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Peter Mandelson – President of Europe?

This week, the unelected Lord Mandelson returned from his summer break to run the country. Meanwhile the partially elected Gordon Brown supposedly relaxed on holiday before ‘getting on with the job’ again.

As this is the silly season, with little news leaving journalists a lot of time for speculation, several respected commentators have begun to wonder whether Lord Mandelson is intent on replacing Gordon Brown as Labour leader after the expected Tory victory at the next general election. The storyline goes like this: the government is proposing new legislation allowing peers to step down. Lord Mandelson could use this law to leave the Lords, be given a safe seat and then put himself up as a candidate for party leader after Labour’s likely 2010 election defeat.

I believe that this scenario completely misunderstands the reality of British and European politics and seriously underestimates the noble lord’s ambitions.

When New Labour was first elected, about 40% of our laws came from Brussels. As the EU has relentlessly increased its power over us, around 80% of our legislation is now made by 27 unelected European Commissioners supported by around 45,000 unelected bureaucrats. Once the Lisbon Treaty is forced through, more power will move to Brussels and we can expect the EU to make up to 90% of British laws.

Given Britain’s declining sovereignty and Brussels’ growing authority, why would an ambitious politician like Lord Mandelson would want to spend five years of his life leading a demoralised opposition Labour party in a dirty, overcrowded and almost bankrupt little island when there is a much bigger prize within reach? I propose another scenario – Lord Mandelson’s ambition is to become president of Europe in all but name.

My storyline goes like this: Mandelson’s main concern at the moment is to keep Labour in office until the Lisbon Treaty has gone through. In the autumn, the Irish will vote yet again on the Lisbon Treaty and this time they will give the answer their European masters want – a resounding ‘Yes’ vote. This will pressure the few governments which haven’t yet ratified the Treaty to fall into line. Once the Treaty has been approved by all 27 EU member states, it will be virtually impossible for the Tories to hold a referendum. The Treaty will enable Tony Blair to become Europe’s first president. The idea of Blair becoming president will be sold to us as being in our country’s interests to have a British politician as the first European president. This will make it difficult for the Tories to oppose Blair’s candidature without appearing unpatriotic.

When Blair moves into his luxurious new president’s residence, Lord Mandelson will soon follow as his fixer. President Blair will then be the front-man again, smiling and waving, jet-setting off to endless important international official functions and meeting and greeting the world’s movers and shakers, accompanied no doubt by his charming wife. But behind Blair, the man pulling the strings and the man with real power over Europe’s 500 million citizens will be Lord Mandelson. Given the choice between trying to rebuild a shattered Labour party or the almost unlimited power of running Europe, the world’s greatest economic power, I think we can guess which way Lord Mandelson will jump

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