Miliband unavailable for EU post? Don’t believe it
The Mole: Once Blair’s bid for the presidency is out of the way, expect David to step up
For a man who has stated categorically that he is "not available" to become the first foreign secretary - or "high representative" - of the EU under the terms of the Lisbon treaty, David Miliband is auditioning for the role with surprising aplomb. He's left for Moscow on the first visit to Russia by a British Foreign Secretary since Jack Straw in 2004, the perfect trip on which to show off his diplomatic skills.
London-Moscow relations haven't been so difficult since the end of the Cold War. It's mainly down to the polonium poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko in November 2006, and the subsequent refusal by the Russians to extradite the former KGB agent Andrei Lugovoi, the chief suspect.
But the conflict with Georgia over South Ossetia, the cosy relations between Vladimir Putin and Iran's President Ahmadinejad, the unresolved matter of the Arctic Sea, the cargo ship that disappeared possibly loaded with guns for Iran... none of these has helped either.
Writing on his blog, Miliband admits the two countries "do not see eye to eye" but says "the dynamic business links which have grown between Britain and Russia over the last 20 years make political engagement all the more important".
In other words, this is exactly the sort of "can't we try to be friends?" trip Miliband can expect to be making on a regular basis if he takes on the EU role.
The fact is, of course, he is available for the EU job, he just can't admit it until his old boss and mentor Tony Blair is definitely out of the frame for the top job, that of EU president.
Blair can be expected to count himself out of that race in the next few days - having, of course, been careful not to put his name forward himself in the first place.
The fact is Blair's past has caught up with him: there are enough senior Europeans who don't want the man who divided Europe over the Iraq war and acted like George Bush's poodle to become president. As a Labour politician put it to the Mole last night, "They [the Euro-pols] may be boring but at least they have principles."
What is nagging at Miliband is whether he should stay in London and join the race to replace Gordon Brown as Labour leader, either in May/June 2010, when he is destined to klose the general election to David Cameron, or possibly this winter if Lord Mandelson decides to tap Gordon on the shoulder and say enough's enough.
However, as the Mole has written before, the smart money has been moving towards David's younger brother Ed, who is seen as a better campaigner and all-round superior candidate than David.
The general thinking is that Ed Miliband won't stand against his brother. But if David was out of the way in Brussels, then Ed could probably blow Ed Balls - the only other serious "new generation" contender - out of the water. ·
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