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Prescott to save the day?

Posted by Richard Monday, September 06, 2004

The Telegraph, The Times and The Guardian (but not the Independent) today devote space a Mori survey of voter attitudes carried out for the Foreign Policy Centre, identifying Blair as a "serious liability" to the EU constitution "yes" camp.

Mori also found that most voters - 65 per cent - were undecided on the issue, but would be likely to vote against the constitution if it was identified as Mr Blair's pet project.

On the basis of that somewhat unsurprising finding, Mark Leonard, the centre's director, went on to state the blindingly obvious, that "Pro-Europeans" could not afford to let the constitution vote become a referendum on Blair, calling for Christopher Patten, the former Tory chairman and outgoing British EU commissioner, to be the public face of the "yes" campaign.

In the nature of things, however, it is hardly likely that Blair – as a serving prime minister – would front the "yes" campaign. Wilson stood aloof in 1975, letting Roy Jenkins make the running. Thus, it was always likely that a well-known "name" would be chosen to front the campaign. Patten is a good a choice as any.

To join Patten's team, the centre suggests a group made up from Gordon Brown, Kenneth Clarke and Charles Kennedy, plus the appointment of John Prescott as "Europe Political Education Co-ordinator" to tour the country encouraging Labour activists to back the "yes" cause.

Brown, with his reputation as a Eurosceptic could certainly cause the "no" campaigners a few problems. But that advantage could be easily be offset if the "yes" side did make use of Mr Prescott, fresh no-doubt from failing to convince the North East voters of the merits of his elected regional assembly.

This might even go some way towards compensating for the inadequacies of the "Vote No" team.