Monday, November 22, 2004

Barrot: stitch-up in the making?

Confounding my analysis on the Blog earlier today, The Financial Times is suggesting that Jacques "Wheel" Barrot may keep his job after all - after a surprise rescue by the Socialists in the EU parliament.

His unlikely saviour comes in the form of Martin Schulz, the German leader of the 200-strong Socialist group, and nemesis of Rocco Buttiglione, the deposed Italian wannabe commissioner.

Schulz, it appears, is ignoring the political question of Mr Barrot's failure to tell MEPs about his conviction, having announced that the affair was primarily a legal issue. He has asked the EU parliament's lawyers to examine a letter of legal explanation from Mr Barrot about the case - a process that could take days or even weeks.

"If the legal service considers that the explanations given in Mr Barrot's letter are satisfactory, then as far as the Socialist group is concerned, the affair is over," he said, adding: "Mr Barrot has expressed to me his regret that he did not bring up this issue earlier."

Behind the scenes, it seems that French socialists within the EU parliamentary group have been exerting strong pressure on Schulz. Some are arguing that Barrot had done nothing wrong in not disclosing the conviction – unsurprising in view of how many socialist politicians have also been caught with their fingers in the till.

Another Socialist insider added: "There wasn't much appetite for another big row with Barroso on his first day in office. We think it's time to get on with business."

There speaks the authentic voice of the political élites of Europe, summed up by Mark Starr of Leigh Sinton, Worcestershire, who this morning had a letter published in The Independent, criticising the newspaper for its stance on the issue. He wrote:

You were happy to see a committed Christian refused a post on the EU Commission; why not the same steely resolution to have Jacques Barrot, a convicted embezzler sacked?
Why indeed, we all ask. Back to UKIP it seems, to see whether they can stoke up the temperature again.

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