United Kingdom: Tony Blair lines his pockets

Blair has been making millions from speaking and consulting fees around the world, but even so, many were astonished at revelations about his relations with Muammar al-Qaddafi.

We’ve long been appalled by Tony Blair’s “obsession with making millions of dollars,” said Stephen Glover in the Daily Mail. Since he left office, in 2007, the former prime minister has been trading on his position to rake in obscene speaking and consulting fees all over the world. Yet the latest revelations about his relations with Libya’s Muammar al-Qaddafi “take one’s breath away.” In the past four years, Blair—now a consultant for the U.S. investment bank J.P. Morgan—had no fewer than six private meetings with the dictator, some of them paid for by the regime. Were these trips related to J.P. Morgan’s attempts to broker a multibillion-dollar deal with the Libyan government? Or, worse, were they negotiations on the release from a Scottish prison of the Libyan man convicted in the 1988 downing of a passenger jet over Lockerbie? While Blair was in office, he could plead realpolitik as an excuse for negotiating with the “genocidal maniac” who slaughtered thousands and armed the IRA. But “there is no defense imaginable for his later clasping the monster to his bosom and discussing business arrangements with him.”

But such immorality is routine for “Tony Blair, Inc.,” said Jason Lewis in the The Telegraph. Blair’s empire is “a Byzantine web of highly specialized limited partnerships and parallel companies.” His charity to combat corruption in Africa, for example, “also establishes excellent contacts with local leaders with the power to award contracts.” His commercial businesses rake in an estimated $11 million a year, while some of his consulting fees are astronomical—for example, a reputed $40 million for advising the Kuwaiti monarchy. The overarching theme, said Peter Oborne, also in The Telegraph, is “an extraordinary confusion of public duty and private interest.” Take Blair’s role as the representative of the Middle East Quartet, in which he is tasked with brokering Middle East peace on behalf of the U.S., the EU, the U.N., and Russia. Blair brags that the Palestinians love him for strong-arming the Israelis into allowing a mobile-phone company to operate in the West Bank. But it turns out the company is a major client of none other than J.P. Morgan, one of Blair’s “most significant paymasters.” Whatever good he has achieved is “compromised and tarnished by his apparent drive to make money.”

Such hysteria is an example of “Blair Derangement Syndrome,” said Dominic Lawson in The Independent. Among a certain set of disillusioned liberals and furious conservatives, Blair is hated. Indeed, “the word ‘hate’ does not do justice to the violence of this minority’s gibbering rage at even the fact of his continued existence.” Nothing he can do is good enough for them. When he donated the entire $8 million he made from his memoir to the Royal British Legion, for example, one columnist denounced the act as “checkbook expiation, kill and pay,” while another said he should “amputate a limb” and donate that. Blair may be retired from public office, but he is still relatively young. It’s unreasonable to expect him “to slink into obscurity.” And if he seeks to make his family financially secure, “how does that harm us?”

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