Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 21 October 2014

EU President? I would cross the street if I saw Tony Blair coming

It would surely be perverse of Radovan Karadzic to challenge Tony Blair for the presidency of the EU and risk splitting the war criminal's vote.

A record as a war criminal will hardly enhance any candidate's chances. But neither does it seem to be widely regarded as an impediment.

"There should be some mistakes too big to recover from," muses Guardian columnist Jackie Ashley. "But (that) is not quite the end of the matter.

If politicians have to struggle with competing evils in an untidy world, so should the rest of us."

Who can be blamed amid the moral clutter of modern life for launching an illegal war and lying about it?

Will Hutton of the Observer declares that "it is better to back our man, however imperfect, than refuse a prize that may not come our way again for decades."

What's a few hundred thousand dead Iraqis compared to having one of our own in the top job?

The Guardian/Observer tendency did try to clamber back on to the high ground on Tuesday with the headline "Making this ruthless liar EU president is a crazy plan."

Then they went and spoiled it all by saying something stupid: "But I'll be backing Blair."

The writer, George Monbiot, reckons that Blair, as EU president, would have to travel hither and yon, thus increasing the chances of him being nabbed in some tidy jurisdiction, given a clatter on the ear and carted off in handcuffs to the Hague.

"It is just possible that an investigating magistrate, like Baltasar Garzon, the Spanish judge who issued a warrant for the arrest of General Pinochet, would set the police on him." We can but dream.

The Brown government let it be known on Monday that it had psyched itself into campaigning mode and would be dispatching proselytisers across the EU to plead Blair's case.

What Europe needs as President, declared Foreign Secretary David Miliband, is "a big hitter who could stop the traffic" in capital cities.

Blair is, if anything, over-qualified on this score, having stopped the traffic in Baghdad, for example, by reducing the road system, and the rest of the country's transport infrastructure to rubble and dust.

Presumably, Miliband has other strategies in mind for Paris, Berlin, Rome and Dublin.

It should be mentioned that, at the time of writing, the former premier hasn't actually said that he wants the job. Maybe he's not sure he and Cherie could afford it. The position pays five-and-a-half grand a week. The Blairs aren't used to making do on that sort of money.

Blair operates as a Middle East 'peace envoy' for the 'Quartet' - the EU, the UN, Russia and the US. (Isn't that everybody - and some of them twice over?)

He also heads up Tony Blair Associates (TBA) - an outfit reportedly described by one of his friends as having been "set up to make money from foreign governments and major companies.

"There's a focus on the Middle East because that's where the money is."

Blair also represents investment bankers JP Morgan in the region. Whatever they are paying him, they can well-afford it.

JP Morgan was gifted $29bn of US taxpayers' money last year to help it buy out Bear Sterns.

He now regularly holds meetings with the rulers of Arab states as Quartet envoy, as the representative of TBA and as an agent of JP Morgan.

Sometimes, it seems, the roles become confused.

On the morning of May 24 last, Blair, as peace envoy, met with the education minister of the United Arab Emirates to discuss Gaza.

In the afternoon, by now transmogrified into the representative of JP Morgan, he met the UAE's finance minister, head of a multi-billion pound investment operation, to discuss, naturally, "investment opportunities".

The Sunday Times on October 18 quoted John McGaw of Golden Oryx, a UAE-based 'business development company' who said "(Blair) has a fantastic network, which is still sort of warm from his former days.

"He lends global credibility to one of the top sovereign wealth funds."

Similar sets of meetings have been held this year with members of the ruling families of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

Yorkshire man Peter Brierley, whose son Shaun was killed just north of Kuwait on the road to Baghdad in 2003, commented: "This beggars belief. It's absolutely scandalous that he's now trying to make money from his contacts in the region. It's money from the blood and lives of the soldiers who died in Iraq."

Blair is now said to be making £10m a year.

On top of commission from deals struck in Arabia, he can charge £250,000 for talks on "leadership" and has a £5m book deal with Random House.

The Blairs own six homes - the latest addition being John Gielgud's old £4m mansion in Buckinghamshire.

Then there's the listed Georgian £3.65m townhouse in Connaught Square in Westminster. Connaught Square backs onto Archery Close.

The Blairs splashed out £800,000 on the mews house behind them on Archery Close for fear that nosey people might move in.

Blair owes all this to having once won the leadership of the Labour Party - the party of the working class. Or so it still presented itself before Blair cottoned on that it could also serve as an investment opportunity.

EU President? Where I come from decent people wouldn't walk on the same side of the street as Tony Blair.

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