The Nick vs Nigel debate are over. David Cameron managed to avoid them without receiving too much criticism. But now he has a crucial decision to make regarding Britain’s future within the European Union. The majority probably wish that the topic of Europe would just fade away into the background. David Cameron too, no doubt, would want that. Instead, he has to start thinking about who is best suited to represent Britain on the European Commission. Whoever he chooses will be crucial in any re-negotiation talks between Britain and the EU and this puts Cameron into a serious dilemma.
The political views of the individual will most likely shape how influential Britain’s new representative will be. The Commission President, who too will be newly elected in the summer, hands out the portfolios. It is safe to say that following Baroness Catherine Ashton’s rather prestigious title as Vice-President of the Commission as well as being in control of Foreign Policy, Britain will not get one of the top jobs. There are still some important roles such as Trade that David Cameron would like to get his hands on.
He could choose a staunch Europhile. No doubt this individual would be welcomed with open arms into the Commission and could be rewarded with a significant portfolio which would make this person a much respected member. Here, though Cameron faces two problems. First, he will anger his own Eurosceptic backbenchers. Secondly, a Europhile is unlikely to want the same changes that Cameron wants. There has however, been very few names form this category that have expressed an interest suggesting that a Europhile is not the way Cameron is looking.
Then is it better to go for a Eurosceptic? He would no doubt please many backbenchers in the party and would actually show that he is serious about Britain wanting a better deal with Europe. The downside is, a Eurosceptic is unlikely to get a significant position. If Britain is not in one of these top roles, then it will make it much more difficult for the member to be influential. Peter Lilley and Owen Patterson have both been linked to the job form the Eurosceptic wing of the party. Peter Lilley in particular is a name that has pooped up on several occasions. A key man during the Thatcher and Major years, Lilley has the political experience that could make a good choice. He too has said that he will ‘relish’ the opportunity if it was offered to him.
There is the option of going with somebody who has not made a public view on Europe. Here, we could look at both Andrew Mitchell and Andrew Lansley. Both regarded as ‘heavyweights’ in the party with both having held government positions. With the Plebgate scandal still quietly continuing in the background, Mitchell may not be the favoured choice, despite claims that he is owed a favour from Downing Street. That leaves Lansley, somebody who has though been criticised for a lack of flair.
Lord Mandelson, who is a former trade EU Commissioner, has said that both Lansley and Mitchell would be more influential than Lilley or Patterson and he is probably right. The new Commission President is looking most likely to be the former Prime Minister of Luxembourg Jean – Claude Juncker, very much a strong supporter of the EU. He is very much aware of Cameron’s proposals and just the other he openly criticised them/
Therefore, it is best for Cameron to choose a ‘middle’ candidate. Both Andrew Mitchell and Andrew Lansley would be well suited. With the controversy still standing around Andrew Mitchell then Lansley would seem to be better suited. Despite a lack of flair, his experience as a civil servant and government minister should make him well suited to tackle the levels of bureaucracy in Brussels and possibly deliver the reforms that Cameron has continued to promise.
As Sir Menzies Campbell has said, it is a ‘lose-lose’ situation for Cameron. There is no move in which he would please the whole party. If he makes the wrong move, he could struggle to get any of the reforms that he wants. Looking into it, this is one of the biggest decisions that Cameron will make this year. It could also be one of the most difficult decisions he will make.