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Tony Makes his Move

6.06.2005

Number ten has made its first move to officially kill any hope of this EU constitution surviving through an empty ratification process. Europe’s interests would certainly not be best served by enforcing an unnecessary vote on so many electorates. The hard headed Brits have done a great deal of damage to the EU in the course of their crusade to turn it into the EFTA, however this time they are bang on. The mood in the Downing Street is one of hope I think. TB sees this opportunity as one that may launch his Euro credentials about 8 years too late. If in 2002 he embarked on a major session of EU reform and took on a major role in the constitutional formation, things may look very different for him right now.
The EU is at a point in its history where it needs redefinition and direction. Those in Brussels seem to be suffering from some self-reinforcing group think syndrome. The advantage that the UK has now is that it is one foot in and one foot outside of the tent. It can play the role it always hoped to have of taking on Europe and remoulding it in a fashion of itself. While much of Europe will cringe at the idea of nakedly Anglo Saxon liberalism, there is a great deal of merit in the way that labour has gone about rebuilding a UK that was devastated by Thatcher. The NHS is a very different place now, as are the Railways and opportunities for poor children are expanding slowly but surely. This is not to say the guy ahs a few personal hang ups and problems, market provision is not exactly the answer of r everything and Lord Birt is a bit of a todger at the best of times. Having said that the arguments available to Blair with which he can tackle the EU presidency offer him a two-fold benefit. He can undertake a massive exercise of dragging the EU away from its current naval gazing and open the rest of the EU citizenry up to the relevance of a Single market and political integration. He can do this by defining himself finally as a social democrat who believes in social justice and progressive politics. This attitude would play well with his own labour party and play well with the electorate who felt he has abandoned the left. He regains a great deal of personal dignity, which will allow him to sail off to the sunset or even Europe.
If Blair uses the EU presidency to organise a major PR drive and connection with the people it will be a project that lasts past next December and on may see Blair move in to the role vacated by Gisgard to fulfill his own ambition of leading Europe into the next phase of its development. As I have just argued, his doing this is contingent on disarming EU wide worries about the Anglo-Saxon model and certainly requires him to come off the fence regarding social issues. The man may finally build the reputation he deserves for moving Britain toward the Left. This is the sort of work that should have been done in 97 and 2001 but it is being done now. Blair stands at a juncture where killing this constitutional mess right now simply opens up his presidency to becoming a major catharsis for the EU. It might sound idealistic right now but it is certainly an option open to him and if he succeeds in re-establishing a dynamic between EU and the citizens and making clear and distinct points on the relevance of an enlarged EU and the benefit of such collective bargaining that the EU provides both viz. corporations and the US and enforcing trade equity.
Blair and his conversion to Africa may make him just the man to take Europe forward. Chirac is out of ideas and certainly lacking in authority while Schroeder has made a mess of reforms in Germany. Blair’s spin may be long detested but a clear and engaging debate with the citizens of the EU and the core states must be led by the perceived devil of Anglo Saxon free market liberalism. If he can make social benefit possible then so can the EU. Blair is no social democratic doyen but he is certainly trying and in some cases succeeding. He must acknowledge his success locally and publicise it Europe wide. Then he can move to tackle the larger issue of connection, democracy and relevancy for an EU in 2005.
It wont be easy, this is a man who likes unbridled executive power and many other luxuries afforded by a huge majority in a supine parliament. He is the best they have at the moment, and this crisis in Europe offers him far more than anyone has yet contemplated. A way out, a definitive vision and voice of Britain and finally a legacy.
Red Rover

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