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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Martin Callanan for EU Commissioner?

Commissioner Callanan?
The most high profile UK casualty of last week’s European Elections, other than Nick Clegg obviously, was Martin Callanan, the leader of the Conservatives’ European Conservative and Reformist Group (ECR) in the European Parliament. He lost the sole Conservative seat in the North-East of England. This has caused people in Conservative circles, including the influential Conservative Home website, to float the idea that he would be the ideal candidate for the UK’s European Commissioner. Is this true and if so could it happen?

The decision of who will be the next UK Commissioner is ultimately in the gift of David Cameron who has let drop a few hints already. Firstly, we had a job description leaked in a
Number 10 memo that said they were looking for a “political heavyweight who speaks another language”. But there were other considerations. Avoiding a by-election, being a ‘eurosceptic’ but not offending Nick Clegg, and above all someone who could communicate the EU reform and referendum policy to the public and Conservative party alike.Some candidates have some of these qualities. The widely tipped Andrew Lansley has cabinet experience and is a big “big beast” in the Conservative Party but does not tick all the boxes, although in Lansley’s case his Cambridgeshire seat is considered safe from UKIP in a by-election, which would be an additional plus.

Callanan is new to the shortlist and is probably not a bookies' favourite. But he is a popular figure in the Conservative party, particularly among its grass roots, and well known in Brussels where leading the ECR group has given him the knowledge of building alliances and the power-broking needed for the job. In this role he has been through EU budget battles, fisheries reform, negotiating the car CO2 package as well as ensuring the ECR group's survival. Meanwhile, and crucially in many Conservatives' eyes, he has not “gone native”. Added to that, Callanan’s background in the North-East is a perfect counterfoil to Nigel Farage’s appeal to disgruntled former Conservative voters outside London. We do not know if he wants the job but he could well be suited for the tricky role of balancing an economic portfolio, pushing a Conservative reform agenda and credibly selling this in the UK.

So does Callanan tick all the boxes? Well he is not yet a household name in the UK, but running a European Parliament group is valued more highly elsewhere in Europe than in the UK – after all, Martin Schulz, the Socialist EP group leader was a serious candidate for the top job of EU Commission President prior to the elections.

Would Nick agree? Since the election result was a disaster for Nick Clegg it might be safe to assume that his ability to block a candidate is reduced, potentially removing one more obstacle.

Will he get it? Most likely not. As the press has already been reporting (including the FT), the post will probably go to Lansley.


Rik said...

Unless you have the real high profile stuff like President these jobs will make not much difference in a general election.
If it would Labour would not have gotten one vote by coming up with the Baroness (a higher profile job and an absolute disaster in everybody's eyes (except maybe her Mother's and her Labrador's, but even these 2 are doubtful).

A national job likely would have somewhat more effect.
Cameron still has a credibility issue here. Getting someone unhagueish, more farageish on the job would do Cameron a lot of good.
Credibility is going into the right direction (seen in/out polls) but very very slowly.
If the reneg team is credible it simply will reflect on Cameron.
Good news is that Mr Ed now has so little time to regain EU credibility that that will be a nearly impossible thing to achieve. He has the same credibility problem to start with as Cameron had more than a year ago.

Maybe in a team with Osborne. Who has a bit of that sneakyness over him which people actually like when he is in their camp. Also presentationwise to the voters and runaway voters a bit toughing up of the reneg team would probably do a lot of good. The voters that have run away (all over Europe) go basically all for straight in your face politicians. LePen is one, Wilders as well, The Greek lefty. All straightshooting and from the hip (nothing diplomatic). Only exception the AfD but in Germany they are still seen as much more outspoken than the rest of the bunch.
With the exception of course for calling populists: racist and facist, which is the only really outspoken part by traditional politics (unfortunately for them it doesnot work there).
Having somebody who has the overview is very valuable in such incredibly complicated technical stuff.

christhai said...

I like Martin Callahan - he is nearly the right sort of Conservative.

But as we seem to offer up only "Failed or Rejected" politicians to the EU Commission, why not chose one of the UKIP firebrands.

At least that way the people of Britain will for the first time have a Commissioner who will look after their interests - AND a Commissioner who will work very hard to destroy from within.

An English European said...

Interesting idea. I do wonder whether Andrew Lansley would get vetoed by the European Parliament given his lack of experience in Europe. Given that Britain can only "suggest" a nominee under the Treaty of Lisbon, I think this is a real possibility.

Anonymous said...

Why not offer up one of the UKIP Firebrands?

Well.....because Martin Callanan has a brain. He is well versed in the EU and its rules and laws and he has the respect of every Euro-sceptic who knows anything about the subject....including Nigel Farage, I would bet.....in fact I know.

Most Ukip MEPs don't have much of a clue about anything. Frage is seriously light on the detail to be honest....Callanan isn't.