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2 December 2009

Exclusive: Ruth Kelly “would have secured EU financial role for UK“

Former economist was also in running for EU role

By James Macintyre

Ruth Kelly, the former cabinet minister, can be revealed as the latest British politician to have missed out on a major EU job. Newstatesman.com has learned that she was also in the running to become European Commissioner responsible for financial affairs.

Gordon Brown has come under criticism in some quarters for losing out on the European financial portfolio when the Commission jobs were divvied up last month. Baroness Ashton of Upholland was appointed high representative for foreign affairs after Tony Blair was rejected as European president. And David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, decided against opting for the EU foreign job for which he was widely tipped in Brussels.

Some reports have claimed that Brown was urged to forget about the foreign affairs role and instead push for control of the financial one also up for grabs. President Sarkozy of France, which won the portfolio, has said that “the English are the big losers in this business”. Now, Newstatesman.com has learned that Ruth Kelly, a former financial journalist and employee of the Bank of England, was seen by some as a prime candidate for the role. “She was definitely in the running,” a senior figure based at the Foreign Office said.

Whitehall sources have sugested that one reason she was not promoted by London may have been Labour’s fears of a by-election. However, Downing Street sources emphatically deny this, and there is no suggestion that Brown vetoed or even — himself — considered Kelly as a candidate. Instead, Brown pushed for Lady Ashton, who said she was “slightly surprised . . .but deeply privileged”.

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Up to now, Ms Kelly’s name has not been associated with the EU jobs.

Seen, perhaps crudely, as a “Blairite”, she served as economic secretary to the Treasury, financial secretary to the Treasury, minister for the Cabinet Office, secretary of state for education and skills, secretary of state for communities and local government and minister for women. She then moved to the transport department when Gordon Brown became Prime Minister in June, before standing down from the cabinet in September 2008.

Ms Kelly’s office was not responding to inquiries this morning.

 

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