The Case for Bashing Tony Blair

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Tuesday, 01 July 2014 03:57

It seems that Matthew D'Ancona is upset that people are criticizing former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is apparently making vast sums in a second career in the financial industry and on the speaking circuit. There are several points worth noting.

First, as is the case with Bill Clinton, his generational counterpart in the United States, the public certainly has good cause to be upset that Blair set the economy on a path of bubble driven growth, even if the bubble blew on the watch of his successor. The public also has the right to be furious that Blair, like President Bush in the United States, misled his country into war in Iraq.

Both of these factors should be enough to tarnish Blair's public standing well past his lifetime, but the immediate topic is the fortune that he is amassing in his career as a former Prime Minister. There are two issues here. First, it is difficult to avoid the perception that Blair, like Clinton and now former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, are cashing in on the connections that they have made in their political careers. It seems more plausible that Blair and Geithner are attractive as employees in the financial industry because of who they know, as opposed to their business acumen. Also, the lavish speaking fees these people earn can be at least as much to curry favor as opposed to an immense desire to hear their wisdom.

But let's give Blair and Co. the benefit of the doubt and assume that there are no quid pro quos for the hundreds of millions being thrown their way. There is still a separate issue. Suppose that Tony Blair had spent his political career sounding more like Elizabeth Warren than Bill Clinton. Would the big bucks still be flowing in his direction?

My guess is that the answer is no. Blair, like Clinton and Geithner, is eligible to get incredibly wealthy in his second career because he has pursued policies that were hugely favorable to the financial industry. This is a serious problem.

If we give our political leaders credit for a tiny bit of foresight, they would recognize that they stand to become enormously wealthy if they pursue policies favorable to the financial sector and other big business interests. On the other hand, if they pursue more balanced policies they will just enjoy the retirement of a very well paid professional. D'Ancona wants us to believe that this fact could not possibly affect the policies they pursue while in office, and he is angry at those who might think otherwise.