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It's only a month to go to the European Parliament elections and a new EU bureaucracy…sorry, Commission in Brussels. What is the lie of the land, political and psephological?

On the Commission side, the various Big Powers are busy with the usual backroom skulduggery and manipulation designed to get their man (or woman) into the top seats.

This Saturday 5 April the situation was suddenly complicated when Jyrki Katainen, Finland’s right wing Prime Minister, threw his hat in the ring for Commission President. Katainen said he is resigning as PM after three years in office but made it clear he is available for a gig in Europe (or other international roles).

The significance of Katainen’s move is that he could be a plausible compromise candidate in what is shaping up to be a gladiatorial fight for the Commission’s top job and other spoils.

The European Parliament wants the next Commission president to come from the political group that wins the most votes in next month's election. And since the Commission has to be approved by MEPs, Parliament has a big say in the matter.

Last Thursday, the leaders of the current three biggest groups in the European Parliament (socialist, centre-right and liberals) issued a rare joint statement declaring: "The next elected Commission president will be the result of a transparent process, not the product of back-room deals." But that’s easier said than done because the make-up of the new, 751-seat Parliament is going to be much more complicated than ever before.

For starters, the two largest groups – the socialists and the centre-right European Peoples Party (EPP) – are likely to be evenly matched. Current polls give them both around 212 seats each.

Which means either the two big mainstream groupings carve up the Commission between themselves, or the scene is set for political Russian roulette.

At the same time, the anti-EU bloc of MEPs is likely to be bigger than at any time in history, thanks to the austerity policies imposed by Berlin, Frankfurt and Brussels. The latest polls show the radical and Marxist European United Left grouping is actually ahead of the combined liberal parties. Some 20 per cent or more of seats could go to parties actively opposed to greater EU integration, ranging from the British Conservatives to the extreme right.

Of course, the extremes of right and left will find it difficult to cooperate against the mainstream centre, but that only makes the working of the new Parliament even more difficult to predict or manage.

For instance, in Germany changes to the electoral threshold mean we are likely to see four new parties winning European seats: the meteoric anti-European Alternative, the mad Pirate Party, the extreme right NDP, and the populist Free Voters. If you think UKIP is eccentric, just wait till this lot get to Brussels and Strasbourg.

One obvious result is that there will be a multiplicity of candidates for Commission President - and a multitude of self-proclaimed ‘compromise’ candidates like Finland’s Jyrki Katainen. If that doesn’t worry you, remember that even with more tranquil European Parliaments in the past, we still ended up with a Yes-man like José Manuel Barroso in the top slot.

Who are the current ‘Spitzenkandidaten’ (frontrunners) for Commission President?

The centre-right EPP is pushing Jean-Claude Juncker, an ex-prime minister of Luxembourg and an old EU hand. The socialists want Martin Schulz, a German Social Democrat. Both are strong advocates of EU federalism, which may explain why David Cameron is rumoured to be unenthusiastic about either.

Present betting says that the liberals, plus various unattached parties, will support Juncker and he should pip Schulz at the post. However, that could be wishful thinking, especially as the European liberals and greens have each put forward their own compromise candidates while the French are scenting the possibility of getting increasing their own national influence in the Commission. There is already talk of a bid by IMF boss Christine Lagarde and or former WTO head, socialist Pascal Lamy.

The Commission presidency is only one of half a dozen big jobs that will be carved up

Any deal must ensure a balance between the large and small member states, between the Baltic north and the Mediterranean south, between left and right, and between male and female. Other plum posts include President of the European Council, who chairs all big EU meetings and so is at the heart of deal-making. Juncker would happily settle for that.

Then there is EU foreign minister post, currently held by the lacklustre Labour peer, Catherine Ashton, a Gordon Brown appointee.

If you want publicity and lots of seats on boards when you retire, go for the Finance Commissioner, which also gets you to Washington most months.

Here are a few names to watch out for come the wheeling and dealing…

Lithuania’s President Dalia Grybauskaitė -a former EU budget commissioner, she is known at home as the ‘Iron Lady’. She’s also a former member of the old Soviet Communist Party. Just imagine her taking on Putin. Or there’s Enda Kenny, Ireland’s Prime Minister, who has won gold stars for dealing with the euro bailout and getting his country out of a fiscal black hole.

Nick Clegg has been putting it about that he will veto any attempt by the Tories to appoint a Euro-sceptic candidate as Britain’s next EU Commissioner (David Cameron has to nominate a successor to Catherine Ashton).Among the names being bandied around are the Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson (a hard-line Euro-sceptic), former Defence Secretary, Liam Fox (which would placate the backbenches but I bet Fox won’t be exiled), and former Chief Whip, Andrew Mitchell (who is owed after Plebgate). To further complicate matters, appointing a sitting MP would mean a by-election close to next year’s General Election.

Where Cameron and Clegg might agree is for Britain to get one of the key business briefs in the new Commission. That would find support in the City. A strategic move would be to nab the Internal Market and Services portfolio currently held by the French.

One obvious solution would be to appoint a City insider or technocrat and give him/her a peerage. Names in the frame include the CBI Director General John Cridland, though he may be too pro-European for the Tory backbenches. Clegg might punt the Lib Dem MEP Sharon Bowles, who is an expert on financial services regulation.

But can you see Nigel Farage or the Greek Marxists approving them when the new European Parliament meets to vote on the Commission? It’s going to be fun time in Brussels.


[George Kerevan’s new book on the independence referendum, co-written with Telegraph commentator Alan Cochrane, is now available on Amazon.]