Britain's Hill, from lord to EU financial services chief

10th September 2014, Comments 0 comments

Jonathan Hill, nominated the EU's new financial services commissioner Wednesday, is considered a pragmatic dealmaker hardened by his time at the heart of government during Britain's disastrous exit from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism.

Before being sent to the European Union, the 53-year-old was the leader of the House of Lords, the upper chamber of the British parliament and is officially styled as Lord Hill.

But he was hardly known outside Westminster and has yet to set pulses racing in Brussels, which had encouraged Prime Minister David Cameron to send a star female candidate.

Hill is wary of the limelight and earlier this year scoffed at suggestions that he would be nominated Britain's commissioner.

"Non, non, non," he said in French in the interview with the Conservative Home website, adding: "I quite like it at home, in the British Isles."

Hill had consistent history of voting against laws increasing Brussels' power, although he publicly supports Britain's continued membership of the union.

Charles Grant, director of the Centre for European Reform (CER) think tank, described him as a "pro-European".

"He is an operator, people say he is good at fixing people," he told AFP.

Cameron has promised a referendum on Britain's EU membership if the Conservatives win next year's general election, but said he would campaign for the country to stay in the union.

Hill echoed the prime minister's stance, saying that Britain's interests "are best served by playing a leading role in the EU".

Critics point out that Hill has never been elected by the British public, undermining Cameron's promises to bring about more democratic legitimacy in the EU.

Hill's first political job was as a junior Conservative party researcher in 1985.

The Cambridge University graduate was soon promoted as special adviser to veteran pro-European Conservative MP Kenneth Clarke before taking a break from politics and spending two years in public relations.

Impressed by John Major's rise to power from humble roots, Hill sought to re-enter politics and eventually became the Conservative prime minister's political secretary in 1992.

During a tumultuous two-year stint, Hill was at the heart of the party when Britain crashed out of the ERM, the precursor to the euro.

After another spell in PR, Cameron named him to the House of Lords, parliament's upper chamber, in 2010 as a junior minister in the education department.

Hill rose to be Leader of the House of Lords in 2012, becoming a member of the cabinet.

© 2014 AFP

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