Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Another Million in the Kitty: Tony Blair's reward for following the 'right' foreign policy
This article of mine appears in The First Post.
So, Tony Blair has been awarded a $1 million prize for "his exceptional leadership and steadfast determination in helping to engineer agreements and forge lasting solutions to areas in conflict".
Some will argue that Blair should be on trial for war crimes, not receiving prizes. Others will say that the award, made by the Dan David Foundation of Tel Aviv, is a huge own goal for Israel because it sinks the country's international standing even lower after its actions in Gaza.
But they are missing the point.
The award - along with many of the other riches which have come Blair's way since he left Downing Street - is the payback for doing 'the right thing' by way of the US and Israel while he was in office.
The £2m-plus annual fee from JP Morgan Chase... the $250,000 for a 45-minute speech on the US lecture circuit... the all-expenses paid jaunts to Jerusalem as the Quartet's (ineffectual) Middle East envoy... it all serves as a reminder to members of the western political elite of the enormous financial rewards that will come their way if they toe the line.
It makes no difference that the $1m from Dan David will go to the former Prime Minister's 'Faith Foundation'; it is still heading for the overall Blair kitty.
Over the past six years, there has been much debate as to why Blair led Britain into a disastrous and illegal war with Iraq. Some say it was due to a passionate belief in spreading democracy. Others maintain that he genuinely believed that Iraq possessed WMD. But the simple, unavoidable truth is that Anthony Charles Linton Blair is now a far richer man than he would have been had he followed the example of French President Jacques Chirac and opposed the war.
For Chirac there have been no offers from JP Morgan Chase, no US lecture tours and absolutely no prospect of a Dan David leadership prize. John Howard, the former Australian Prime Minister who, like Blair, supported the Iraq war, has fared rather better: he too has been booked to impart his 'wisdom' on the US lecture circuit.
We know that money has always been a major motivator for the Blairs, as it is for most politicians everywhere. The number of genuinely principled politicians - the Tony Benns and Enoch Powells of this world, who are prepared to put their beliefs before their careers and long-term financial security - is very small indeed. And Washington and Tel Aviv know this.
The message from both the US and Israel to Britain's political elite could not be clearer: if you continue to follow the 'right' foreign policy and take your country into wars which we desire - such as Iraq - you can look forward to a very comfortable retirement.
Today it's Blair who’s reaping the financial benefits for his Atlanticism and his pro-Zionism; tomorrow it will be David Cameron, who also supported the Iraq war and who stayed silent as Israel bombarded Gaza.
After the disaster in Iraq, many Britons would love to see a reorientation of our country's foreign policy. But they are likely to be disappointed until other countries can offer our opportunistic and unprincipled leaders the lucrative pension plans that the US and Israel can afford.
UPDATE: Here's some more interesting news about the oh-so-principled former British Prime Minister from today's Sunday Times.
TONY BLAIR is cashing in on his experience as Britain’s longest-serving Labour prime minister by setting up a “commercial partnership” that offers clients political and economic advice.
The business venture, Tony Blair Associates, has been disclosed by the official watchdog that scrutinises paid employment undertaken by former ministers.
The advisory committee on business appointments said in a statement on its website this weekend: “Tony Blair has established Tony Blair Associates which will allow him to provide, in partnership with others, strategic advice on a commercial and pro-bono [free] basis, on political and economic trends and governmental reform.”
Mike Warburton, a senior tax partner at the accountants Grant Thornton, said that if Tony Blair Associates had been set up as a simple partnership rather than as a limited company, it would not have to make public its income and profit.