Monday, October 12, 2009

Downgrading "Europe"?

According to The Times, Gordon Brown appears to have downgraded the post of Europe Minister after shifting Baroness Kinnock from the job to become Foreign Office minister responsible for Africa.

Her replacement is Chris Bryant, but he remains a parliamentary under-secretary, "the lowest rank on the paid ministerial ladder", observes Philip Webster, the paper's political editor. The job, he says, has always been done in the past by a Minister of State and they have usually attended the Cabinet when European affairs have been discussed.

Actually, Webster has got it totally wrong. With the constitutional Lisbon treaty about to come into force, a separate post of "Europe minister" is no longer necessary (not that it ever was).

The duties have been merged with the post of prime minister who, as member of the European Council, is the man responsible for European (i.e., EU) affairs. Bryant's appointment is merely cosmetic, hence the downgrading of his rank.