Thursday, June 17, 2004

Sartorially Disqualified

Various important meetings are taking place in Europe over the next few days -- on football pitches in Portugal. Then there's a European Union summit. We have posted a few times about Ireland holding the rotating presidency of the 25 country EU, but all the initial energy that the presidency seemed to generate has thoroughly dissipated with the drubbing that governing parties took in the recent EU parliament elections-- to which a huge majority of voters delivered the worst insult of all but just not showing up.

But anyway, between trips to the TV to keep up on things on Portugal, our besuited betters in Europe are hoping to hash out a deal on a bible-sized constitution and on who will be the next President of the European Commission (the closest thing that the EU has to a chief executive). Henry at the Crooked Timber blog has tried to take the latter process seriously and provided brief profiles of the relevant candidates. Bizarrely, one of the blushing candidates is the chairman of the summit, Bertie Ahern.

Bertie is currently straddling two worlds -- that of international statesman, attending the G8 summit in Georgia last week, and that of parish pump Irish politician, enduring the slings and arrows of the Republic's politics and media -- who basically want to know: what was the deal with the yellow trousers? We watched the summit coverage last week on the BBC and like everyone else noticed Bertie's odd atire during Dubya's casual beach walk for the summiteers -- the other world leaders had their smart casual look (sober jacket, open necked shirt, dark trousers). But there was Bertie in what looked like a cream coloured jacket and yellow trousers. The jibes have not stopped since. During questions in the Dail (parliament) on Wednesday:

[Mr Ahern] "In regard to the job in Europe [Commission President], I think that if I was really interested in that job that I would have that job.

"However, when it comes to getting 1 million euro for working in Europe or staying at home to do the job I like doing, I will continue to do this job." Labour leader Pat Rabbitte suggested that when Chancellor Schröder "saw the gear in Savannah, that's what did it. You had it up to then. You had it in the bag."

Fine Gael's Bernard Durkan agreed. "It was the yellow trousers that did it."

On Tuesday, Bertie's defence was:

"I had to put a bit of colour into the place," Mr Ahern said as he came in for sustained criticism from the opposition leaders for his fashion crimes.

The fact that Bertie is even a candidate for this job forces us to the conclusion that EU-level politics is even more dysfunctional that we thought. For one thing, Bertie's estimate of what the job pays is off by about 900,000 euro. But anyway, even if our Continental partners wanted someone harmless in the top job, their fashion sense is probably just too offended by now. Onwards and upwards with the prime minister of Luxembourg, and his grey trousers.

[One minor mystery is why Bertie does not appear to be wearing the yellow trousers in the official group photo (also here), which apparently took place on the same walk]

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