The fight over a Blair presidency
In the days and weeks ahead the arguments over whether Tony Blair should be the first President of the European Council are likely to intensify. The British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, gave strong backing today to Tony Blair getting the top job. European leaders are dividing between those who want a charismatic figure to be the face of Europe on the international stage and those who want a more modest "business manager".
David Miliband said today it was very important for Europe to have a strong figure, who when they land in Beijing and Moscow the "traffic stops"
for the motorcade. "It would be good for Britain and for Europe if Tony Blair became that candidate." However it is not clear whether Tony Blair would put himself forward until the job is more closely defined.
My understanding is that the former prime minister would not be interested in just chairing summits and seeking out consensus. Increasingly the presidency is developing into a split between the big countries and the smaller states. Britain wants a powerful big hitter as president, so does France, Italy and probably Spain.
Angela Merkel's position is not yet clear and much will rest on what she decides. But the smaller players like Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg are set against a strong presidency. Other countries like Poland do not want to see their position weakened when it comes to their turn to hold the rotating presidency of the EU.
So the battle will sharpen. The main arguments against Tony Blair so far have been that Britain is not part of the Euro but expect more attention to move to the fact that he will be the main witness at the forthcoming Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war. One of the key questions to be decided is whether the former prime minister abused power.
The Conservatives have been actively telling EU ambassadors that they object strongly to a Blair presidency. That may have the opposite effect to what they desire. Some EU countries see a Blair presidency as providing a counterpoint to a eurosceptic David Cameron government.
Now if Tony Blair stumbles then Britain will turn its eye to the job of High Representative for Foreign Affairs. The person will be vice president of the European Commission and will have a diplomatic service at their disposal. It is potentially a very powerful job. David Miliband will again speak about this role on Monday. It has led to speculation in Europe that he is interested in the role.
He said today that "No, I am not a candidate. I'm not available." That may not stem the growing interest in the British foreign secretary in European capitals.