If you’ve reached this page via Google looking for the allocation of the portfolios for the 2009 European Commission then see the latest information from European Voice here.
The Barroso Commission is well past the half way point in its term – on 1st November 2009 a new European Commission team will take office. So who is going to be in it? There are whisperings in Brussels that José Manuel Barroso might be up for a second term (Jonathan Newton reckons Guy Verhofstadt is the best bet to oppose him – fine by me, but I can’t see it happening), and that Carl Bildt might have his eye on the EU foreign minister/Commission VP post that will exist from 2009 if the Reform Treaty is ratified (and scandals in Sweden have not brought him down). Additionally Bertie Ahern would be an ideal candidate for the 30 month term as President of the European Council (this can now effectively be ruled out – 05.2009)
But what about the members of the European Commission? Speculation is already mounting about the next German Commissioner, although this might also be thanks to present incumbent Verheugen’s weak position due to personal scandals. As yet I have not seen or heard anything about a possible British nominee for Commissioner post 2009. So who will it be? Peter Mandelson has ruled out a second term but beyond that fact all I write below is speculation – I have no more facts about this issue than anyone else.
(1) Patricia Hewitt
A veteran of Neil Kinnock’s efforts in the 1980s to make Labour a pro-EU party, Hewitt has the government experience as a minister in the UK for almost a decade. She has no further career ambitions in UK politics, and I suspect Gordon would not be wanting to call her back after her troubles with the NHS. She’s currently leading on the Europe parts of the consultation for Labour’s manifesto for a 2009 or 2010 general election. She speaks French too, but she will be 61 in 2009, so that might count against her.
(2) Charles Clarke
Probably the most pro-EU Home Secretary since 1997, he’s another member of the Kinnock modernisers and is a big beast of the Labour Party that Gordon Brown might be happy to send off to Brussels. His straight talking manner might be a good way to present EU matters to a sceptical British audience. He will be 59 in 2009, and speaks French, German and (Cuban) Spanish. But does he have the stomach for frontline politics any longer?
(3) Geoff Hoon
A former MEP and Europe Minister, Hoon has been keeping his head down since the Iraq problems when he was at the MoD. He is thought to be a safe pair of hands as a politician and is intellectually sharp, although dour too. He will be 56 in 2009 and while I can’t find details of language ability it’s not in doubt that he can cope in the Brussels environment.
(4) Charles Kennedy
When Gordon Brown appointed his cabinet he included some non-Labour people: Mark Malloch-Brown, Digby Jones and Admiral West. So what are the chances that Brown could do the same with the nominee for European Commissioner, and go for someone outside the Labour Party? The pro-European Tories (Heseltine, Clarke) are over the hill, but what about Charles Kennedy? He’s the new chair of the European Movement, he’s a like-able and communicative politician, plus it would divide the Lib Dems. He would be 50 in 2009.
(5) Someone else
Who else could be in the running? From within the Labour Party Gordon could choose one of the discredited Blairites – Milburn for example – but does he dislike the Commission that much? From within the Cabinet then perhaps Peter Hain or Hilary Benn, with their interest in international matters, might be possibles. I cannot imagine any of the younger cabinet members wanting the job – Miliband, Miliband, Alexander, Balls, Purnell, Burnham, Cooper. Beyond that it’s hard to know what to suggest.
Looking further into the future: if the Reform Treaty is ratified then only 2/3 of Member States get a Commissioner from 2014, on a rotation basis. But from 2009-2014 some unlucky country’s Commissioner is once more going to be allocated a portfolio such as multilingualism.