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12th September 2012

My Political Hero: Jacques Delors

Ben Green talks about his political hero, Jacques Delors

Older readers may remember Mr Delors’ tenure as eighth President of the European Commission between 1985 and 1994. Some may even recall the infamous ‘Up Yours Delors’ Sun front cover of 1990, where that esteemed tabloid invited all free-thinking Brits to spend a minute sticking two fingers up in the direction of Brussels. Now, Mr Delors is of course not only a Frenchman, but an arch-Eurocrat to boot – arguably an odd choice for this column, but bear with me.

Jacques Delors served three terms as President of the Commission, making him the longest serving President of the 11 to date. Delors started off his political life as a high-profile member of the French Socialist Party, acting as Social Affairs advisor to Prime Minister Jacques Chaban-Delmas, and later as a Member of the European Parliament and Finance Minister to French President François Mitterand

So, a French Europhilic socialist then? Pretty much. But one does not necessarily have to agree with Delors’ personal beliefs to admire his politics and his undeniable ability as a politician. This is why I hold Jacques Delors up as a political hero: not because I necessarily agree with him on much, but because he embodies what every politician ought to be. Jacques Delors had a vision for where he wanted France and the European Union to be; he faced opposition from all corners during the time of ‘eurosclerosis’, a mass swell of anti-European feeling which saw him into office. But Delors pursued his goals doggedly, not without compromise, and not in ignorance of his many critics, but he stuck to what he believed in, and what’s more he achieved it. It was by sheer force of will that Delors cajoled, pleaded, browbeat, negotiated, and marshalled the various nations of Europe towards the integrated, Federalist vision of the EU which he believed in. He is widely credited with ensuring the Maastricht Treaty of 1992 happened, as well as launching the EU member-states down the road towards Economic and Monetary Union.


If you are a Eurosceptic, these ‘achievements’ no doubt strike you as abhorrent, but they are nonetheless undeniably impressive. Jacques Delors represented the best a politician can be: he was always outspoken and truthful about his aims, and in power he went to every length to ensure that they were met. Regardless of one’s personal predilections, Jacques Delors is the consummate politician from whom others would do well to take notes.

Ben Green

Ben Green

Former Comment editor (2011-2012).

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