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Should he stay or should he go? Miliband ponders

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OUKTP-UK-IRAN-NUCLEAR-BRITAINShould he stay or should he go?

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband could be Europe’s first foreign minister in all but name, with one of the most influential jobs in shaping the place of the 27-nation bloc on the world stage, if he is willing to risk leaving British politics for the next five years. That’s a big if.

Miliband is half of a “ticket” concocted by French and German diplomats to fill the two new top jobs created by the Lisbon treaty. The other half is Belgian Prime Minister Herman van Rompuy, the preferred candidate for president of the European Council. Officially, Miliband says he is ”not available” and is backing Tony Blair’s forlorn bid for the presidency. If he turns the role down, it could well to go to former Italian Prime Minister Massimo d’Alema.

The High Representative for foreign and security policy, with a big diplomatic staff, a multi-billion-euro budget and the additional position of senior vice-president of the European Commission, will arguably be more powerful than the European Council president, whose role is largely to prepare and chair quarterly summits. Miliband would bring dynamism, an incisive intellect and inspiring oratory to the job.

At 44, he is seen as the natural next leader of the Labour Party if, as expected, Gordon Brown loses the next general election. Given the average length of Britain’s political cycle since the 1980s, the centre-left party probably faces at least two parliamentary terms in opposition – roughly eight years. So Miliband would have time to burnish his international credentials in Brussels and return home before he turns 50, and before Labour has exited the political wilderness.

If not Blair, who for EU Council president?

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schuessellipponenvan-rompuybalkenendefreibergajuncker

Within a couple of weeks, European Union leaders are going to choose the first president of the European Council now the Lisbon Treaty has finally been ratified.

It won’t be Tony Blair, given the opposition of his European Socialist comrades to the former British prime minister and the hostility of several west European governments. So it’s time to subject some of the other contenders to the same scrutiny that Blair has faced as the undeclared front-runner in this surreal race. Most of the 27 EU leaders appear to want a low-key, consensus-building chairman of their quarterly summit meetings rather than a high-profile globe-trotting statesman.

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