Politics.co.uk Blog

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Miliband's European future?

Here's a guest post from politics.co.uk's own Emmeline Saunders:

Has David Miliband already accepted the European foreign secretary role he was hotly tipped for?

Senior Labour figures seem to think so. Rumours abound today that the Blairite foreign secretary will be announced as a European representative within the next fortnight, even though his mentor's hopes of assuming the presidency of the European council have faded.

Despite his ardent insistence last week that he was "not available" for the post, Labour sources say he has already taken up the offer.

And, in a deliciously smooth New Labour coup, Mandelson could soon be settling back into the green seats of power with a triumphant beam writ large on his face.

If, or when, Miliband announces his new job, he will have to stand down as constituency MP for South Shields, triggering a by-election. Mandy's old stomping ground Hartlepool borders the constituency, so it is widely expected that the business secretary will contest the Labour safe seat, and could even wrestle the reins of control from Brown after what is sure to be a dire election for Labour.

A Labour source told politics.co.uk that Mandelson will keep the leadership seat warm for one term only, before resuming his position as kingmaker and all-round smoothie and handing over to Miliband, who is bound to have come back from his gap-term suitably tanned and raring to go.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said today she had not heard that Miliband had accepted the job, but there has not been an out-and-out denial from the minister's people.

He became a serious contender to the EU's first high representative for foreign policy role last week, with his name put forward on a shortlist which also included √Člisabeth Guigou, a former French Socialist Europe minister.

Brown and Miliband were involved in a tense exchange at a Brussels press conference when they were asked about the shortlist of candidates. Brown quickly dismissed rumours that Miliband had been proposed for the job.

"Let me just say, I have been at the meeting," the prime minister said. "That was not their decision, just let me tell you. Also if there is a shortlist I am sure David would be on it because he has excellent qualifications. But he doesn't want to be on it. And indeed there is no such list."

Miliband laughed off the suggestion, and replied: "Not available, as the prime minister said."

The new post and the presidency of the European council are expected to be filled in the next month, as the Lisbon treaty has now been ratified by the Czech government. EU officials want both jobs to be operational by January 1st.

No 10 would be most put out if a senior minister was perceived as bailing out before a horrendous Labour defeat. Miliband has distanced himself from the position, but has never ruled himself out, yet he was seen to be canvassing for the post when he was delivering speeches on how to campaign for a global Europe.

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