Australia has its tawdry tales of former politicians peddling influence for property developers and others told daily before the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption. And we have had the slightly unedifying sight of former Prime Ministers Bob Hawke and Kevin Rudd acting as door openers for companies in China and elsewhere. Departed Treasurer Peter Costello used his influence with the regime in Cambodia to introduce some business colleagues and remains in the consultancy business. Alexander Downer traded on the contacts made as our foreign minister to attract a client or two. It’s all a little sad perhaps but the activities of our retired leaders pale into insignificance compared with Britain’s Tony Blair.
London’s Financial Times this week brought its readers the story of this Prime Minister who turned lobbyist on a truly grand scale.
What a depressing read it is as it outlines how the man who not so long ago was a proselytiser for democracy, now, along with the monarchs of the Gulf, courts Kazakhstan’s president Nursultan Nazarbayev.
His excuse says he is promoting political reform; the reality is that he is paid handsomely in lending a cloak of respectability to a central Asian tyrant.
Add in the paid-for speeches, dealmaking with the US investment banker Michael Klein and a lucrative door-opening role at JPMorgan, and it all adds up to a tidy sum. Guesses of Mr Blair’s wealth put it at about £100m. Friends suggest this is a serious underestimate.
I suspect he does not want the money for its own sake. More likely, the private jet is a way to keep score, a salve for a bruised ego. The craving is for public approbation.
Put the story in your “must read” category. The FT has a paywall but limited free access.