Brown to actively campaign for Blair to become EU president

Downing Street confirms Brown will openly lobby for Blair to become first European Union president

Gordon Brown is set to actively lobby for Tony Blair to become the first president of the European Union, Downing Street sources have said.

Brown's move comes amid increasing concern that Blair will miss out on the job unless he begins to openly campaign for the position. The former prime minister is reluctant to publicly declare his interest for fear that he will suffer a humiliating rejection.

EU leaders will hold informal discussions on candidates for the post at a Brussels summit this week as it appears the Czech Republic will ratify the Lisbon Treaty, which creates the new position.

On Tuesday, Number 10 denied reports that Brown had asked senior officials-No 10 aide John Cunliffe and EU ambassador Kim Darroch -to lobby in Europe on Blair's behalf.

"Officials have not been asked to go to lobby for Tony Blair's candidacy," the Prime Minister's spokesman said. "Officials are not lobbying for Tony Blair for the presidency because he has not put himself forward as a candidate."

David Cameron reaffirmed the Conservatives' strong opposition to Blair becoming president at his monthly press conference yesterday.

"I don't think we should be having a president at all. I think Europe is going too far in creating the emblems of statehood rather than being about cooperation and co-ordination," he said.

"That said, if we absolutely have to go in that direction I would prefer someone who took a view that it was about being a chairman of the Council of Ministers, rather than some all-singing, all-dancing, all-acting president. And I think I can see what sort of president Tony Blair would be."

Other candidates for the position are likely to include the Dutch prime minister, Jan Peter Balkenende and Jean-Claude Juncker, the prime minister of Luxembourg.