Coffee House

Is Andrew Mitchell the right man for Britain in Europe?

4 April 2013

10:50 AM

4 April 2013

10:50 AM

It now looks almost certain that Andrew Mitchell will be our next EU Commissioner in 2014. The job was not advertised and the backroom selection process remains a mystery. In the wake of the Plebgate row, though, we can make an educated guess as to why, according to the FT, Downing Street has asked Mitchell ‘to consider’ the offer.

This would be no ordinary consolation prize for Mitchell. Downing Street has big hopes for Mitchell in the role. Senior Whitehall sources indicate that Britain will be pushing hard for a big economic portfolio when the new commission is appointed next year. The aim is to make the case for financial reform of the EU, resist protectionism and safeguard the competitiveness of the City of London. There are mooted transaction taxes, bonus caps, new regulations and envious Parisians and Frankfurters with which to contend; control of an economic portfolio is seen as vital to protect British interests.


Downing Street is determined not to be fobbed off with a bogus job, such as the toothless High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs. Quite aside from her brief, the general view is that Cathy Ashton will not go down in the history books as our finest export. Ashton’s hurried appointment is blamed on the Brown government being caught off-guard by Tony Blair’s sudden withdrawal from the unofficial race to be EU President five years ago. Downing Street, therefore, is taking care to make a strong financial pitch, with Mitchell at its centre.

There are, however, doubts over Mitchell’s suitability. You wonder how ‘Thrasher’ Mitchell would get on in Brussels’ quiet corridors. Part of the reason Mitchell’s career as chief whip came to such a sudden halt was that too many of his colleagues, who knew Mitchell well, easily believed the allegations, so few came out to bat for him when the going got tough. You would imagine that the PM’s ambitious European plans will need a charmer rather than a bruiser to see them through. This, of course, assumes that Mitchell would be given an economic brief in the first place. His experience as international development secretary, to say nothing of his belief in the importance of aid, makes him a natural fit for the EU’s development brief. Brussels may try to shunt him off there, away from the economic action. And there is the domestic dimension: Mitchell was a Maastricht whip. His appointment may incense the Eurosceptic wing of the Tory party; and, as Isabel revealed the other day, the Eurosceptics are already mutinous.

A plum job for Mitchell at the EU commission may be fair compensation for Downing Street’s Plebgate panicking. But it is not without risk, and the stakes are very high for Britain.

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Show comments
  • Jamie


  • Noa


  • D B

    He sounds like a good choice. We need someone abrasive.

  • Collamore

    The “right man for Britain in Europe” is former-PM Stanley Baldwin.
    Being deceased, Baldwin won’t cost any taxpayer money in expenses or salary.
    Baldwin won’t cause things to be worse.
    Baldwin won’t say anything foolish.
    In fact, a dead Baldwin will make more sense than the current live EU leadership.
    Baldwin for EU Commissioner.

    • outsiderondisqus

      Good choice.Baldwig would not have bothered to travel to Brussels on business even when alive. Among the extant, however, Bill Cash would be a better choice. He would keep the bureaucrats tied up with detail and knows his stuff.

      • outsiderondisqus

        Or even Baldwin. Don’t think he bothered with a wig either.

  • Manuelgoldstein

    Important not to forget the role of the European Parliament in this appointment. They can veto commissioners and they are no friends of the UK conservatives for a variety of reasons including withdrawal from EPP and budget cut. They may well enjoy stitching up a veto of the UK first choice . Smart money could be on the alternate to get the gig

  • JabbaTheCat

    “There are, however, doubts over Mitchell’s suitability.”

    Indeed, Mitchell seemed somewhat over keen to give away our money to the third worlders, and that sort of mentality is not required when dealing with the EUSSR, quite the contrary…

  • Smithersjones2013

    Oh its Europe. Well I’m sure Mitchell cannot make it any bigger of a mess than Cameron has made already. I’m sure Nigel will be able to make capital out of it someho. After all Dave isn’t going to send a raving Eurosceptic over there now is he?

  • channel.fog

    He’d better watch his lip with the gendarmes. They don’t piss around.

  • Socrates

    I’m not sure we want someone who forced through Maastrict, the Treaty that caused the European sovereign debt crisis, batting our corner in the EU. I would suggest Dan Hannan is someone far more trustworthy to protect British interest.

  • StateWeShouldBeIn

    The main requirement for the job is that the candidate doesn’t need the money, thereby reducing the risk they go native. On that score, Mitchell looks good, and his “refreshing” management style is just what Brussels needs. However, I do like the earlier suggestion of asking Messrs Hannan and Redwood- that would really put a rocket under the Eurocracy….

    • Makroon

      Redwood would be a good choice, but Hannan is far too fond of the sound of his own voice, and is neither a details man nor very numerate.

  • Reconstruct

    We shouldn’t have any man or woman ‘in Brussels’. ‘Brussels’ is responsible for the mass immiseration of Southern Europe essentially to feed its own vainglory. We should have nothing to do with it.

    • Hookeslaw

      They did not have to sign up to the Euro which is the source of the problem.

  • bugalugs2

    Maybe it’s time to send a bruiser. After all, sending ‘charmers’ has only ever resulted in them going native. Let’s try starting with someone who dislikes the EU and will be unlikely to make enough friends to want to go native …

  • Ol Burgess

    What a nauseating photo of mitchell.

  • The Sage

    While I am on Thrasher’s side in regard to “Plebgate” and his dealings with the appalling and conniving Police Federation, this is a man who enjoyed throwing overseas aid money around without a care for the people whose taxes were paying for it.
    He also bunged Paul Kagame a fist-full of cash prior to moving on to be Chief Whip.
    So his terrible aid record (when he should have been trying to save us some money) precludes him from this post. How about Danny Hannan for the job or even Johnnie Redwood? Or is this position usually reserved for some washed-up David Miliband/Neil Kinnock-type politician?

  • Gold Bug

    We’ll see a big show of how we’re winning the fight, how our government is standing up to Johnny Foreigner whilst the reality will be total cave in, abject surrender and a quick PR job to cover the disaster up.
    I know that’s what will happen because it is exactly what happens every single time. Britain is ruled by a corrupt and incompetent cabal that cares nothing for freedom, sovereignty or anything else except it’s own interests.

  • The_Missing_Think

    If he loses the undecided libel, then without doubt, he is definitely the right man for the job.

  • Hookeslaw

    How did No.10 panic over plebgate? Was Mitchell forced out?

    How should they have responded to our wonderful even handed freedom loving free press’ attack on an innocent man (another one)? Where was the lack of panic is say the Daily Telegraph a supposedly Tory supporting paper in leaping onto the bandwagon?

    I see the Telegraph has responded swiftly to accusations that it is trawling down market and resorting to increased ignorance ineptitude and tabloidisation by appointing Kelvin MacKenzie as a columnist…

    • Tom Tom

      Yes. It makes you wonder what MacKenzie has in his drawer……..but then again the Telegraph will shrivel away behind a paywall

      • Hookeslaw

        I do not know what format a newspaper takes behind a paywall – I would say it needs to position itself to take advantage of the tablet format and offer something different than simply a screen shot of the print edition. I am not sure what they could put in it to encourage me to think it was worth a penny.
        For now anyway I can view 20 articles a month and that is more than enough.

        Most of what is in any paper newspaper is entirely pointless and fatuous to me – especially at weekends; I do not buy papers unless travelling. There must be a huge gap in the online news paradigm for someone to exploit. What kills them at the moment is the numpty comments from both extremes.

        • Makroon

          The funny part, is that the economic/financial comment in the comic known as the Daily Mail, is more accurate, better written, and less sensationalist than the DT’s numerous, low-grade scribblers.

      • Makroon

        Spot on. The DT is the only trivialist newspaper that actually wants to charge for it’s tosh.

  • John Stevens

    That the PM appears to regard the Commission post in terms of compensation for a domestic error, rather than as a matter vital to our national interests is both depressing and damaging.

    • Russell

      Your comment sums up exactly what is wrong with politics in this country. Ministers including the PM are more concerned about their chances in the 2015 general election than doing what is needed for the country. More concerned about rewarding already over rewarded fat cats with even more lucrative positions and Knighthoods/Lordships and other ‘honours’. The whole shower are a disgrace, from any of the political parties.

      • Tom Tom

        2015 will be a year AFTER the General Election. This ship is headed for the iceberg up ahead. The Banking System in Europe – forget the EuroZone – has not much longer to run

    • The Sage

      It was ever thus.

    • Tom Tom

      That s how most Commissioners like Oettinger or any of the others were selected. it is a graveyard for domestic political failures. This time however it is a funeral pyre when France and Belgium explode as economic catastrophe and banking collapse take them both down

  • welshdai

    The kindly John Major felt sorry for the unprincipled opportunist Kinnock and seriously enriched him by appointing a man who never had a job to the joke EU transport minister.
    Tony the phony Blair appointed lady Mandelson to similar undeserved unelected riches.
    Gordon the kirkcaldy donkey Brown in a fit of madness appointed the very ugly incompetent Ashton to spite lady Mandy who wanted another thrash at the jackpot.
    We welcome their diversity?

    • Hookeslaw

      Did not we have 2 commissioner then and one was nominated by Labour?

      • D B


    • Walter Ellis

      So, Dai, part of your opposition to Mandelson’s appointment is that he was a “lady” (presumably meaning gay), while you disapprove of Cathy Ashton in part because she is “very ugly”. Just as well, perhaps, that you are not consulted in these matters. As it happens, I agree with you about Neil Kinnock and I never thought Ashton would be up to the job. But Mandelson was in fact a good Commissioner, who should have remained in place instead of hoofing it back to London in the (forlorn) hope of joining the next Labour government.

      The real bad news is that Nick Clegg isn’t going to Brussels. A gifted linguist who believes in the EU (including the need for reform), he could have done much to redeem Britain’s reputation in Europe. AND the business secretary, Vince Cable, would have been in pole position to lead the Lib Dems into the next election. A result all round, but one that ain’t going to happen. Instead, it looks as if Andrew Mitchell is getting the nod – almost exclusively because he was wronged over Plebgate (which he was).

      Politics in Britain is no longer about the nation, but about party. In this instance, we don’t understand how to protect our own interests, only how to annoy Europeans.

      • Hookeslaw

        I am surprised he did not mention Kinnock as being bald.

        Mitchell is as competent as any for the job – if it were to go to him. I always thought he was a supporter of David Davis who was eurosceptical. I would have thought most people in the UK and indeed Europe are eurosceptical now and there is a good chance of some reforms.

    • Mynydd

      Whether you like, or not like, Neil Kinnock or his politics, you should sticked the to facts. You say “a man (Kinnock) who never had a job” whereas it’s common knowledge that between August 1966 and May 1970, he worked as a tutor for the Workers Educational Association.

      • John McClane

        “it’s common knowledge that between August 1966 and May 1970, he worked as a tutor for the Workers Educational Association.”

        That counts as work?

        • Mynydd

          Me I don’t know but I’ll phone a tutor at Oxford or someother educational institution.

        • Victor Southern

          He was being ironic.

    • Jamie

      Homophobia is seriously ugly. And judging a political figure on their looks is seriously shallow. Grow up.

  • Austin Barry

    “The aim is to make the case for financial reform of the EU, resist protectionism and safeguard the competitiveness of the City of London.There are mooted transaction taxes, bonus caps, new regulations and envious Parisians and Frankfurters with which to contend; control of an economic portfolio is seen as vital to protect British interests.”

    Surely, then, the logical corollary is to leave the EU rather than play its squalid anti-City, anti-democratic game?

    • telemachus

      We are in
      So we should send a man with steel balls
      However odious some of us found Mitchell in Government his behaviour since resignation has been impressive

      • The Sage

        I think for the first time ever, I am in agreement with you.