George Lyon: Backing Blair sends all the wrong signals to rest of the world

IF the title "President Blair" doesn't send a shiver down your spine I don't know what will. With Poland following Ireland in ratifying the Lisbon Treaty, we are now only one step away from that disturbing prospect.

At our autumn conference in Bournemouth, the Liberal Democrats were the first major political party to openly oppose the nomination of Tony Blair as President of the European Council. The reasons for doing so are compelling.

The remit of Council President, as created by the Lisbon Treaty, is to be Europe's face to the world. While proponents of Mr Blair's candidacy point to the universal recognition he enjoys across the globe, this is also the first major flaw in his potential nomination. He is recognised for all the wrong reasons.

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It seems incredible to me that the man responsible for the illegal invasion of Iraq, and the man who ignored millions across Europe who opposed the war, should be given the responsibility of representing us.

While prime minister, in taking us to war, Blair rode roughshod over our European neighbours who warned against it, angered Muslim nations who feared it, and circumvented the UN that tried to avert it.

This is hardly the CV of a man you want to extend the European Union's influence in the world.

Add to that continuing questions over Mr Blair's role in British complicity in the use of torture and you have a recipe for revulsion.

No government can, in good conscience, support Mr Blair while his collusion with the Bush administration over extraordinary rendition and torture remains unclear.

My colleague Alistair Carmichael MP has repeatedly asked the UK government for details of so-called 'ghost flights' that have used Prestwick airport to transport terrorist suspects for torture. To this date, no explanation has been given.

Until one is forthcoming, I don't want my government, the British government, to support a man who must be held accountable.

Blair's candidacy would be a parting shot from a Labour Party destined to defeat. Party insiders are pushing for the presidency, not because they believe Blair to be the best candidate, but because they calculate that it will offer some consolation after their inevitable collapse at the next General Election.

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The EU presidency cannot be used as soft landing after a hard fall.

While opposition to a potential Blair presidency has been growing, the clamour for former Irish president Mary Robinson to emerge as a consensus candidate has been quietly but quickly gathering pace.

After hugely successful terms as both president of Ireland and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mrs Robinson possesses all the credentials in which Mr Blair is so deficient.

Respected across the globe, she is exactly the kind of person we need to hold the office of EU President in its infancy.

It is the duty of a responsible government to back a candidate who can enjoy the support of the majority, not the minority.

In backing Mary Robinson over Tony Blair, the UK government can show that the position of EU President is far too important to be governed by tribalism.

There is already a great deal of scepticism over the position of EU President, we should not add to it by fuelling the fire with nepotism. That is the danger the UK faces by backing Mr Blair.

So, here's to you Mrs Robinson. You've got my vote. It's time you had Britain's too.

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• George Lyon is a Liberal Democrat member of the European parliament for Scotland.