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Tony Blair’s chances of becoming the first president of the European Council are reported to be fading fast. With the horse-trading culture of the European Commission, attention now turns to how the UK might be compensated for failing to secure the top job. The name of David Miliband was raised as a possible candidate for the EU’s first ‘high representative,’ to encourage European countries to show more co-ordination on foreign policy, but the Prime Minister has said he ‘couldn’t be spared,’ and was ‘never a candidate.’ Now the Evening Standard reports a story from Le Monde that Lord Mandelson’s name is being considered for the post.

It would be a bold but controversial choice. Lord Mandelson twice had to resign his cabinet posts after allegations of impropriety, but was cleared of wrongdoing. He had enjoyed a successful stint at the DTI (as it was) and as Northern Ireland Secretary managed to win the trust of all sides. His spell as EU trade commissioner was also a relatively successful one, and with limited room to manoeuvre, he managed to work for generally freer trade.

It would be good for Europe and the world if the high representative were someone with a transatlantic perspective, and someone with a track record in favour of opening trade borders. The danger of Europe setting itself up as a ‘counterweight’ to the USA and Russia would be diminished if he were appointed. He is an accomplished diplomat and negotiator, and has shown himself quite prepared to back words with deeds when necessary.

His appointment would come at a bad time for the Labour government, and would be seen by some as a public acceptance of the defeat that everyone privately knows is coming.

Madsen Pirie has just published “101 Great Philosophers,” summarizing the ideas of significant thinkers.