Tony Blair and the race for the presidency
Some want to find a high profile president to represent the European Union on the world stage at events such as the G8, the Bali summit and for meeting heads of state.
Gordon Brown is willing to give his backing but is waiting for a nod from Mr Blair.
Mr Blair has also recently discussed his job prospects with the President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso.
Every time the job comes up, so do the same old names. The problem is obvious: few European politicians have the charisma and international recognition to carry off being Mr or Mrs Europe.
Certainly, the other main man in the frame, Luxembourg’s veteran Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, doesn’t really fit the bill.
But Downing Street feels that Mr Blair needs to get a move on if he is to clinch the job, which needs the support, or at least the acquiescence, of the leaders of all 27 European Union countries.
The role of president of the Council would start on 1 January 2009.
Mr Blair already has the firm backing of French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his team says that there is no campaign and no campaign team.
The truth is Mr Blair is interested, but cautious. He only wants the job on his terms if the president is really going to be a strong presence on the world stage.
He wants to be sure that he is the one who shakes the hand of the new president of the United States, and doesn’t have the new high representative or the president of the European Commission jostling to do it themselves.
Downing Street insiders feel Mr Blair needs to make up his mind quite quickly so they can start throwing their weight behind his campaign.
You might question whether Gordon Brown would really welcome Tony Blair as a prince across the water, but the impression I get is that, if Mr Blair wants it, they would have to support him,.
Mr Blair feels that while it’s flattering to be considered, there is no hurry: indeed it’s too early in the process to make a decision. He wants to wait and see how the job is fleshed out as meat is put on the bones of the Lisbon Treaty.
The trouble is that nothing of importance will be decided until after the Irish referendum, on a date yet to be announced, for fear of frightening the voters with potentially controversial decisions.
How much urgency is there? Nicolas Sarkozy would like all this settled at the beginning of the French presidency, in July.
Most regard this as unrealistic, and think that the decision will be taken around the time of the October summit.
But Europe’s leaders and their representatives in Brussels are staring hard at the old problem of the chicken and the egg.
Do you choose the person you want for the job, and then write the job specification to fit them or do you decide what you want the role to be, and then look for the best candidate?
The person will of course represent the European Union, and they will of course have to do the work that the presidency of the Council does now: arranging agendas, chasing decisions, knocking heads together.
It is a sliding scale. But too much of the latter and Mr Blair won’t want it.
'Stop Blair' campaign
And there are formidable problems. Some will oppose him because of his enthusiasm for the Iraq war. Indeed there is already a website aimed at stopping him on these grounds.
Some will consider that he represents a country that has opted out of the euro, a common police and justice policy, a common immigration policy and will never be serious about Europe.
The smaller countries think the big countries already have too many people at the top.
Britain has twice wielded the veto over big jobs and some would like to return the compliment. And so on. But perhaps the biggest hurdle is that old Brussels saw “front-runners never win”.
The smart money of some Brussels insiders is now going on Germany’s leader Angela Merkel.
She faces an election next year and could lose. Her party might rather go into elections with a new leader. She is the one figure from a big country that smaller countries perhaps wouldn’t mind.
Brought up in East Germany, she symbolises the reunification of Europe. She may not gush charisma but she is well respected and well known in the wider world.
And I have just heard of one other possible candidate, Barroso himself. There’s just a possibility he might give up being President of the Commission if he thought being President of the Council was the bigger, better job and within his grasp.
So a lot to play for between now and the autumn.
Given that “front-runners never win”, Blair is being canny in keeping his head down as much as possible.
But he also knows that even if the decision isn’t taken until the autumn, nine months is an awfully short time in international politics.
Several of you ask what I have against Luxembourg's long-serving Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker. Absolutely nothing, but I probably didn't make myself clear enough.
I meant that if the job is intended to be a high profile, high impact actor on the world stage then he's probably not the best candidate.
He's a fixer, negotiator, and knows the work of the Council like the back of his hand. If the job tipped more towards organising the work of the meetings of the nation states rather than representing the EU then he would be an obvious choice, and for many who favour more intergration he is the obvious choice.
I can't agree with any of those of you who say what the job will or will not be. This certainly hasn't been decided yet: the Lisbon treaty is pretty vague stating only that the president will "drive" the work of the Council, "encourage cohesion and consensus" and represent the EU in the area of foreign affairs.
Diplomats are quite explicit: they won't do any of the detail until after the Irish referendum, and possibly not until every country has ratified. They haven't even talked about this in any official meeting. And discussion about what size of staff, and indeed residency, the new president might need amount to little more than corridor gossip.
And yes Bertie could yet be the one to come through the middle.