Bruton for EU Presidency

by Henry Farrell on October 29, 2009

Just after Mary Robinson announced that she was not interested in the EU Presidency, former Irish Taoiseach and outgoing EU ambassador to Washington “John Bruton has put his hat in the ring”: I know him and like him enormously (he’s a very decent right winger), so I won’t speak to the merits of his candidacy on grounds of manifest personal bias. But if I was a betting man (and there were a contract at Intrade), I’d think him well worth a considerable flutter. He fulfils the informal desiderata (Christian Democrat from a small state), but even more importantly seems like a very plausible compromise candidate. The Germans are likely to veto Blair, while the UK is almost certain to want to veto overly enthusiastic federalists like Jean-Claude “‘I am not a dwarf'”: Juncker and Guy Verhofstadt. Bruton is plausibly acceptable to both sides – he is pro-European enough to keep the mainlanders happy, but very well liked in the UK. At the moment, I’m not seeing any other declared candidate who could plausibly get a consensus behind him or her. I’ll try to write more on the candidates as the politicking continues …



Thirsty Gargoyle 10.29.09 at 3:16 am

I think you’re probably right. I hadn’t seen this one coming, but Bruton has never come across as reckless, so he’ll hardly have done this without at least having a reasonable hope of success. I seem to remember too that he did most of the legwork in actually making the case for Maastricht back in the day, even though he was in opposition when the referendum was held. Given the last couple of fiascos, this should surely help his case. The fact that he’s a right winger that headed a coalition with a huge left-wing element surely would help too, given the ever-shifting dynamics within the Council.


Biba 10.29.09 at 4:13 am

..and with the luck o the irish……


otto 10.29.09 at 8:08 am

Another reminder that CT is really a wild geese blog.

Had minor interaction with him when he was EU repesentative in DC which reflected well on him. He will at least have no illusions about US domestic politics, which is a useful start.


Chris Dornan 10.29.09 at 8:46 am

It truly amazes me the collective orgasms the Brit political classes are having over the prospect of President Bliar. The chamsic gap between them and the plebs hasn’t been so clear on a substantive issue (MPs expenses don’t count) since 2003 over a million of us losers took to the streets.

I should have thought that what Henry is saying here is simply common sense. So are we seeing another example of the total disconnect of New Labour from reality or do they think they can see a deal?

Here’s to President Bruton.

(I haven’t heard ‘Wild Geese’ being used in a while. Yes that makes perfect sense.)


ajay 10.29.09 at 11:14 am

Plus, his name will be a boon to headline writers. “Great Bruton”, “Rule Brutonnia”, “Panic Bruton” etc.

He does sound like a fairly good fit – former head of government, and the EU’s man in Washington (which is going to be a big part of the president’s job anyway). Languages?


James Conran 10.29.09 at 11:31 am

Think he has French.

I’m another lefty who likes Bruton – would be delighted if he got this, for him and Europe. (Please God not Blair).

I presume being the guy who legalised divorce will be to his credit too – might reassure people they’re not getting a Catholic conservative (though that’s effectively what he is in European terms).


chris y 10.29.09 at 11:55 am

It’s a million to one chance, but it might just work.

Certainly the the most credible and creditable candidate so far.


JoB 10.29.09 at 1:56 pm


(if he can convince the rest that Wilders is not going to make government after a snap election)


Ernst 10.29.09 at 10:56 pm

I second prime minister Balkenende of the Netherlands as another candidate. He’s already gotten significant press combined with the usual statement that he’s not “really” looking for another job (but not ruling it out either) and fits the exact same same profile and has the supposed backing of the German government.


jay bee 10.30.09 at 8:45 am

I hope this doesn’t sound like I’m bringing the ancient Irish art of begrudgery to this wild geese blog but I think John Bruton has no chance, mainly because he’s been out of office too long (and he was only Taoiseach/PM for 3 years anyway) and I don’t think any of the jobs he’s done since then have been of sufficient weight. Any president of the council will have to come from the ranks of the current encumbents or a very recent retirees. 8 or 9 years ago he might have had a chance but not now.


mollymooly 10.30.09 at 9:27 pm

@jay bee: not being tainted by recent events may be no bad thing.


Peter Smith 10.31.09 at 10:09 am

Anyone but Blair is OK by me. Reality and Blair are in separate universes.


herr doktor bimler 11.01.09 at 12:15 am

Any president of the council will have to come from the ranks of the current encumbents or a very recent retirees.
Is that how it is intended to work? Is the presidency essentially a career path along which national leaders can fail upwards, once they’ve been driven out of elected office by the disgust or anger of their own electorate? I can’t see this adding to the dignity of the position.


EWI 11.04.09 at 11:41 pm

but very well liked in the UK

I’ll say. There’s still a consensus of mortification at his grovelling before Prince Charlie during that state visit. John Unionist has always striven to live up to his name.

And I think the EU can do without the disasters that have befallen this man over the years.

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