Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,
Nicholas
nwhyte

Politics and religion commentary

I was meeting a friend in a Brussels cafe on Friday afternoon, and we were joined by an diplomat from one of the smaller EU member states, stretching his legs during a break in proceedings in the summit. At that point there was no indication of how things were going, and I asked the diplomat if his government had made provision to stay all weekend if necessary. (My first experience of EU treaty negotiations was the Nice treaty in 2000, where the summit lasted three days longer than planned, and senior officials spent the next week trying to remember what had been agreed in the small hours of Monday morning before they could produce a definitive text.)

The diplomat said that he himself wasn't leaving until Monday, but his government confidently expected to be gone on Saturday; because Tony Blair was certainly not going to be late for his meeting with the Pope.

My friend grinned. "That's probably what it will take to bring the Poles around!" he quipped.

True or not, I just want to point to two interesting pieces on Blair's imminent embrace of Catholicism - stellanova takes the Guardian to task for its knee-jerk anti-Catholicism, and Ken MacLeod does a hilarious piece on why Blair may not find conversion a smooth process.

As for the EU Treaty, I can't get too excited about it. The crucial thing is that, if agreed, it unblocks the possible stalling of the enlargement process for the Balkan countries which could have been a problem if the constitutional impasse had run on. The re-dubbing of the Foreign Minister as High Representative only reflects his current title anyway. Still, it will be interesting to see if this slimmed down and very modest document can pass referendum in those countries where it is put to the popular test. Three of the last four ratification processes have brought largely unexpected surprises, and with 27 countries now in the mix, the chance of that happening again must be if anything greater.

And going back to the British Labour Party, and its new Deputy Leader - fascinating that Jon Cruddas, of whom literally the only thing I know is that he was a candidate in this election, came top on the first count but didn't make it to the end, with Harriet Harman, in second place for most of the process, pulling ahead on the final count to win by precisely the same margin as Denis Healey over Tony Benn in 1981. Benn's son Hilary was a candidate this time round, but did not do as well as his father twenty-six years before.

I'm so detached from British politics that I know little more about Alan Johnson than I do about Jon Cruddas, but I remember Harriet Harman well as winning a tough by-election for Labour in 1982 (defeating, if I remember, Dick Taverne). I had at least heard of Benn and Hain because their ministerial roles are relevant to my work and interests, and I have become aware of Hazel Blears due to the successful campaign of mockery against her mounted from certain parts of the blogosphere...
Tags: religion, uk and catholicism, uk politics
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