MILIBAND TO BRUSSELS? A COMMENT
Curieux, tout de même, ces travaillistes britanniques ! Cela fait treize ans qu'ils sont au pouvoir, sans jamais avoir manifesté de tropisme particulier pour l'Union européenne. Et voilà qu'en fin de parcours, la veille d'une probable victoire des conservateurs au prochain scrutin législatif, ils sont saisis d'une crise d'europhilie aiguë comme le royaume n'en a jamais connu. Le plus gravement atteint est le jeune et brillant secrétaire au Foreign Office, David Miliband. Déjà, au congrès du Labour, le mois dernier, il avait dit toute sa foi dans l'Union européenne".
Le Monde, 'Too Late...' 29 October 2009 in www.lemonde.fr
"William Hague recently made a speech about his approach to foreign policy. He set out five priorities. He couldn't bring himself to mention Europe. Except to say he wanted alliances outside Europe. Wrong values. Wrong judgment. Wrong decision. In the last two years, we have negotiated the release of diplomatic staff arrested in Iran, launched a naval force against piracy off Somalia, sent police and judges to keep the peace in Kosovo, brought in sanctions against Mugabe and his cronies when the UN failed, and led a step change in the fight against climate change. Mr Hague, you say you support us on all those things; but all of them, every single one, depended on Britain playing a leading role in a strong, powerful European Union that you oppose.
When you say foreign policy has nothing to do with Europe, you show you have learnt nothing, know nothing, offer nothing, and every single government in Europe knows it. In the European Parliament the Tories sit with a collection of outcasts. Last week on the BBC, and you should go through the transcript, Eric Pickles, the Chairman of the Conservative Party, explained without a hint of shame that we should not condemn one of their new allies, the 'For Fatherland and Freedom' party, who every year celebrate the Latvian Waffen SS with a march past of SS veterans, because they were only following orders.
It makes me sick. And you know what makes me sicker? No one in the Tory party batted an eyelid".
David Miliband, Speech to the Labour Party Conference in Brighton, 1st of October 2009, in www.davidmillband.com
The scuttlebutt in the chancelleries of the European Union is that: a) the Blair boom to become the first European 'President', has almost completely deflated. With French President Sarkozy abandoning the former British Prime Minister after the Socialist party group in the European Parliament declared itself against sponsoring Blair's undeclared candidacy; b) as a consequence of 'a', there is now talk in the self-same circles of British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, being chosen for the equally (if not more important) position of Vice-President of the Commission and Foreign Affairs Chief (see: "Socialists Bank on Miliband for Foreign Post," 31st of October 2009, in www.ft.com). As the Financial Times notes, the rationale for appointing Miliband is not so much because he is as Le Monde puts in 'young and brillant', but, because "there is not much competition,". At least that is among those personages coming from the 'Left' side of the European political ledger. For reasons which fully expose the essential mediocrity at the heart of the current European project, it has been so determined that the Socialists, not having the position of the European President, nor the majority of the Commissionships in the Barroso Presidency, need to be placated by being offered the important position of Vice-Presidency and Foreigh Policy supremo.
The fact that with the partial exception of Miliband himself, the Socialists do not have anyone who is qualified for this position, does not appear to be a determining factor in the exercise. So, we will potentially end-up in a situation with a President who is (potentially) at loggerheads with his Vice-President and Foreign Policy chief. Of course, if one were to in fact search for a truly qualified candidate for the post, one can think of two names who far exceed Miliband in qualifications: Dominique de Villepin and Lord Patten. Both being from the Conservative side of the political spectrum, are apparently disqualified for the position...
So, leaving aside the issue of who is the most 'qualified' for the post of Foreign Policy chief, what does one make of David Miliband? Aside from the fact, to paraphrase Lev Davidovich Bronstein (Trotsky), 'that there are few things more boring than reading David Miliband's blog', can we say anything positive about this: 'young and brillant Foreign Secretary'? In point of fact the answer is: not much. As the speech to the Labour Party conference shows, he is a political animal, who is quite prepared to throw political stones at the opposition, whether or not it involves outside parties. Aside from this case of diplomatic malapropism, Miliband is to my mind notoriously a man of cliches and bien-pensant thinking. His online journal is full of them. Viz:
"We don't always see eye to eye with Russia, but we share the same global challenges and it is important that we work on them together. And as we are both permanent members of the UN Security Council and members of the G8 and G20, there is a wide range of questions where, by working together, we really can make a difference.
The wealth of people-to-people contacts and the dynamic business links which have grown between Britain and Russia over the last twenty years make political engagement all the more important. While I am in Moscow I will be meeting representatives of Russian civil society - I look forward to hearing what they have to tell me about the issues which matter to them".
David Miliband, "Visiting Moscow," 29 October 2009, in www.davidmillband.com
In short, aside from an admittedly intelligent, and genuine support for the European project, Miliband has done and said virtually nothing which has made him stand out in his more than two years at the Foreign Office. Perhaps that would have been true of anyone who had the post under Gordon Brown. Just as the same could be said for the holders of the position under Tony Blair. However the fact of the matter is that this hardly qualifies Miliband to become the next Vice-President of the European Commission and Foreign Policy chief. Especially since this will be the first time that the Foreign Affairs supremo will be able to actually run something approaching a separate European Union foreign policy, since as part of the upcoming Lisbon Treaty (to come into effect within the next month at the latest), the next foreign affairs head will have a large budget and a diplomatic service numbering in the thousands to direct. Keeping that fact in mind, is someone as jejune as David Miliband the best that the European Union can offer?