Matthew D'Ancona in the Telegraph imagines Gordon Brown's delight at having (as he sees it) out Blaired Blair:
As Gordon announced the contents of the G20 summit's communiqué, I bet his thoughts tended back to March 2003 and Tony Blair's failure to secure a second UN resolution against Iraq. You see, Tony! It's a piece of cake to get them all to agree – you just have to know how. And how sweet for Brown to be so visibly anointed as the First Friend by President Obama. Again, what a contrast with Blair: nobody else wanted to be George W Bush's best mate. Everybody else wants to be Barack Obama's best mate. Perhaps for the first time in his life, Gordon Brown found out last week what it felt like to be one of the cool kids in school.
But who's this coming to spoil the Weltskanzler's party? Why, it's Tony Blair. According to the Independent on Sunday,
Tony Blair has emerged as the leading candidate to become the first permanent president of the European Union after Gordon Brown gave his grudging blessing to the plan. The former prime minister has stepped up his campaign for the job, which he wants to use to build a bridge between Europe and the new Obama administration.
The paper has "learned" (in what appears to be the disguised passive, rather than the active, sense of "been briefed") that Brown has "accepted" the situation "on the basis that Britain needs to have a key figure in the architecture of the 'new world order'." But, according to the unnamed "senior British official" who is the only quoted source for the story, he's not exactly looking forward to it:
"He [Brown] will have to swallow hard to sit down in meetings once again with Blair...There is no opposition to the plan. Things have moved on, people have moved on."
Talk of "moving on" is quintessential Blairspeak, of course, framing a desire to escape responsibility for one's past actions as a form of progressive dynamism and casting people who raise valid questions as boring fuddy-duddies stuck in the past. But the language of "new global architecture" is a departure - it's the sort of thing we've become accustomed to hearing from Brown himself in recent days. No doubt the power grab by the political elites that characterised the G20 response to the recession makes the job of European president seem more attractive than ever to Tony Blair. Or perhaps he was simply feeling left out. Either way, the timing can hardly be a coincidence.
This is not in any sense a new story. Ever since the job of President of the EU Council was dreamed up along with the European Constitution Blair has been none too subtly angling for it. Earlier this year the Mail reported Nicolas Sarkozy's vocal support for a Blair candidacy as "the second French blow to Gordon Brown’s standing in two days, coming after Mr Sarkozy said Mr Brown’s decision to combat the recession by cutting VAT was a ‘mistake’".
Then, of course, there was William Hague's memorable performance in the House of Commons summoning up the nightmare (for Gordon Brown) of President Blair.
Coincidentally, the Telegraph reports today that Blair has earned at least £15 million pounds in the less than two years since he ceased to be prime minister, and - even with the global economic crisis - can command speaking fees of up to £6000 a minute. He was recently paid £182,000 for giving a talk called 'The Leader as Nation Builder in a Time of Globalisation' at a luxury hotel in the Philippines. He can't be after the new job for the money. But he must be bored. He has failed to achieve anything of real significance as a Middle East envoy and for all his hyperbole the Blair Faith Foundation has little to offer beyond mosquito nets.
It's unlikely that a Blair candidacy would be popular in Britain, where people remember what he was like the first time, or in the rest of Europe, where his role in Iraq and his close relationship with Bush will never be forgotten. But the new position is that it's not elected. And Blair is notoriously unstoppable. Perhaps Brown himself, in his moment of triumph, should apply for the job. It might be his only chance.