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22 December 2009

Mandelson, Brown and that EU foreign job . . .

. . . an update

By James Macintyre

A bit more detail relating to my post yesterday about how Gordon Brown reluctantly agreed to back Peter Mandelson if he decided he definitely wanted the EU foreign affairs job, which has been picked up by the Spectator, Iain Dale and Paul Waugh.

After this extraordinary concession, which demonstrates the extent of their rapprochement, Brown headed to the crunch meeting of the European socialist group at the end of October (the one at which Tony Blair’s hopes of becoming EU president were apparently dashed).

There, according to sources, Brown presented a menu with three different British candidates. Mandelson was one, but so was Cathy Ashton, who eventually got the job. It is not clear whether David Miliband was the third. Anyway, the consensus at the meeting was for a woman, and Ashton was chosen.

That Mandelson was on the list shows that Brown was true to his word that he would “back” Mandelson. On the other hand, that other candidates were, too, could be seen as not unqualified support, which is perhaps understandable.

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Footnote: The meeting of European socialists was the same as the one at which, as I previously reported, Brown joked to aides that perhaps he should just push for a “centre-right” candidate instead: “Tony Blair”.