most reactionary and/or neoliberal governments in Europe is a recommendation because [fill in this blank].

Well, his job would be to work with them to reach agreements on policy. Better get along with them...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misčres

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Wed Feb 13th, 2008 at 01:10:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I suppose that's true. Still raises some major red flags in my mind, though. Somebody who's popular with both Sarko and the Crazy Twins is someone I'd rather not have in any official capacity anywhere. Except maybe as consul somewhere in Siberia.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Feb 13th, 2008 at 04:05:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
When I learnt that this diary is in the offing, I thought this could be fun -- and you even outdid my expectations :-) Well argued, even if, of course, I am not convinced.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Feb 13th, 2008 at 05:57:36 AM EST
Many thanks.  Now that I've signed the petition, perhaps I should just shut up, but I will make one last point which has only been touched on here so far.

Almost all of the discussion here has been about how the EU manages its affairs internally, and whether Blair would be good or counter-productive in making the Council work better.  Fair enough.

But there is also a bigger picture we need to look at.  Since the end of the Cold War the US has becoming increasingly arrogant and invasive in its conduct of world affairs.  There is an argument, of course, that the US has over-reached itself and that "the New American Century" will never happen.

Either way, however, it looks like China is becoming much more assertive in world Affairs, and Russia, under Putin has staged something of a revival.  The Oil reich nations are also become increasingly important as oil prices soar and oil becomes scarcer.  None of the above (with the exception of Venezuela) have particularly impressive track records on human rights, third world development Aid, democracy, and the resolution of conflicts within their spheres of influence.

We BADLY, BADLY, BADLY need Europe to become more effective and powerful on the world stage - not at any price, of course - such as supporting the Iraq war - but in order for the values embedded in the EU project to be more effectively promulgated world-wide.

We HAVE a very good story to tell - about how historic conflicts can be resolved, and about how the weaker in society and amongst the community of nations can be protected and enabled to develop - e.g. Ireland.  We badly need someone to project that influence throughout the world.  The alternative candidates for the Post lack the international name recognition and respect in key states like the US to project that vision powerfully and effectively.

If Blair did take the values at the heart of the EU project to heart - we would be better placed than anyone to project them effectively.  Presidents of major powers are rarely angels.  People like Putin, Bush, Hu Jintao respect power not angels.  Iraq could happen partly because Europe could be safely ignored.

We have to ensure that that can never happen again.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Feb 14th, 2008 at 07:01:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Frank Schnittger:

If Blair did take the values at the heart of the EU project to heart - we would be better placed than anyone to project them effectively.  Presidents of major powers are rarely angels.  People like Putin, Bush, Hu Jintao respect power not angels.  Iraq could happen partly because Europe could be safely ignored.

We have to ensure that that can never happen again.

Having bowed before naked power and greed once before, how could we trust him not to again?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Thu Feb 14th, 2008 at 07:52:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ceebs:
Having bowed before naked power and greed once before, how could we trust him not to again?
And how is that different from any other British PM since WW2?  The issue of Trust is not so matter of Blair's personality, but whether we can trust the Heads of Government as represented on the Council toact decisively if Blair ode act outside the letter and spirit of the EU as contained in the Treaty.

If the EU institutions are not strong enough to ensure that one errant office holder is kept in line, then, frankly, they are not worth the paper the Treaties are written on and the EU as a body is an illusion.  All democracies have to be strong enough to resist abuse by those in power.  

If the EU hasn't learned from what happened in Britain - falsification of intelligence etc.) then, frankly, the sooner we find out about it the better - and before the EU gets embroiled in a war on its own territory.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Feb 14th, 2008 at 08:25:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the EU as a body is an illusion

shhh! you don't want to give the whole game away, do you?

in fact you could sum up our due diligence here as a grassroots effort to make it a reality.

starting with protesting the possible appointment of self-anointed delusional warmongering 'grinning idiots' as spokesmen and leaders.

if only there were leaders with t.b.'s gift of the gab that actually stood for human values over economic-military ones...i guess till we find someone to rally for, we'll have to rally against.

at least we're rallying, lol!

"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu Feb 14th, 2008 at 08:34:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Part of the problem is that we already do know how well the Union stands up to errant idiots like Bliar. We know, because we saw it for the next best thing to a decade while he was in office as PM of the UK. We do not want a repeat performance.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Feb 14th, 2008 at 09:16:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I seem to have a lot more faith in the institutions of the EU than most here.  I think the EU Council could gobble Blair up and spit him out before breakfast if he went off on a rant and my prediction is he would very soon resign in frustration if he tried.  The pliant and deferential UK Labour party is an altogether easier body to manipulate (in part because it didn't have independent sources of intelligence).  Every Minister in Blair's cabinet owed his job to Blair's patronage or tolerance.  No one on the EU Council owes him anything.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Feb 14th, 2008 at 10:18:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Frank Schnittger:
And how is that different from any other British PM since WW2?
Well Wilson did manage to avoid comitting British troops to Vietnam.
The fact that other British leaders have also been of an Atlanticist bent does not man that Blair gets a free ride due to the comparison with other people from British history. In fact the main Pro reason I can see is that it might to some extent put a lever into the gap between the US and UK and force Britain slightly towards Europe. (It might also increase the media coverage of the institutions of the EU and so help knock down some of the scare stories put about by the right wing press).

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Thu Feb 14th, 2008 at 10:40:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If the only argument for Blair becoming Pres is that it might make the UK less Eurosceptical and encourage the Murdock Press to be less zenophobic, then I certainly wouldn't feel it was worth it.  Not even close.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Feb 14th, 2008 at 10:48:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We badly need someone to project that influence throughout the world.

  1. I don't think we need a single man for that. (Don't subscribe to the Great Man theory of politics.)

  2. I think we on one hand need more agreement between our governments for that.

  3. I also think we need less Atlanticism and more recognition of EU "values" in our political class for that.

  4. I think within the EU institutions, the High Representative and (collectively) the Commission should primarily do this outward projection job. The Council President should be more internal, like the EP President (and like the respective US Senate and House speakers).

Presidents of major powers are rarely angels.  People like Putin, Bush, Hu Jintao respect power not angels.

That's Great Man Theory again. I think Bliar's negative image in the populations of the rest of the World make him uniquely ill-placed to advocate EU-style progressive soft power policies convincingly.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Feb 14th, 2008 at 01:18:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Very good that you made this diary. We often hear only 30% or less of contradictory arguments against whatever is the prevailing ET view on a particular subject. But I have enjoyed reading those contrarians. <W.Churchill> comes to mind. IMO it is important to really test if a concept is durable. Some many months ago there was a big to-do about biofuels here at ET - firstly a great enthusiasm, then people went away and did some calculations (there wasn't much information out there, at that time, to datamine). But there were contrarian views in the comments, and that is one subject that was treated, in a sense, fairly, in that a full range of views was heard - and many shifted their opinion as a result.

The StopBlair project had an immediate and ready audience here. It perhaps was a 'rush to judgement'. It was so easy to judge. However there was an element of revenge in the phenomenon: "We'll teach that phony". And why not? There's nothing like feeling empowered. And, like Everest, you don't need a reason to climb Mt. Internet, because 'just because it is there' is a reasonable motivation and justification.

Hoever, just because we acquire some power, there is no reason to believe that it is because we are right.

So I am all for contrarian views: they help to refine the agument and make it right. You are a braver soul than I ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Feb 14th, 2008 at 09:54:38 AM EST
Many thanks.  I found myself in the strange position of being very impressed and supportive of the StopBlair campaign and yet having doubts about its central premise.  Whilst I think its great that ETers should conduct such campaigns, I also believe that ET itself should try to attract and engage with as many people as possible from all points of the EU Democratic spectrum if we are to become truly influential in EU affairs.

If nothing else a Diary like this can signal to potential new members that its OK to take a dissident viewpoint on even a high profile issue.  I, personally, won't like to be a member of a closed shop or party political website/community where party policy defined the range of views that were acceptable.

Dammit, you guys are far TOO conservative or wishy washy liberal on so many issues.... (hides)

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Feb 14th, 2008 at 10:28:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If nothing else a Diary like this can signal to potential new members that its OK to take a dissident viewpoint on even a high profile issue.  I, personally, won't like to be a member of a closed shop or party political website/community where party policy defined the range of views that were acceptable.

Indeed. One of the reasons many political party forums and blogs seem to tend to run into the ground is the way they have to adhere more or less strictly to the party line. That seems to tend to kill the free flow of ideas that makes blogs interesting.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Feb 14th, 2008 at 12:14:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well put, though I only have such respect for well-argued and honest contrarians (like Frank in this diary), dodging questions and just repeating the party line, or well-designed insinuations and spin not (like coming from certain contrarians gone since).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Feb 14th, 2008 at 01:21:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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