BBC BLOGS - Nick Robinson's Newslog
« Previous | Main | Next »

Britain lands key EU foreign policy post

Nick Robinson | 23:22 UK time, Thursday, 19 November 2009

So Britain has got one of the top two EU jobs, and arguably the more important one.

Cathy AshtonCathy Ashton is a warm, likeable, natural coalition-builder who appealed to the European left as one of its own - and was acceptable to the right as the EU Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso had learned he could do business with her.

It is an extraordinary rise for someone who has never run for elected office, who spent just a year in the cabinet and a year as an EU commissioner. She has no experience of foreign affairs other than the past year of representing the EU in world trade talks.

Will she become the answer to the Kissinger Question ("who do I call if I want to call Europe?") or, as appears more likely, an envoy or ambassador representing positions on which the EU has an agreed position?

Comments

Page 1 of 5

  • Comment number 1.

    Nick, you say "Cathy Ashton is a warm, likeable natural coalition builder who appealed to the European left as one of their own"

    This may be true, but she has no democratic legitimacy.

    This is a farce!

  • Comment number 2.

    Complete farce the appointment of Ashton. Un unelected embarrassment.

    This EU 'election' of president & foreign minister has been a complete sham and shown up the EU as an undemocratic demagogue.

  • Comment number 3.

    I'm going to reserve judgement for the moment as I don't know that much about her. Which sadly I think say's a lot, for a job at this level surely you should need at least more than just one year in a foreign affairs post.

    Still our masters know best...

  • Comment number 4.

    It is an extraordinary rise for someone who has never run for elected office.

    So just what qualifications for the post does she actually have ????

    or is that not important ??? just another drain on tax money....

  • Comment number 5.

    I wish the EU President and foreign affairs supremo well but in the short term, the current POTUS or his Secretary of State is not going to be making anything other than courtesy calls in the short term.

    The most important point is that these positions of EU president and foreign policy chief now actually exist.

    Mr. Van Rompuy has already indicated in the codified language of diplomacy that the EU will move towards 'ever closer union'.

    Over time, these roles will expand in scope and power as the EU heads towards a political destination that will probably end up more like the US model, with possibly for example, a directly elected President.

    Broadly speaking, Europe is still developing politically but the final destination is probably some decades away.

  • Comment number 6.

    It is irritating to hear politicians and journalists, who really should know better, trumpetting the appointment of Cathy Ashton as a triumph for 'Britain'.

    This is one of the top EU jobs and the person performing that role should and I believe will, utterly discount their personal country of origin when making political decisions and make such judgements purely on what is best of the EU as a whole.

  • Comment number 7.

    All happy families are alike but an unhappy family is unhappy after its own fashion.

    The final destination for the EU is a happy family but there will be plenty of rows in the interim but hopefully no divorces.

  • Comment number 8.

    Unelected pen pusher who is a nice person gets a job in an undemocratic organisation. Great news for Britain

    She was on the news earlier exalting herself as having experience etc.

    Just 2 things:
    Do you think the US is going to sit up and take note when she arrives?
    And secondly does she have the balls for the job?

  • Comment number 9.

    If ever you wanted an example of why the EU is viewed with such distrust by many in the UK (and beyond), this is it. Two people most of the citizens of the 27 EU states will have never heard of, yet alone voted for, are now in two very prominent positions on the World stage. What does this say about the EU to the rest of the World? I doubt the redoubtable Dr Kissinger would know who to call even now they've been appointed!

    I think there may be something in the view that the heads of the EU states finally acknowledged the potential monster they have created and have sought to fill the roles with people less well known than themselves! I'm reminded of the mediaeval struggle between the Papacy and Princes of Europe as to who wielded the ultimate power. The echoes of those birth pains of early Nation States are still felt today.

    These appointments may fall between two stools; the risk being that either the new President and 'Foreign Minister' emerge as the true powers in the EU and are therefore classed as prime examples of its undemocratic nature, or they turn out to be little more than window dressing, in which case the accusations of the Brussels Gravy Train will ring louder.

    I don't claim to know the answer, but surely there's a better solution than this?

  • Comment number 10.

    As a EUrosceptic I am delighted.

    These two unelected non-entities pose no challenge whatsoever to the leaders of the Member States and thus weaken Euro-federalist aspirations.

    Is a President Obama or a Premier Putin really likely to want to engage in serious policy issues with the likes of Chairman Rumpey or Baroness Whatshername?

    Any serious talk will be, as ever, with the British Prime Minister, the French President and the German Chancellor.

  • Comment number 11.

    "Cathy Ashton is a warm, likeable natural coalition builder who appealed to the European left as one of their own - and was acceptable to the right as the EU Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso had learnt he could do business with her"

    I get you, Nick

    Do I?

  • Comment number 12.

    #6 JohnConstable

    "This is one of the top EU jobs and the person performing that role should and I believe will, utterly discount their personal country of origin when making political decisions and make such judgements purely on what is best of the EU as a whole".

    But who has authorised this person to make any judgements on "what is best for the EU as a whole"?

    She has not been elected by anyone - not even the EU parliament.

    She has merely been appointed by the same bunch of discredited self-serving EU leaders who have denied their own citizens any say on the constitution, and whether or not they actually want a European 'foreign affairs' spokesperson.

    The EU, as currently constituted under the new Lisbon treaty is not merely undemocratic; it is anti-democratic.

  • Comment number 13.

    I was until now a supporter of the UK's membership of the EU and had been ever since we joined - without a referendum, for those of you too young to remember.

    I now reluctantly conclude that it's time for the UK to leave this outrageous gravy train for incompetent, unelected second raters. We can and will do better outside, as Norway and Swittzerland can testify. The EU needs us more than we need the other 26 countries. We are not part of Shengen or the Euro, so it would be pretty painless to leave and negotiate a free trade relationship.

    And I'm sure Nick is right that Cathy Ashton is a wonderful person. So is my next door neighbour, but that doesn't make her qualified to be EU foreign affairs chief. And she has been elected for public office exactly the same number of times as Baronress Ashton.

  • Comment number 14.

    No, Britain hasn't got one of two top jobs. Two people from the EU inner circle have been promoted by their peers. The closed club that continues to operate without as much as a by-your-leave is true to form. The huge EU pay and expenses gravy-train rolls on, funded by the taxes I pay. So I now have to support a parish council, borough council, county council, UK parliament, and European Parliament, each of which (except the Parish) has its own civil service. On top of these, I also probably pay a bit towards regional parliaments and civil services in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

    No wonder we have a budget deficit and very little to show for it.

    Let's either get out of Europe or abolish one of our local tiers of government.

  • Comment number 15.

    So, the two top Euro jobs have gone to two completely unelected officials, neither of whom have ever been elected to anything.

    To me, this reinforces my belief that Europe is BAD FOR US.

    Even Hitler was elected at some point.

    PS - If you don't believe me, try an online audit trail for these folks CVs.

    Frightening.

    The sooner we are out the better.

  • Comment number 16.

    Nick

    I know you are a nice bloke and probably influential in your own way but why are you asking us questions about Europe?

    I mean even our own government(or parliament come to that)doesn't give a damn what we think about Europe and is going to make sure they don't have to hear it either.

    Surely you're not hoping to start a whispering campaign or even a minor insurrection?

    Perhaps you could let us know what the official BBC editorial policy on this one is, often it's as transparent as decision making in Brussels.

  • Comment number 17.

    If you watch the clip, Herman van Rompuy describes himself as "president elect"

    Er.... did we miss something? I don't recall receiving my polling card!

  • Comment number 18.

    Nick. Has she ever done a proper job?

  • Comment number 19.

    So who is Milliband's boss now?

    Does her role outweigh that of our boy in the Foreign Office?

    Or does it just clash with it?

    What happens if Millie says turn left and she says turn right?

    Or will he have to consult her before making any decisions?

    If so, is there any point in him being in office?

    We need answers please Nick.

  • Comment number 20.

    Oh for goodness' sake. EU democracy my whatever. A foreign minister who is someone who has NEVER been democratically elected, NEVER held a diplomatic post, ONLY been a politico for a year. And you seriously wonder why there is a movement to get the UK OUT of the EU.....Pot/Kettl/Call/Black......

  • Comment number 21.

    "Two people most of the citizens of the 27 EU states will have never heard of, yet alone voted for, are now in two very prominent positions on the World stage. What does this say about the EU to the rest of the World? I doubt the redoubtable Dr Kissinger would know who to call even now they've been appointed!"

    A valid point is rather marred by the reference to Kissinger, who from what I recall never held elected office either. I suppose it would have been much better if Cathy Ashton had at some point been parachuted by the Labour high command into an unloseable safe seat at Westminster? I know there's an important principle here, but given how unfair our electoral system is, I'm not sure having been elected once actually confers that much legitimacy anyway. But, of course, that's an argument for electoral reform rather than one in favour of the Baroness's position.

  • Comment number 22.

    I suppose the job title sounds nice, but it's an empty position. Nice to have and all that but what will she actually do?

    If the USA wants/needs to communicate with an EU member it is done directly (as it should be)

    The original idea of the EU as a free trade zone with simple single zone emploment was and is a fantastic idea

    How did we end up with the non-democratic behemoth that we have now? The EU parliament is a scam. Not one set of auditors is prepared to sign off on a single years worth of accounts for the EU! And they have tried using the most 'lenient' companies too

    It's a huge gravy train that serves only the politicians and not the public

    Can we please go back to being a free trade zone with our own laws??

  • Comment number 23.

    I thought these two EU jobs were largely ambassadorial rather than executive.
    El Presidente who greets non-european leaders in europe, Foreign jobby is the same but worldwide.
    Do either of these people have any Ambassador skills ?

  • Comment number 24.

    Nick Robinson:

    My best wishes for the Britain's who got the key posts
    in the E.U. Update in government...

    =Dennis Junior=

  • Comment number 25.

    Well we can all rest easy in our beds tonight knowing that we have a "warm, likeable natural coalition builder who appealed to the European left as one of their own" ....who is now the EU version of Dr. Kissinger! What a complete laughing stock the EU is. When the Lisbon Treaty really stared to take effect what did we get from the EU leaders? A dawning realisation that this treaty is not all its cracked up to be. A startling prospect of being usurped and an erosion of their own power and influence, cystallised by the hunger for publicity and dramatics that our Tony would have brought. So at last we have the solution: "downgrade and devalue the posiions" of President and EU Foreign Supremo, appoint some complete innocous unknowns, everyone will forget they exist and we can get on with life. Sanity at last!

  • Comment number 26.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 27.

    Nick

    So I now have 2 foreign Ministries. If the new one is so critical can't we simply get rid of the one in London.

    The OECD have just come out with a report saying that we are very close to entering an uncontrollable debt spiral reported in the Telegraph

    "Britain is at growing risk of a "public debt spiral" unless the Government takes "drastic" action to cut the deficit, according to the OECD, world's leading economic institution. "

    And this is even if they cut the deficit by 50%

    We may be nearing the end game where everyones savings are wiped out so if we don't have to spend on two foreign ministries it would help a bit.

    Do you see that HUGE grey shape in the corner of the room? Its an elephant with economic ruin written all over it.

    Churchill would have probably put it this way


    Who is in charge of the clattering train?

    The axles creak and the couplings strain,

    and the pace is hot and the points are near,

    and arrogance hath deadened the driver's ear,

    and the signals flash through the night in vain,

    for BROWN is in charge of the clattering train.

    Full steam ahead. Whats the great big white thing?

  • Comment number 28.

    Another political insider - she is married to political commentator and President of YouGov, none other than Peter Kellner!

    So, no doubt some favourable polling analysis for Brown between now and the election.

  • Comment number 29.

    More back room shenanigans me thinks.

    An unknown Brit suddenly elevated to a world platform and who represents and clearly benefits Labour's interests.

    Orchestrated?

    Conspiracy theorists field day. I wanted Pudsey to get the role.

  • Comment number 30.

    Utterly shameful. Why on earth do we put up with this? How do we stop it? The normal rules of democracy are shot to pieces. Are we supposed to start withdrawing our consent to be governed?

  • Comment number 31.

    I'm working in Poland at the moment, and I have to say, based on what I've witness here, further European integration will be a very good thing - provided it brings us up to their level and not them down to ours.

  • Comment number 32.

    'Never run for elected Office'. 'No experience of foreign affairs'.
    No disqualification for a top job in government then!
    We need to be out of this sinister, unelected, uncalled for, superstate.
    I have no intention of ever acknowledging these people as my leaders.
    Successive British Governments have betrayed the British People.

  • Comment number 33.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 34.

    . At 11:42pm on 19 Nov 2009, DistantTraveller wrote:
    "Nick, you say "Cathy Ashton is a warm, likeable natural coalition builder who appealed to the European left as one of their own"
    This may be true, but she has no democratic legitimacy.
    This is a farce!"

    I fear the farce is staring at you in the mirror.

    Like modern architecture the EU is there,you may like it or hate it, but unless we have a strong political presence at the top in the councils of Europe we surrender everything to Franco-German interests.

    Can`t you see how childish British behaviour has been in allowing a nonentity to put in place as president, giving the French and Germans power to dominate Europe in their interests? We treated the election like a beauty contest, while our rivals and competitors consolidated their power behind the scenes.

    You have just seen the first act of the Cameron premiership, and it has flown in the face of the historic interests of the British state!

  • Comment number 35.

    Never elected. No experience of foreign affairs. Says it all!

  • Comment number 36.

    Yes,what they need in Europe is some good old British democracy,none of these unelected politicians.
    Over here we've got it all sorted out,once every four years we've got a vile Australian who tells us how to vote via his newspapers,then we get a government that gets in with about 40% of the vote,the majority either voting against or not voting at all.

  • Comment number 37.

    Dear Nick, Could you please send me the name of the recruitment agency that can turn, 'Totally unqualified', and 'Utterley lacking experience', into, 'Perfectly suited for the role'.
    So her main qualification is that she is 'acceptable' to Jose Manuel Barroso.
    And just who elected him?
    This would be laughable were it not so disgusting.

  • Comment number 38.

    The new world poiltics - no need to get elected by the people.
    It has happened in the UK, EU, Burma, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, Iran, and on it goes.

  • Comment number 39.

    Unelected?

    When was the last time you voted in an election to The House of Lords?

  • Comment number 40.

    It's a disgrace that the position exists, so who has it is largely irrelevant. It is to be hoped that the world ignores her and deals exclusively with the Foreign Secretaries or equivalent of the constituent nations.

  • Comment number 41.

    34. At 07:58am on 20 Nov 2009, anthony piepe wrote:

    ....You have just seen the first act of the Cameron premiership, and it has flown in the face of the historic interests of the British state!

    *****************************

    I'm sorry. Did I miss something? When I went to bed last night Gordon Brown was PM.

  • Comment number 42.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 43.

    It was Kissinger who said of Europe "The people who talk to us can't negotiate and the people who can negotiate won't talk to us". What has changed?

  • Comment number 44.

    Nick, the resentment for the undemocratic, unelected, inexperienced is quite understandable but what many of us seem to have missed is the fact that these nominations were the result of a "compromise" hence the unanimity. It is clear that the heads of states were not ready for these positions and rather than showing in public the disagreements they decided to appoint two "tame" figures and buy themselves another two and a half years to decide on job descriptions and proper candidates.
    In other words in two and a half years time we will see the real power struggle again with old candidates(Blair) and maybe new ones (Merkel, Sarkozy and why not even our Superman Gordon who in the meantime would have completely saved the world).
    Shameful that to accomplish so little the EU Foreign Affairs department will blow billions of Pounds a year (most of it in banquets, travelling and entertainment) and need 5.000 staff!
    But then shame is not a word recognised in the EU vocabulary.

  • Comment number 45.

    43. L_Autre wrote:

    It was Kissinger who said of Europe "The people who talk to us can't negotiate and the people who can negotiate won't talk to us". What has changed?


    Kissinger? There's a man who makes Blair and Bush look positively amateurish on the subject of illegal wars. Wasn't any negotiating before the carpet bombing of Cambodia.
    Not a very tasteful example.

  • Comment number 46.

    44. At 08:51am on 20 Nov 2009, giannir wrote:

    .......It is clear that the heads of states were not ready for these positions and rather than showing in public the disagreements they decided to appoint two "tame" figures and buy themselves another two and a half years to decide on job descriptions and proper candidates.
    In other words in two and a half years time we will see the real power struggle again with old candidates(Blair) and maybe new ones (Merkel, Sarkozy and why not even our Superman Gordon who in the meantime would have completely saved the world).

    ***************************

    Good post.

    Not sure if after saving the World Gordon would want to bother with a tinpot corrupt part of the globe called Euroland though!
    I think he may be more interested in saving the Universe by then. 8-)

  • Comment number 47.

    She may have never received a single vote in any free and democratic election but at least that means that she:
    Never voted for the Iraq War
    Never voted against an investigation into the Iraq War
    Never voted for ID cards
    Never voted against transparency in government
    Never voted for for Labour's anti-terrorism laws
    You could say that she is untainted by democracy. Just like the EU.

  • Comment number 48.

    Every thing that the EU does serves to reinforce the idea that the whole project is a conspiracy. Twenty seven elected leaders (elected in their own country by their own electorate) sit around and themselves "elect" two people to take high office in Europe. The British people, and the people of the other 26 nations in the EU, held elections to send representatives to Brussels on our behalf. They are called MEPs, and are the nearest thing to our elected representatives. How the hell were all those elected people representing us totally by-passed by these 27 men and women to allow an unelected member of the House of Lords, who had to "suspend" her peerage in order to take part in this cobbled arrangement, to speak for all of us on foreign policy? Or to elect one of their own 27 to become President?

    We live in a world which is supposed to be democratic, and where we challenge people like Karzai or Mugabe (or the Chinese) for being undemocratic. Yet we allow ourselves to be increasingly run by a club of Presidents and Prime Ministers and a bureaucracy of totally unelected people, including the European President and Foreign Minister (the former who has to resign as Prime Minister of his country to become unelected and the latter who has already suspended her peerage).

    I am not anti a common market of mutually friendly states promoting good relations and even a european voice on matters of common interest. I am totally anti what we have now, which is undemocratic. Where was my vote on these two people? Was my MEP considered? Were any of them?

    Incidentally, the rhetoric from Brown suggests to me that he sees the battlelines for the next election to be on Brown the Good European and Cameron the Bad European.

  • Comment number 49.


    Interesting that both the Mail and Guardian have the same take and same headline - The Great EU Stitch-Up.

    But no reference here to the fact that two unelected non-entities are now the face of a new EU superstate.

    This is an outrageous stitch-up by Europe's ruling elite. Did any of the 500 million citizens anywhere in Europe get a look in?

    http://theorangepartyblog.blogspot.com/2009/11/stitched-up-eu-empire.html

  • Comment number 50.

    Giannir you raise a extremely valid point, its still worrying though just what these "tame" figures represent and the way they were appointed. Agreed completely though about the power struggle thats going to happen in 2 years time, I can picture Blair going for the job each and every time.

  • Comment number 51.

    I really don't care how 'likeable' she is; if she has no foreign policy experience then she isn't qualified for the job.

    I could name any number of likeable people who have no experience in government, but I wouldn't suggest that they should all be appointed to senior positions in the EU.

    Once again a triumph of party politics over what's right for the country.

  • Comment number 52.

    What and inspiring choice the EU council have made in choosing Baroness Ashton. It should provide much inspiration to the legions of unemployed here that you can infact get a job despite having no actually relevant qualifications for it nor a great deal of experience in any relevant area.
    Perhaps the Government could run a short course on diplomacy for beginners to get them some basic skills at the Westmonster Jobs (for the party faithful)Center Plus. Ashton could join with Milliband and Amos to provide a quorum for such a course to be run.

    This is just a further illustration if one was needed that it is in fact who you know and not what you know that counts in these things as it has ever been.

  • Comment number 53.

    How much bigger is this administration going to get? How is it being paid for?
    It's not as if the World would stop turning if the EU vanished overnight.
    Each Nation still has its own Parliament (for the time being anyway) so each would continue to function.
    I find it encredible that so much highly paid and pampered bureaucracy, administered by so many inexperienced incompetents, is needed for Europe to operate.
    Actually, of course, it isn't needed at all so far as the average Joe or Jill in the street is concerned. However it is of vast importance to politicians. It panders to their egos. It fills their wallets with undeserved, unearned cash. It gives them a reason not to find a proper job.

    We the people who have to live in under this corrupt regime don't have a say in any of this. We might interfere in their plans. We might just make them take their fingers out of the till. We may even, God forbid, ask them to justify their existence.

    So we're lumbered with it for now. However, like most ivory towers, it will eventually crumble and implode.
    If in so doing it destroys politicians - Good. Serves them right. It is just a shame that the ordinary members of the public that will be hurt most, many of whom didn't even want it in the first place but were never given the chance to say that.

  • Comment number 54.

    Once again, the crucial point has been missed. Offering the High Rep post to Britain means that we will not get the post that really matters i.e. the economic brief or financial regulation brief. This means that the UK will be in thrall to whatever german or french person gets this brief. Over-regulation of the financial sector could decimate the city of London and our financial services sector (which is a lot bigger than just the banks). Ever closer union and european taxes are just round the corner.
    Once again this Labour government (and Gordon Brown) has done what is best for themselves (i.e. get a Labour crony in a high profile but pointless role - all Baroness Ashton will give out are vague communiques based on lowest common denominator foreign policy) and not in the interests of the UK.

  • Comment number 55.

    48. At 09:09am on 20 Nov 2009, majorroadaheadagain2 wrote:

    .....Incidentally, the rhetoric from Brown suggests to me that he sees the battlelines for the next election to be on Brown the Good European and Cameron the Bad European.

    **************************

    If Brown thinks that will work he'll make a bad mistake.
    As most people are anti EU, there are more 'bad' Europeans around than 'good'.

  • Comment number 56.

    Wonder who Cathy's the poodle of. Likeable, pleasant, warm, sounds like Simon Cowell.

    She certainly has'nt got an electorate to worry about.

    A powerful voice for Britain in the EU? We shall see.

    Let us know when any appointment needs a vote from the tax payers.

  • Comment number 57.

    On the previous Blog
    56. At 2:01pm on 19 Nov 2009, pdavies65 wrote:

    I'd say the last 12 years have been pretty good, on balance. Just look at the new hospitals, the rebuilt schools, the thousands more children with nursery places, all those low-paid workers guaranteed a decent(ish) minimum wage, the reduction in crime and the improved relations with our European neighbours.

    Stop talking Britain down!


    31. At 07:18am on 20 Nov 2009, pdavies65 wrote:

    I'm working in Poland at the moment, and I have to say, based on what I've witness here, further European integration will be a very good thing - provided it brings us up to their level and not them down to ours.

    Well, you've got me confused, or are you merely refering to us the voters? or actually the not allowed to Voters?

  • Comment number 58.

    34. anthony piepe

    "Can`t you see how childish British behaviour has been in allowing a nonentity to put in place as president, giving the French and Germans power to dominate Europe in their interests? We treated the election like a beauty contest, while our rivals and competitors consolidated their power behind the scenes.

    You have just seen the first act of the Cameron premiership, and it has flown in the face of the historic interests of the British state!"

    +

    A bit arrogant to assume that a top role should go to a British candidate. Maybe Van Rompuy is a better diplomat than either Blair or Miliband?

    And even more presumptive are those slagging off Cathy Ashton only minutes after hearing her name for the for the first time...!

  • Comment number 59.

    It's Rompuy of the Gravy (train).

  • Comment number 60.

    Nick,
    You wrote:
    "Will she become the answer to the Kissinger Question ("who do I call if I want to call Europe?") or, as appears more likely, an envoy or ambassador representing positions on which the EU has an agreed position?"

    Far as I know, Foreign Ministers (or HIgh Representatives) can negotiate, but I my life time I can't recall any Minister being able to COMMIT a nation to a course of action. That remains with the Leader...

    Can't see how this is different within the EU. Except that the President of the Council has no remit, authority or legal basis to COMMIT the EU
    to a course of action, either. Any significant decision would still require the 27 Heads of GOvernment...

    All we have is a new layer of cost (with more "envoys/ambassadorial staff" being lined up cost us even more).

  • Comment number 61.

    Like it or not this is all part of New World Order. The United States of Europe. Brown has his wish. No wonder he is looking pleased.

    The age of democracy in Britain is over.

  • Comment number 62.

    So the two most powerful people in the EU are a has-been politician who wants the EU to have even more power over sovereign governments, and an bureaucrat who has never been elected to anything.

    Sounds like and excellent metaphor for the EU. All we need to complete the set is a minister facing corruption charges.

  • Comment number 63.

    51. At 09:19am on 20 Nov 2009, hmcynic wrote:
    I really don't care how 'likeable' she is; if she has no foreign policy experience then she isn't qualified for the job.

    ******************************

    Politicians need experience and qualifications like a fish needs a bike.

    In local Government and in Parliament, what you need is influence and friends.
    What you don't need is:
    To have ever had a proper job.
    To be aware of what life is like on the street.
    To know what you're talking about.

    What you do need is:
    The ability to take large sums of taxpayers money without shame.
    The gall to take holidays in exotic places in the interests of research.
    To work for your benefit before that of those who you serve(supposedly)

    The EU is just the supreme example of this.

  • Comment number 64.

    You have the chutzpah of EU politics, we have an unelected person who has no meaningful experience in foreign affairs being shoehorned into a the EU Foreign Affairs job.

    And the best thing Nick Robinson can say about her is, er, she's a nice person.

    The Eurosceptics really don't need to bother trying to drum up public opinion do they? Not with the EU doing a bang up job of shamelessly highlighting what a shoddy set-up it all is.

  • Comment number 65.

    #34 Piepe wrote:
    "You have just seen the first act of the Cameron premiership, and it has flown in the face of the historic interests of the British state!"

    This seems a rather strange comment:
    a) Cameron is not PM, and for all we know may never be (you may be taking the election for granted, but I'm certainly not)
    b) Cameron was not present when the two posts were negotiated
    c) Possibly you are referring to the Conservatives disapproval of Blair for President, but I doubt that this had much influence over European leaders. Where's the eveidence to the contrary?
    d) The holders of these two posts, and EU commissioners in general, have a legal responsibility to act on the interests of the EU as a whole and not their own country. I don't see how the nationality of the posts matters (unless you are Gordon Brown and want to crow over a Labour apparatchik success).

  • Comment number 66.

    Is this the sort of democracy that our service men and women are dying for to bring to Afghanistan?

  • Comment number 67.

    Nick,

    You haven't commented on the topic of who will now replace Baroness Whatnot as an EU Commissioner.

    She was a UK nominee. I assume "we" still have the right to nominate a replacement, now she's moved to a different job.

    Which big-hitting, experienced public figure "trusted by" or even "known to" the UK population will Brown select this time round?

    Mandelson quit as a Commissioner (being paid a "transition support") to rejoin the UK government. The Baroness has left after 18 months or so. It seems slightly odd that the Brits shuffle through rapidly.

    So, come on, Nick. Give us a clue who Brown will nominate to drop in as Trade Commissioner.

    Maybe he could send Lord Sugar?

    I'd love him to wander round the Brussels H/Q saying "You're fired! And you! And you lot! And anybody responsible for the accounts department!"

  • Comment number 68.

    #31 pdavies65:
    "I'm working in Poland at the moment, and I have to say, based on what I've witness here, further European integration will be a very good thing - provided it brings us up to their level and not them down to ours."

    So you think that after 12 years of Labour the UK has sunk below European levels. Although I'm a Conservative voter, and am very tempted to agree with you, I still think the British people have some good qualities that Labour have not yet been able to eradicate.

    I believe you are a Labour supporter. Why do you view our society with such distaste?

  • Comment number 69.

    61. Flamethrower
    "The age of democracy in Britain is over."

    When did it start?

  • Comment number 70.

    @ 52
    "This is just a further illustration if one was needed that it is in fact who you know and not what you know that counts in these things as it has ever been."

    There are plenty of examples to back your valid point. Perhaps one is more striking. Lord Adonis: made a Lord and brought into Blair's Cabinet for his "immense" experience in Education. Today is our Transport Minister!
    Incidentally I read that Baroness Ashton has commented that she is "the best person for the new EU job". That should shut up her critics!

  • Comment number 71.

    64 Frank Castle

    .. but as she is AKA Mrs Peter Kellner - I would imagine Nick knows her rather better than we do.

  • Comment number 72.

    The "unelected PM" Urban Myth

    theorangeparty "watch my lips" as if you didn't know, but why spoil a good myth.

    In the UK we do not elect prime ministers. We elect parliaments and the prime minister is whoever commands a majority in the House of Commons.

    Some 'unelected' PMs;
    John Major. James Callaghan, Alec Douglas Hume, Harold McMillan, Anthony Eden and even Winston Churchill in 1940.

  • Comment number 73.

    Nick,

    I've seen Cathy Ashton a couple of times on your parliament channel. She seemed ok for a leftie.

    These appointments are fine by me. It just amplifies the point that the positions really are of no consequence. If TB or other grandstander had got it, they would have turned it into something it is not and we would have rolled into federalism by stealth. This is possibly the most honest bit of politics I've seen this year. They said the positions would not be subject to a public vote, and they were not. They never said it would be democratic, and it wasn't. It's when we are promised something we don't get that riles me most.

    Oh - please can you have a word and get Nick Ferrari on QT more often? He gives the show a bit of balance, unlike the rabid perfomance by Will Self last week.

  • Comment number 74.

    @67, We don't get another commissioner, Baroness Ashton is still our commissioner and High Rep and Vice President of the Council. Basically she is the female version of another unelected Labour stooge, Lord Mandelson, busy collecting titles that noone voted her to have.
    Another example of PM Brown selling us down the river for cheap short term political advantage (didn't really work tho) and giving away influence to the European State.

  • Comment number 75.

    Another of Brown's appointees - apparently she is a nice person, but we have never heard of her, she won't ruffle any feathers and will go with the flow and do what she is told - just what the EU wants, and just what the people of Europe do not need.

  • Comment number 76.

    By the way, Nick...

    When Baroness Ashton was nominated as a Commissioner, I saw no reference to the "suspension" of her peerage. Viscount Stansgate (Tony Benn) renounced his peerage, being a good old fashioned socialist...

    But, how, exactly, does a peer "suspend" his/her peerage?

    I can't find the relevant legal details (though admittedly I haven't wasted too much time trying). But, as the Westminster insider, I'm sure you could explain.

    From a legal perspective, what changes when a peerage is suspended?

    What conditions, or constraints are defined as justifying a self-chosen suspension of the rank?

    Why is it a "do-it-yourself", one-way process? In other words, why can't a peer be "suspended", if for example, the peer had evidently and blatantly picked up public money on the basis of untruths (as in housing/transport allowances)?

    (There are quite a few peers I'd like to see suspended. And a lot of suitable old trees suitable for purpose thereof...)

    During the period of suspension (and for how long can that be?) what status does the peer then have?

    I don't understand how you can "suspend" a peerage, but still use the title.

    This is simple curiosity.

    When the EU folk produce her business cards, or credit card compies deliver theirs, will they say "Baroness Ashton of Upholland (suspended)" or just Cathy Ashton?

  • Comment number 77.

    The posts seem mendicant. What pay does she get?

  • Comment number 78.

    Presumably Terry Wogan was inelligible, being Irish and presumably complaining about French handballs. What a total farce all this European nonsense is fast becoming. Caledonian Comment

  • Comment number 79.


    Being nice is probably about all she will need to do well.
    Anybody who is intelligent also has enough savvy to steer well clear of politics.

  • Comment number 80.

    Rather alarmed to hear Kinnock on the radio this morning, haughtily explaining that these were not positions that merited a vote by the people they will be representing.

    How about we have a vote to decide whether we should have a say in the selection of the top posts. I think I know how that one would turn out.

    More of this insufferable, we know best, so keep your heads down and stay out of it, nonsense from a party so desperately arrogant and out of touch that I fully expect them to declare at some point that a general election would not be in our interests.

  • Comment number 81.

    Although I'd consider myself in principle a Europhile, I do feel rather uncomfortable with the way the EU seems to be becoming less democratic.

    Appointing someone to a key post who has never been elected doesn't help me on that score.

    Still, 2 good things about these appointments:

    1. What a relief that Tony Blair didn't get the job!
    2. That game you sometimes play "can you name 5 famous Belgians" has just got a little bit easier.

  • Comment number 82.

    Unfortunately, the manner of these appointments does not bode well.When our leaders say that the EU will lead to greater democracy, they mean it will lead to greater democracy for them.It's quite a different picture for the rest of us who have been deprived of the opportunity to have an input via an election.

    In effect, the ordinary person in the street is being pushed further and further away from the seat of power, yet is still expected to fund the expensive and unnecessary extra levels of bureacracy that the EU creates.Worse, the EU is still unable to account for the expenditure and is literally unaccountable.

    It will be interesting to see whether the EU gravy train grinds to a halt and the EU produces accounts for its last 10 years of expenditure or whether things continue as usual with those in the EU Parliament enjoying a lavish lifestyle at the expense of the taxpayers.

  • Comment number 83.

    #74, boabycat wrote:
    "@67, We don't get another commissioner, Baroness Ashton is still our commissioner and High Rep and Vice President of the Council. Basically she is the female version of another unelected Labour stooge, Lord Mandelson, busy collecting titles that noone voted her to have."

    boabycat,

    Are you sure? From my reading of the Treaty, the President of the Council can appoint Vice Presidents, quite separately from the office of High Representative.

    And the High Representative is not a commissioner with responsibility for any other area of the EU's functions. (She can't do Trade and Foreign Affairs, can she?)

    There will be a replacement Trade Commissioner. That was a "UK" slot.

    The commissioner has now gone. Who will replace her? Why should it not be another UK nominee, since we now have one less commissioner than we are "entitled" to.

  • Comment number 84.

    I am a warm nice likeable Person.

    I have Holidayed all over Europe so know something about it.

    I quite fancy some taxpayer funded first class travel a nice office subsidised living expenses etc etc

    I also do not fancy the idea of the inconvenience of being elected but circa £300k a year salary with a hugely generous pension does have appeal.

    Could you forward me Gordon Browns Phone No I don't mind telling him how great he is in return.

    Thanks Nick

  • Comment number 85.

    Nick actually feel there are more important things to discuss at the moment such as:
    "UK public borrowing reached a record high in October, according to official figures published yesterday, revealing the state of public finances to be much worse than economists feared." - City AM
    Doubt Ms Ashton's appointment will help the crisis that UK faces thanks to Grodon Brown and his team.

  • Comment number 86.

    "77. At 10:29am on 20 Nov 2009, atrisse wrote:
    The posts seem mendicant. What pay does she get?"

    Hardly matters what her pay is. I'm sure she will do very nicely on expenses alone.

    It's all a farce. We have layer upon layer upon layer of Government. Local councils, county councils, Assemblies, national Governments, european governments. All people who produce nothing but need paying.

    "Big Government"? We have F-ing enourmous Government. If you were to take a step backwards and try and work out the concept that Government could take 51.5% of what you earn off you you'd think it mad. But that's what Brown wants.


  • Comment number 87.

    Cheer up, everyone! At least Blair and Milliband are out of the picture.

    Unless, of course, you know different?

  • Comment number 88.

    'warm, likeable, natural coalition-builder' - shame you could not use the word 'elected' in that sentence.

  • Comment number 89.

    Old Nat Ditto to that!

  • Comment number 90.

    You said it yourself, Nick: "It is an extraordinary rise for someone who has never run for elected office,"
    Although thanking all the gods that the odious Blair wasn't awarded an office, I'm appalled at this typical EU "stitchup", imnportant decisions made in secret, behind closed doors. The new leaders of this monumental dictatorship, imposed upon us with no vote, have never been elected to anything, except perhaps, school chalk monitor.
    How long before the people take to the streets to demand their democratic rights?

  • Comment number 91.

    Re 13 badgergate

    I heard Clare Short saying that the cost of EU membership was small compared to the UK's GDP, and I suppose it is if put in those terms.

    What the politicians of the three major parties do not tell us however is that we run a balance of trade deficit with the rest of the EU approaching £60bn a year, nor that, whilst we export c 60% to the EU we import 80% of our goods from the EU, and that a fair proportion of those imports would be less expensive if sourced from elsewhere in the World.

    Three things are clear:-

    1. There would be more jobs lost in the rest of the EU if we left and few to none in the UK because a high proportion of our export to the EU is Financial Services.

    2. The rest of the EU needs us more than we need them so the argument that the UK would lose trade and jobs is spurious.

    3. Why do our politicians persist in less than the full truth when it comes to the EU?

    I suspect Nick knows the answer.

  • Comment number 92.

    Who is in line to get her job? Never knew she existed until yesterday. Another labour classic example of nepotism. Brown now will be able to get inside information on the polls seeing Cathy is married to political commentator and President of YouGov, Peter Kellner. Just remember Cathy, there is no such thing in life as a free lunch.

  • Comment number 93.

    Since Mr. Van Rompuy holds views on Europe so bizzare that belief that the moon is made of cheese is sanity itself in comparison and Baroness Ashton is something of a non-entity, there is every chance of they will be treated as bad jokes, rather than serious politicians. This would be a good thing and should lead them to being ignored, or their positions being held in the contempt they deserve.

    The point about them not being democratically elected seems to be regarded as a bad thing. It isn't. If they has been elected, their positions might have acquired real power. It is essential than nobody at EU level has any power over anything which ought to be reserved for the nations individually. Foreign policy is one such area, although it is very difficult to think of any area where power should be excercised at EU level.

  • Comment number 94.

    What's the difference between Britain and Afghanistan?

    The Afghan people got to vote for their president.

    And they're the corrupt ones?

  • Comment number 95.

    Putting to one side the merits and demerits of this particular person for this particular job, I'm not seeing the big fuss about her being "not elected". She's been chosen (hasn't she?) via a haggling process between people who ARE elected - the various National Governments. It's just like Barack Obama's cabinet is not elected (far more powerful jobs too, in that case) but HE was. Nobody seems to have a big problem with that. Do we really want to be traipsing down to the local Church Hall every other Thursday and "voting" on this, that and the other? Not sure I do. There's a rather noddy view of Democracy, don't you think?

  • Comment number 96.

    #76 fairlyopenmind

    "When Baroness Ashton was nominated as a Commissioner, I saw no reference to the "suspension" of her peerage. Viscount Stansgate (Tony Benn) renounced his peerage, being a good old fashioned socialist..."

    I don't think you CAN resign from a life peerage - Benn was a hereditary peer. There are now provisions for a life peerage to be withdrawn if you are a MEP as you're not allowed to do both but that doesn't apply to Cathy Ashton as it's not an elected post...

    Doubtless some constituional geek can elaborate?

  • Comment number 97.

    31. At 07:18am on 20 Nov 2009, pdavies65 wrote:
    I'm working in Poland at the moment, and I have to say, based on what I've witness here, further European integration will be a very good thing - provided it brings us up to their level and not them down to ours.

    *********************************

    Hmmm. So nice in fact that very few Poles felt inclined to leave there and come to the UK.
    Nothing like living in fairy tale land is there?

  • Comment number 98.

    No relevant experience, knowledge, or skills, and never elected.

    Sounds a bit like our PM.

    Guess it's a labour party thing.

    She was accepted by the other countries simply because she's so completely lacking in experience/skills/knowledge/gravitas that none of the country leaders will be threatened by her, as they know that nobody's going to bother talking to her about anything important. But, that begs the obvious question "if the person filling the role isn't going to be treated seriously by anyone, then what's the point of having the role in the first place?"

  • Comment number 99.

    I was in conversation with my (Belgian) post-man this morning.
    He was excited that a Belgian minister would now be working with someone from the U.K.
    "Why", he asked "Does the U.K. hate Europe so much?"
    "Perhaps now we can all work together"
    I had no answer.
    At least he was excited by the prospect.
    Personally....I think it is a marriage made from hell!
    But don't tell the Belgians that....

  • Comment number 100.

    A Texan usually thinks he or she is a Texan first and an American second.

    Likewise, a Californian or a New Jerseyian but their common political denominator is that they are Americans.

    Even in England, a person from Yorkshire probably thinks that he/she is a 'tyke' first and English second.

    Eventually, Europe may develop to the point whereby its citizens think of themselves as for example, English, French or German first, underpinned by a common European identity.

    When we reach that point, which may be years or even decades hence, the associated EU political structures will also probably have matured such that Euro politicians finally have the confidence to let their citizens have more direct democracy, confident in the knowledge that by that time, enough Europeans really believe there is a 'core' identity as a European citizen, which is clearly not the case at present for the majority of the English people.

    This, I believe, is at the root of the current unease/anger over these high profile European political appointments.

    Specifically for the English, when we English regain our English political identity, then it will become much easier for us English to also don the European cloak.

 

Page 1 of 5

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.