David Miliband: Will Labour’s loss be Europe’s gain? - La Treizième Étoile: A blog on EU politics
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David Miliband: Will Labour’s loss be Europe’s gain?

Tuesday, 5 October 2010
When David Miliband’s younger brother Ed was announced as the new leader of the Labour party to a sound of gasps (myself included) the attention immediately shifted to where his future would lie. Would he declare himself a candidate for the shadow cabinet? Would he step down from front-bench politics? Would he take a big international job? Perhaps inevitably (and correctly so in my opinion) he announced he would not run for shadow cabinet and so serve under his younger brother as a backbench MP.

But I hoped it would be the latter option and that he would be nominated by the coalition government to replace the under-fire Baroness Ashton in Brussels as the UK’s member of the European Commission. While I have nothing against Baroness Ashton and think much of the criticism by the French is unfair, I have argued here, here and here in favour of Miliband Snr. taking up this important role. BBC Radio 4's Robin Lustig also had this 'hunch'.

So you can imagine my delight when an article appeared in the News of the World the next day under the headline “We want EU, Dave” that read “David Miliband is poised for a sensational return to frontline politics with a top job at the European Union.

According to the article, senior sources in Paris and Brussels have told the News of the World that European leaders want Mr Miliband to be the new Foreign Policy head – a position he was a favourite to get but decline to put his hat forward in order to run for Labour leader.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has reportedly told Baroness Ashton he wants her to "move on" and "make room for David", and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel apparently also backs the move.

The article then reports that Mr Sarkozy called Mr Miliband after he lost the leadership race last Saturday and told him: "your career is far from over. I will see you in a major role again” and quotes a “senior source from the European Commission” saying that Baroness Ashton was a “compromise candidate” because “Tony Blair was too toxic and David Miliband was not available”.

But it is the coalition government, who at the end of the day are tasked with nominating the UK’s Commissioner and you could argue it would be in their benefit to “dispatch” a rival off to Brussels.

However, the Foreign Secretary William Hague hit out at such suggestions in an interview with the Financial Times on Sunday prior to the start of the Conservative party conference in Birmingham. Mr Hague said he will not nominate David Miliband for the post of EU foreign minister, nor any other international job in the foreseeable future:

I’ve no personal quarrel with him,” he said. “Cathy Ashton is doing a really fantastic job and won’t be going anywhere. She has the government’s full support.

So while question marks still remain over David Miliband’s next step, it unfortunately seems as though it will not involve any move to Brussels in the immediate future.

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