William Hague warns against ‘President Blair’
Hague tells ambassadors that appointing Tony Blair as EU president would be a hostile act
William Hague has shocked a group of ambassadors from EU member states by telling them the appointment of Tony Blair as EU president would be seen as a hostile act. The former prime minister is the frontrunner for the job, which will be created when all EU member states finally ratify the Lisbon Treaty.
This could happen as early as next week, when EU leaders meet for a summit in Brussels. They hope to persuade Vaclav Klaus, president of the Czech Republic - the only country not to have ratified the controversial treaty so far - to adopt it.
At a lunch with the 26 ambassadors of the other EU states, Hague is reported to have said that British voters, on the cusp of voting a Labour government out, would consider Blair's appointment as EU president a hostile act. The shadow foreign secretary is also said to have warned that an EU led by Blair would have even poorer relations with a Conservative British government.
According to a source quoted in the Guardian, the ambassadors were taken aback by the attack on Blair: "They know there are differences between Labour and the Conservatives but they were surprised that William Hague could not see the advantages for Britain in having such a big European post."
Hague has already had to explain his party's euroscepticism and its alliance with far-right, allegedly anti-Semitic, parties in the European parliament to the US Scretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Washington wants a united EU to partner it in international problems such as the Middle East peace process and Iran's nuclear ambitions.
Observers suggest Hague, who as Tory leader in the 2001 general election lost heavily to Blair, is letting his private dislike of the former prime minister cloud his judgment. He has in private said that Blair would become EU president "over my dead body".
However, Tory sources claim the party is pursuing a "good cop, bad cop" approach to the possibility of a President Blair, with Hague leading a concerted effort to prevent it happening, and his leader, David Cameron, keeping quiet in case he has to deal with Blair in future.