Tony’s tangled affairs
In Dispatches, The Wonderful World of Tony Blair (Channel 4, 26 September) muckraking journalist Peter Oborne addressed the contentious issue of the former Prime Minister’s recent business dealings. Readers may recall that in an earlier programme, he (Oborne) described the influence of a powerful pro-Israeli lobby in this country. Some commentators, including Oborne, have suggested that Blair was in thrall to Zionist elements, emphasising in particular his close relationship with Michael Levy (“Lord Cashpoint”). Certain analysts even detect here the real origins of the Iraq War, which removed one of Israel’s enemies in the region. Blair’s subsequent rapprochement with Libya neutralised another and he recently emphasised the need to deal with a third, Iran, by all means necessary. Note also that if Blair had genuinely believed that Saddam Hussein possessed W.M.D., would he have risked invading Iraq? The logic of the theory of deterrence suggests that he would not.
The gravamen of Oborne’s indictment of Blair is of using his admittedly unpaid position as Envoy of the Quartet in the Middle East as a means to win lucrative contracts for his international consultancy, Tony Blair Associates. Several of these contracts are with autocratic regimes in the region. Oborne perceives here both hypocrisy and a blatant conflict of interests. He reminds us that as opposition leader and then Prime Minister, Blair endorsed and strengthened the Nolan Rules which are incumbent on all holders of public office but are not applicable to the Quartet’s Envoy.
According to Oborne, Blair has also signally failed to defend the interests of the Palestinians. Indeed, he suspects that his much vaunted diplomatic mission is a cynical sham. The Great Powers (notably America) can thereby claim to be doing something to resolve this contentious issue. Meanwhile, Israel continues to build illegal settlements with impunity, her colonists attack Palestinian farmers and the Palestinian business community is held back by a welter of vexatious restrictions. And indicatively, for all his rhetorical support for an equitable two state solution, Blair remains popular both in Israel and in the United States.
Anthony Charles Lynton Blair (who some people consider an unrepentant war criminal) has finally become rich, thanks mainly to his contacts in the Middle East and services rendered during the Iraq War. The details of his financial dealings remain secret but he reportedly owns seven homes plus salubrious offices in Mayfair. When he visits Jerusalem he hires a whole floor in what is reputedly the best hotel. But just how did Blair become leader of the Labour Party in the first place? To whom was he beholden? Perhaps these intriguing questions should be the subject of a further enquiry by the intrepid Mr Oborne.
Leslie Jones, 29 September 2011