Blair's charm and debating skills won him more applause than catcalls as he assumed his role of incoming President in the European Parliament this week. His positive, determined, even optimistic tone allowed him to dodge his typecasting as the villain of Europe. Indeed, at this difficult moment, it came close to presenting him as the saviour of Europe.

How complete is the makeover? Some of his remarks certainly carried strengths. But some conspicuous gaps were also revealed.

His call for courageous and frank confrontation of Europe's predicament is welcome, but little more than rhetoric. Any sympathy for his rejection of simplistic oppositions of a "free market" and a social Europe is conditioned by disappointment at his equally simplistic and ill-defined - depiction of "a union of values, of solidarity between nations and people".

His insistence on "modernisation" of Europe and on the need for "the right budget" will convince only those who already agree with him. His concession that change to agricultural policy "must take account of the legitimate needs of farming communities and happen over time" is largely nullified by his insistence that there must be change long before 2013.

He was able to score some easy debating points about the inadequacies of the current performance of the EU social model, and about how the UK has...

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