European Elections: Labour - Losses show Blair's lack of euro plan

ON THE eve of making his most positive statement on the single currency in February, Tony Blair telephoned members of his Cabinet to ensure they supported his plan to "change up a gear" to prepare Britain for membership.

Mr Blair's ring round revealed how he likes to do business - on a one- to-one basis rather than in cabinet discussions - and epitomised his ultra- cautious approach to Europe. "We haven't had a proper discussion about Europe for a long time," one member of the Cabinet complained yesterday.

As a chastened Mr Blair analysed Labour's disastrous performance in the European Parliament elections, some allies admitted last night that his European Union policy was in tatters. "The problem is that we don't really have a strategy at all," another minister said.

The Prime Minister told reporters yesterday that lessons would have to be learnt from the "very disappointing" results. While insisting the Government would "hold firm" to its single currency policy, he pointedly refused to bow to pressure from pro-Europeans in all three main parties for him to "take a lead" in swinging public opinion behind the euro.

Mr Blair is pursuing a Micawberish strategy in the hope that the public gradually comes to regard joining the euro as inevitable. But the shortcomings of this approach were exposed by William Hague, who turned the elections into an early referendum on the single currency.

The Tory leader's triumph puts a question mark over Mr Blair's plans to play down the euro as an issue at the next general election, by promising the voters that they will have their say in a referendum.

Some ministers, including Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, fear that line will be untenable in the heat of a general election battle. Their ranks will have been swollen by Labour's debacle in the European poll.

The Blair circle still doubts that Mr Hague will be able to repeat his trick at a general election. "People will have to choose between Tony Blair and a euro referendum and William Hague as prime minister. It will be no contest," one Blair aide said.

Mr Blair believes that people can be won round if they see the euro will bring economic benefits. At the appropriate time, he will be ready to give a lead. "The time to do that is in a referendum," said one aide. But his pro-EU critics argue the people will not be won over until Mr Blair comes off the fence.

One option is for Mr Blair to appoint a "Mr Europe" figure to lead the campaign for the single currency. The Prime Minister is too busy himself, and is unlikely to attend the launch next month of Britain in Europe, the embryo "Yes" campaign. Some Europhiles, furious that Labour's non- campaign in the European election played into Mr Hague's hands, are demanding Mr Blair attends.

But who would it be? Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, is reluctant to immerse himself in the euro, while Mr Cook has shown little interest.

The election results are likely to bring the appointment of a heavy- hitting party chairman responsible for getting a grip on the party machine and putting over the Government's message. Candidates for the job include Mo Mowlam, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and Ian McCartney, a Trade and Industry minister.

The new chairman would also need to explain how Government policies have helped Labour's traditional voters, who abstained in their millions last Thursday. Privately, several ministers agree with Peter Hain, the Welsh Office minister, that Mr Blair has focused too much on Daily Mail readers and not enough on Mirror ones.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: IT Gazetteer Consultant

£25000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you looking to work for an ...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Ecommerce Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity is available to ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service / Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This world leading specialist i...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy