As the drip-drip of expenses allegations continue to emerge in Westminster, is there any implication for Brussels, the EU of course not being well known for its standards of propriety among its politicians…?
The specific point relates to the European Commission – what impact will all of the goings-on in Westminster have on the UK’s choice of European Commissioner? The new Commission is due to take office 1st November 2009, and nominees will be sought in the weeks after the European Parliament election.
I first wrote about the UK’s choice for 2009 some 18 months ago, and my analysis then has not changed that much.
Geoff Hoon is the only one of the four names I mentioned who has become deeply embroiled in the expenses scandal – Brown would surely make the European Commission look ridiculous by sending such a person to Brussels now, and Tories in the EP would have a field day at the Parliament’s hearings for prospective Commissioners. The backlash against any Labour candidate succeeding Hoon in his Ashfield constituency would be considerable.
For the other candidates – Labour is probably more strongly inclined than ever before to avoid a by-election. So the chances of Hewitt or Clarke getting the Commissioner job must also have taken a hit (nothing about them yet from The Telegraph). Also with the Lib Dems trying to hammer home their critique of Gordon Brown the chances of a ‘big tent’ candidate have surely also declined.
So who might gain from all of this?
Current incumbent Baroness Ashton is rumoured to want to carry on in Brussels. Low profile when she started, Ashton has done little to boost her reputation in her 9 months in Brussels. She would be a safe but mundane choice, no by-election needed, but chances would be that the UK could be partially Orbaned – i.e. given a minor portfolio.
So now more than ever before Brown should go for Ken Livingstone as European Commissioner – he has the stature, would make an excellent Environment Commissioner, and no by-election would be needed.
[UPDATE – 21.5.2009]
Hewitt is yet to be implicated in any expense scandals. In the meantime there is some speculation about Brown’s reshuffle after the election, moving Mandelson to the FCO and Miliband to the Home Office, although Mandy is apparently denying this. Would such a demotion actually be the precursor to Miliband taking up the High Rep for CFSP position in Brussels? @ResEuropa on Twitter thinks it’s possible.
[UPDATE 2, 21.5.2009]
Seems that Charles Clarke has been making some rather large food claims – 2 Pizzas Clarke as Paul Waugh describes it. The waiters in La Brace on rue Franklin will be rubbing their hands with glee.