|Political Flair||8 / 10|
|Credibility||6 / 10|
|Warmth||8 / 10|
|Ability to connect with people outside Brussels||8 / 10|
|Likelihood of being approved by the EP||7/ 10|
|Overall rating||7/ 10|
Given the narrowness of the tightrope Hill had been given to walk, he did the only politically sensible thing he could. He walked carefully down the centre. And on tip-toes.
This was an old-school Tory on a charm offensive, seizing the low hanging fruit straight away by adopting the self depracating manner of the lesser-spotted Brit speaking a foreign language abroad. (French and Italian). And of course this will have gone down well in Brussels in a way that Anglo-supremacists who’ve never lived abroad (and think the best approach with foreigners is to bark more loudly in English) will never fully grasp.
Furthermore, his language and manner oozed moderation. This was a man who wanted the Parliament to know that he had a ‘proven record of consensus’, that he is ‘open-minded’ and that he thinks the choice between ‘regulation and growth’ is a ‘false dichotomy’. And all delivered in a soft tone, with lots of eye-contact, glasses being pulled on and off (why not just leave them on?) and peppered with literary references from across Europe.
All the while the sharks were circling, whether in the form of UKIP trying to call him out over his inability to protect the City of London or French socialists desperate to pin him on details of what ‘safe regulation’ really means. He balanced on the tightrope through all of these.
So far, so tactical. Unfortunately, charm cannot make up for gaps in knowledge . And while I have some sympathy for the Commissioners-designate who are expected to become overnight experts, to say Hill didn’t seem to have a full command of the brief would be something of an understatement. When pressed on CNAV funds, Eurobonds, Solvency Two or the Capital Union he kicked the questions into the long grass with long, woolly answers and an emphasis on due process.
It’s hard to tell whether this approach was deliberate or reflects a lack of a grasp of the substance. I liked Hill because he came across as sincere and thoughtful. But there’s a limit to how far the Hugh (pre-Divine Brown) Grant act will carry him if he can’t back it up with the substance in what is clearly a very complex and technically challenging portfolio.
Photo: CC License from wikipedia – original source here.