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
News
The guide, since withdrawn, used illustrations and text to help people understand the court process (Getty)
newsMinistry of Justice gets law 'terribly wrong' in its guide to courts
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown with her mother Whitney Houston in 2011
people
News
Starting the day with a three-egg omelette could make people more charitable, according to new research
scienceFeed someone a big omelette, and they may give twice as much, thanks to a compound in the eggs
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
News
i100
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: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links