Brown: 'Blair right for EU presidency'
Updated on 29 October 2009
Tony Blair would make an "excellent" first president of the European Council, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said today amid rumours of his candidacy.
Speaking in Brussels at the start of a two-day EU summit, the prime minister said Mr Blair had the right credentials for the job.
However, he stressed Mr Blair had yet to declare himself as a candidate and the EU leaders had yet to agree whether to establish the presidency under the terms of the Lisbon treaty.
Mr Brown told a news conference: "We, the British government, believe that Tony Blair would be an excellent candidate and an excellent person to hold the job of president of the council."
Shadow foreign secretary William Hague said today that the current debate about Mr Blair and the presidency demonstrated that there should have been a referendum all along.
"The argument has been put throughout the debates on the Lisbon treaty that what we are talking about here is just being more efficient, streamlining the European Union, the president of the European Council being someone who can chair the council and do so more efficiently and consistently than the current six-month rotating presidency," he said.
"Now that people think the whole thing is just about agreed we need a powerful president, we need a president who can be respected as a president around the rest of the world.
"And people of course are going to say, if the job is that important, that is a major constitutional change and we should have had the referendum that we've all been arguing about for the last few years.
"It leaves people thinking they have not been dealt with honestly and plainly, which of course they have not been dealt with honestly throughout the last four years."
His comments, on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, were challenged by Blair supporter, Foreign Secretary David Miliband, on the same show.
"That's just the sort of ad hominem, play the man not the ball case that does bring politics into disrepute," he said. Mr Miliband, who has emerged as Mr Blair's most vocal cheerleader for the job, said it was a "fact" that shifts in global power meant that the EU had to be a "strong voice globally".
"We are talking here about the European Council, not a parish council," he said.
"It's all right saying you want a chairmanic role, to quote David Cameron, when you are talking about a parish council. We are talking here about the European Council."