Unwelcome news – though not decisive

Well, on Wednesday morning I heard from the British that there is anothe UK candidate for the job I want to get with Commissioner Olli Rehn – specifically, the guy who is currently doing the same job for Chris Patten. It seems that the Foreign Office is backing him, not me.

I was pissed off but not devastated by this. As someone else had already said to me, having the FCO on your side in these cases can sometimes be a hindrance rather than an advantage. But I was annoyed that they had given me to understand that I had their support, when in reality they had another candidate in mind. My revenge will be that, if I get the job, I shall have my nationality listed as Irish. Perfidious Albion, hah.

So I started working the Finnish angle again. A few months ago I had had a very friendly meeting with their ambassador-at-large for the Balkans. Googling his name for connections with Commissioner Rehn, I discovered that not only do the two know each other, but when the ambassador got embroiled in a spy scandal a couple of years ago, Rehn wrote a book to clear his name. I contacted the ambassador, who replied literally within seconds, promising to flag me up as a good candidate when he met Rehn yesterday.

I also emailed a former Finnish foreign minister, who replied in similarly positive terms. The fact that I haven’t yet heard back from either the ambassador or the ex-minister suggests to me that Commissioner Rehn is still making up his mind; if he had made the decision I guess the news would have reached me one way or another. And if he’s still making up his mind, that suggests that my last-minute lobbying via Helsinki may well have improved my chances.

So that leaves me hanging on somewhat. Then yesterday evening my boss called me in for a heart-to-heart. He had picked up my potential plans on the grapevine (I haven’t made a particular secret of it) and was actually disquietingly keen on the idea of my moving on; not out of dissatisfaction with me or my work, but because of his usual annual angst about budget cuts. On the one hand, I went through the process last year and the year before of him panicking that there was no money and bracing for huge cuts to my budget which turned out not to be necessary; on the other, it’s very unnerving when my own position, not just my program, becomes part of the equation.

So, an unsettled weekend looms, with unsettled weather to boot. At least we have a couple of things to look forward to – a wedding reception this evening, and a neighbour’s birthday party tomorrow evening.

Incidentally I shook hands with Peter Mandelson at a reception on Wednesday night; he seems to be settling in (and as someone pointed out the last-but-one commissioner to have his portfolio, competition, was also British). But I have no intention of seeking work with him.

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