The September 2013 issue of Tatler featured an in-depth article on Tony Blair’s life and fortune after leaving office (pp. 153-156, 207),
The title of James Brabazon’s article — which appeared in upper case — is a quote from Blair himself:
‘THERE ARE ALWAYS TIMES WHEN SOME PEOPLE DO BETTER THAN OTHERS IN TERMS OF FINANCIAL WEALTH…’
By golly, if David Cameron had said that, we’d never be allowed to forget it. But notice how quiet Labour and their water carriers are about Blair’s activities.
The article is accompanied by photographs of a relaxed, fashionably thin Blair mixing with industrialists and celebrities. He clearly looks rejuvenated, and instead of wearing a conventional suit and tie, sports a black suit jacket with an open-collared black shirt. Hmm.
Brabazon’s eye-opening report explained and revealed a few things about Blair, summarised below:
– We read often about Blair’s being a ‘peace envoy’. I used to wonder if he claimed that title for himself, but, apparently, the day he left Downing Street, Quartet (a diplomatic bloc jointly established by the EU, Russia, US and the UN) appointed him as peace envoy to the Palestinians and the Israelis. (p. 154)
– Blair’s pro bono work led to multi-million pound contracts in the Middle East. A diplomatic meeting with Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad in 2009 resulted in a £27m contract to Tony Blair Associates (TBA) to review the country’s economy. The project is called Kuwait Vision 2035. (p. 155)
– TBA is not a corporate entity as such but acts as the umbrella organisation for Blair’s business activities. Everything is above board, although the set-up is quite complex. TBA is comprised of at least eight separate companies. The magazine found out about Blair’s Government Advisory Practice (GAP) which is one of them, managing his government contracts. Two others, they explain, are ‘financial entities’; these limited partnerships (LPs) are Firerush Ventures No. 3 LP and Windrush Ventures No. 3 LP. A Windrush Ventures No. 1 LP was incorporated on June 27, 2007, the day Blair left No. 10. LPs are not obliged to publish accounts. Blair’s website mentions TBA once but nothing about GAP. (p. 156)
– Kuwait Vision 2035 led to other deals for Blair. He makes regular visits to neighbouring Abu Dhabi; the Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed is a TBA client. Blair acts as peace envoy and adviser on global strategy for the Crown Prince’s sovereign wealth fund Mubadala. Blair might be making £1m a year from this work; the figure has been reported but not confirmed. (p. 156)
– The Abu Dhabi work led to another contract for Blair in Kazakhstan, because the aforementioned sovereign wealth fund has a subsidiary there, Mubadala Petroleum. Blair’s consulting team has been working with the Kazakh government since 2011 with regard to ‘decentralisation, electoral procedures and judicial practices’. It is unclear how much TBA (possibly via GAP) earns from this but Tatler surmise that it could be in the region of £8m per annum. (p. 156)
– Blair’s office has no sign on the door, but it is located in Grosvenor Square, near the US Embassy. (p. 156)
– From an examination of Blair’s published accounts, Tatler calculated that within the first five years of leaving office, his various companies made £40,708,000. Blair’s office says the figure is ‘way off’ but offered no precise figure. The magazine says Blair’s personal fortune is somewhere between £30m and £60m. (p. 155)
– Brabazon reminds us that Blair was not Labour but New Labour (p. 155). He includes a 1998 quote from Peter — Lord — Mandelson who said that the party was
intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich.
Again, imagine the furore if David Cameron or George Osborne had said that.
– The Blairs now have eight houses worth £21m, including a £5.75m pile in Buckinghamshire and a nearby cottage worth £600,000. (p. 155)
– Blair earned £193,000 per annum as PM. In the years ‘immediately’ after he left office, he earned £9m from speaking engagements and public appearances. He has also ‘reportedly’ been paid a ‘sum in six figures’ by Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy for promoting their brands. He receives £500,000 from Zurich Insurance Group for political and climate change advice and £2.5 a year from JP Morgan as a ‘senior adviser’. (p. 155)
– Blair regrets his push for transparent government (p. 156). In his autobiography he wrote (excerpted):
Freedom of Information. Three harmless words. I look at those words as I write them and feel like shaking my head till it drops off my shoulders … Information is neither sought because the journalist is curious to know, nor given to bestow knowledge on ‘the people’. It’s used as a weapon.
– As for human rights and Kazakhstan, Blair claims his teams are working with ‘a whole new generation of administrators’ in this regard. (p. 156) Hmm. No evident comment from human rights lawyer Cherie. (p. 207)
– Blair does put some TBA money into philanthropy. Among these causes are the Tony Blair Faith Foundation and his Sports Foundation. (p. 207)
– Blair claims his vast earnings have a noble purpose (p. 207):
It genuinely is about making a difference in the world and not about making money. The motivation is not the accumulation of personal wealth. If I’d wanted to do that, I could do it a lot simpler with a lot less time.
Imagine if a Conservative said that. Oh, the uproar!
– One wonders whether Blair will collect his taxpayer-paid pension when he retires. However, despite his multi-millions, even today, the taxpayer is contributing to Blair’s cause. His office in Jerusalem — linked with the aforementioned diplomatic bloc Quartet — received a UK subsidy of £400,000 when it was established. Blair also employs five civil servants ‘seconded from Whitehall’. Their salaries are included in an annual UK taxpayer-funded subsidy of £1,062,593. (p. 207)
– Tatler notes that, unlike Bill Clinton, Blair’s diplomatic and business arrangements make him a ‘public servant’. As such, the magazine contends that Blair should be subject to the Nolan Principles of probity in public life — those which he championed as PM (p. 207):
selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership.
– Quartet has no requirement for Blair to publicly disclose his business interests or any conflicts of interest. For now, we have to take Blair’s word on his activities and his income (p. 207). Imagine if a Conservative were in a similar position. Oh, the outcry!
Tony Blair — ‘just a regular guy’.