“The Juncker Quandary” – a thriller based on wild and uninteresting speculation
Brussels, Brussels, Brussels.
Let me tell you a cautionary tale, in a slightly patronising tone.
Many, many years ago, when the EU was much smaller, and when Directorates-General had numbers, and people wore hats and carried newspapers, there was a European Commission change of guard.
It was a simpler time. EU leaders had chosen the Commission President without troubling the proles, in a smoke-filled backroom that was actually smoke-filled and, indeed, at the back of the building.
They each then submitted their respective commissioner candidates, for what were pretty well-defined portfolios.
There was no speculation that transport could be split between “steam-powered” and “combustion”. No notion that Employment and Social Affairs could be handled by one Officer-Class Commissioner for white-collar concerns, and a rank-and-file Commissioner for blue-collar policies.
It was “fish; farm; films; foreigners; and miscellaneous flimflam.”
Just a small hat of names, another small hat of jobs, and the parlour-game was to pair the name with the job.
Then, on the eve of the planned final announcement, one newspaper – that shall remain nameless – boldly trumpeted its prediction of who would get what position.
The page-lead spread was illustrated with beaming faces plastered onto a giant wagon-wheel depicting the lucky gravy-trainers and what first-class seat they’d be languishing in for the next five years.
It was confidently based on a cast-iron leak from the most reliable of sources, with the source document stamped with a date only a day or two previously.
But, a day later, when the formal announcement finally came, the vast majority of that newspaper’s forecast proved haplessly inaccurate.
Even with the only variables being name and job, a late change to one combination meant a knock-on change to another. Which meant so-and-so was no longer content that whatsisface was getting suchandsuch, so thingumybob had to call in ladida and explain that dieda was getting dingsbums so that … etc…. etc….
Many years and several administrations later, here we are, days from a possible announcement on a new change of guard.
The candidates are more numerous. Some are not even known. The positions are more proliferous, and aren’t even fixed.
Agriculture could still be divided between things that bleed and things that don’t. Climate-change could go to two commissioners: one for ‘places getting drier’, another for ‘places getting moister’. And ‘culture and media’ could get rolled into an overarching copyright-reform dossier (OK, that one’s just pure fantasy).
And yet despite all these variables, despite all these unknowns, despite the incoming commission president not having even interviewed all the candidates yet, the purported certainties are flying thick and fast like fruit flies.
And fruit flies, as we know, aren’t very fast, but are quite thick.
So just sit back, have a gin, and await the announcement.
Perhaps start work on that that thriller you’ve always said you’d write.
Just don’t base it on this.
There’s never going to be a movie called “The Juncker Quandary”.