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Path from No. 10 paved with gold

by
26 June 2015

Stephen Fay considers how well Tony Blair has done since 2007

AP

Contact: Tony Blair with President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan in 2000, a photo used in the book

Contact: Tony Blair with President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan in 2000, a photo used in the book

Blair Inc.: The man behind the mask
Francis Beckett, David Hencke, and Nick Kochan
John Blake £20
(978-1-78418-370-7)
Church Times Bookshop £18

 

CLEMENT ATTLEE, who led the government that founded the NHS and much else besides, was a modest man. I saw him once travelling alone on the Northern Line, and when he died in 1967, Attlee left £7295. But things are not what they used to be. When Tony Blair travels, he takes a private aircraft, and the energetic reporters of this account of his life after 10 Downing Street believe he has accumulated a fortune of "at least" £60 million - not counting 30 properties belonging to him and his immediate family.

As Prime Minister, Mr Blair won three General Elections, forced through the Irish peace process, and played an important part in the Balkan Wars. He had hoped that his reputation would lead to his Presidency of the European Commission in Brussels, but that plan imploded when his supporters discovered evidence of his newly acquisitive manner.

President George W. Bush rewarded Mr Blair's loyalty during the Iraq War by insisting that he become special envoy of the quartet of powers hoping to drive the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. During his eight years in the job, prospects for peace had notably dimmed. In May 2015, Mr Blair announced he was quitting the expensive office in Jerusalem and the armoured cars, which had cost $400,000.

Mr Blair had become vulnerable by then. He appeared to use his diplomatic authority to establish lucrative business contacts in the Middle East. The authors suggest that this passion for new business in nations such as Kuwait and Abu Dhabi "contaminated" his standing as the quartet's representative. He was also accused of having a pro-Israeli bias, and memories of the Iraq War ate away at this authority.

His energy now goes into running a conglomerate under the umbrella name of Tony Blair Associates (TBA). It acts as consultants, fixers, and public-relations men for great institutions of capitalism such as the bankers J. P. Morgan, dictators in Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, and global companies such as Louis Vuitton and Zurich Insurance. There are also Foundations, the best known of which is the Blair Faith Foundation.

All these activities are conducted behind a mask of secrecy. The authors have fun discovering TBA's strictly private address (1 Great Cumberland Place, London W1). The finances of the Blair empire are hidden within a watertight web of partnerships and nominee companies. Consequently, the authors rely on anonymous contacts, second-hand evidence, and clippings to build their case.

Perhaps it is the absence of human contact in their painstaking research, but their contempt admits no sympathy or generosity. In 350 pages, they find only one really good thing to say about the whole edifice: the Faith Foundation's programme in Sierra Leone which provides health education for imams and priests is "seriously good charitable work".

TBA is also credited with having done useful work during the Ebola-virus crisis. When he set it up in 2008, at much the same time as he revealed his going over to Rome, Mr Blair said: "The Foundation is how I want to spend the rest of my life." Promoting collaboration between different faiths has proved a struggle, however, not least with the Roman Catholic Church. Making millions comes easier.

 

Stephen Fay is a former member of the editorial staff of The Sunday Times.

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