Much has been made in recent days about the ‘snubbing’ of Tony Blair as European President in favour of the relatively unknown Belgian, Herman Van Rompuy. The reasons for the apparent snub depend largely on the newspaper of preference with the Guardian this morning favouring the story that as Blair had apparently recommended Gordon Brown ‘drop’ the campaign weeks ago, it once again highlighted Brown’s incompetence and lack of political judgment.

For the Times, the story was possibly a little more straightforward:

Gordon Brown joined the seven other European socialist group leaders in backing Mr Van Rompuy and Lady Ashton after accepting that there was too little support for Mr Blair to be president.

Downing Street’s U-turn was a humiliating snub to Mr Blair, Mr Brown’s predecessor, who had hoped to take the plum role, but was opposed by key EU leaders who feared he would be too presidential.

For the Times then, it was a Euro-fear of Blair’s ego rather than anything else.

Having just returned from Brussels and the European Parliament, the story and reporting on the other side of the Channel is much different. Having spoken to a number of informed individuals, they stated that the only place in Europe where the Blair ‘story’ is still news is in the UK. The rest of Europe had rarely – if ever – considered Blair a viable option for the Presidency. As ever, the European view was that this was another example of Britain’s own sense of self-importance. As one person suggested, it’s a construction of the British media: if they hadn’t constructed this story, who in Britain would care about the European presidency?

Fair point, but for me it reminded me of the World Cup. As with every other World Cup in living memory, so next year’s finals in South Africa will be no different. In Britain, the media and the general public will whip themselves up into a hysteria about how we are capable of winning the competition. Elsewhere, England will be given as much hope as indeed South Korea or Egypt (i.e. none).

The view from inside is always different from the view from the outside. I just think that sometimes Britain forgets – or even doesn’t care – about the outside view.


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