Parliament: Brussels Post - Patten's way is cleared for Europe job

THE GOVERNMENT gave its strongest indication yet that Chris Patten, the former Tory cabinet minister and governor of Hong Kong, will be appointed Britain's next European commissioner.

The way was cleared for Mr Patten yesterday when Downing Street announced that the Tory MP Sir Alastair Goodlad, the other main contender for the post, had instead been appointed High Commissioner to Australia.

Sir Alastair, MP for Eddisbury in Cheshire, was William Hague's nominee as the second British European commissioner to accompany Neil Kinnock in Brussels.

If he is approved by the European Commission, Mr Patten would succeed Leon Brittan, the vice-president whose term is due to end this year.

Tony Blair's decision to appoint Mr Patten instead of Sir Alastair was seen as a breach of convention and a snub to Mr Hague, but followed Foreign Office advice that Sir Alastair was not a sufficiently "heavyweight" candidate.

The Foreign Office confirmed yesterday that the former chief whip will take up his new post early next year, triggering a by-election. The Tories would have to defend a slim majority of 1,185.

Sir Alastair replaces Alex Allan, a former private secretary to John Major, who will return to a "senior Whitehall post", Downing Street said.

A spokesman said Mr Blair had a "high opinion" of Sir Alastair and believed he would do an excellent job at an important time for UK-Australia relations. Adding weight to speculation of a snub to Mr Hague, the spokesman said he would have been "informed rather than consulted" about the appointment.

Downing Street refused to be drawn on the issue of Mr Patten's appointment, but confirmed that the new commissioner would be revealed at the end of June.

Romano Prodi, president-designate of the Commission, is expected to announce the full list of his new team of commissioners, including Mr Patten, at the same time.

Mr Patten's nomination effectively ends the possibility of his ever leading the Tory party and as a result Mr Hague is understood to be pleased at the removal of a potential rival for his job. Michael Portillo, former defence secretary and darling of the Tory right, moved swiftly yesterday to rule himself out as a candidate in the Eddisbury by-election.

"Michael Portillo will not be putting his name forward for the by-election which will be caused by Alastair Goodlad's leaving the House of Commons," Mr Portillo's office said in a statement.

Under a long-held convention, each of the UK's two commissioners comes from the Labour and Tory parties, no matter who is in government at the time.

Mr Major undermined the convention when he vetoed the appointment of Mr Kinnock soon after the 1992 general election.

However, Mr Major was forced to change his mind two years later and the former Labour leader became transport commissioner.

Mr Kinnock has made clear his worries about Mr Patten's prospective appointment and has sought guarantees that he will remain the more senior of the two UK representatives.

As a result, Downing Street is believed to have lobbied for a vice-presidency post for Mr Kinnock in the new administration in Brussels.

On hearing the news of Sir Alastair's appointment, one Labour MP said: "We used to send convicts to Australia. Now we are sending failed Tory politicians."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee