«We are all conscious in this Parliament, or we should be, of the way in which the job of First Lord of the Treasury evolved in Britain, steadily developing a grip over Cabinet Departments previously independent of it, and developing into the post of Prime Minister.The creation of that job took many years—and the Prime Minister probably feels that it took almost as long to get round to his turn to hold it.
But to see how the post of a permanent President of the European Council could evolve is not difficult even for the humblest student of politics, and it is, of course, rumoured that one Tony Blair may now be interested in the job. If that makes us uncomfortable in these benches, just imagine how it will be viewed in Downing street! and I must warn Ministers that having tangled with Tony Blair across the Dispatch Box on literally hundreds of occasions, I know his mind almost as well as they do. I can tell them that when he goes off to a major political conference of a centre-right party and simultaneously refers to himself as a socialist, he is on manoeuvres, and is busily building coalitions as only he can.
And we can all picture the scene at a European Council sometime next year. Picture the face of our poor Prime Minister as the name "Blair" is placed in nomination by one President and Prime Minister after another: the look of utter gloom on his face, the nauseating, glutinous praise oozing from every Head of Government, the rapid revelation of a majority view, agreed behind closed doors when he, as as usually, was excluded. Never would he more regret no longer being in possession of a veto: the famous dropped jaw almost hitting the table, as he realises there is no option but to join in.
And then the awful moment when the motorcade of the President of Europe sweeps into Downing street. The gritted teeth and bitten nails: the Prime Minister emerging from his door with a smile of intolerable anguish; the choking sensation as the words, "Mr President", are forced from his mouth. And then, once in the Cabinet room, the melodrama of, "When will you hand over to me?" all over again.
There is, of course, a serious point to be made. Occupied by someone with the political skill of our former Prime Minister, that post would become, in not so many years, a far more substantial one than the Government pretend. The President would be seen as the president of Europe by the rest of the world, with the role of national Governments steadily reduced and the role of national democracy and accountability steadily weakened. The naivety of Ministers, who think that by signing the treaty they are agreeing to a static constitutional position, is alarming in people with such senior responsibilities» (link)