Apparently Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, is the most powerful man in Britain. A poll of listeners to the Radio 4 Today programme said so, so it must be true.
The BBC reports Roger Knapman, UKIP MEP, as saying “Of course it is the only chance you’ll get to vote for him or for that matter against him.” (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4574968.stm)
He’s not wrong, but that’s not the whole story. There is one person mentioned in that last paragraph who did get to vote for or against Mr Barroso, and that is Roger Knapman himself (according to Article 214(2) of the consolidated treaty, the European Parliament has to approve or reject the choice of president made by the European Council). Let’s go further and ask who got to vote for Tony Blair or Gordon Brown. The voters in Sedgefield and Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath, obviously, and the members of the House of Commons who support or oppose the government, but anyone else? Neither was a candidate in the constituency where I live.
The best way to sort this out, though, would be to give Mr Barroso, or rather his successor, a clearer mandate. What if each of the parties that contested the European elections in 2009 each nominated a candidate for president of the Commission? They already draw up Europe-wide manifestos so choosing a candidate should be no problem for them. The voters then could take into account the different candidates when deciding how to vote. We say goodbye forever to the complaint that the Commission president is unelected, and a good thing too.