With friends like these

If you’ve opened a British newspaper over the past few days, then you’ll already know that despite the warm signals from capitals around Europe towards the idea of David Miliband becoming, in effect, Europe’s foreign minister, Miliband himself has rebuffed the idea forcefully – insisting instead that it’s his old boss, Tony Blair, who should be heading off to a new job in Brussels. As Miliband put it on the Andrew Marr Show on Sunday,

“I think it’s very important for Europe that it has a strong figure in that role [of President]. I think it would be very good for Britain, as well as very good for Europe … We need someone who can do more than simply run through the agenda. We need someone who, when he or she lands in Beijing or Washington or Moscow, the traffic does need to stop, the talks do need to begin at a very, very high level.”

How comforting to know that even if William Hague is proclaiming his strident opposition to the idea of a Brit as President of Europe (rather to the bemusement of other member states), and even if the media suspect that Gordon Brown’s support for TB is only lukewarm, well, at least the old loyalties persist among the Blairite tribe.

Or do they? George Parker and Jean Eaglesham offer a delicious conspiracy theory in the FT this morning  – namely, that while TB’s low profile in the race for the top job is the result of “his experience that frontrunners seldom win the Brussels prize”, David Miliband’s vocal support is deliberately designed to undermine Blair’s strategy: in other words, that

Mr Miliband has raised Mr Blair’s profile in the hope it will dash his chances, clearing the way for the foreign secretary to ease himself into a new role as EU foreign policy chief.

Parker and Eaglesham go on to admit that both Miliband’s and Blair’s teams say this notion is “preposterous”, which it probably is. But we can still delight in the terms in which Blair’s team chose to laugh the idea off:

“It’s just David’s judgment that the time is right to push Blair as the right person for a big job,” said one ally of Mr Blair.

“He may have been a bit excitable.”