REMARKABLY, for an instigator of a war in Iraq that was declared illegal by the UN, former prime minister Tony Blair is still treated as an elder statesman in Britain.
The former Labour leader was recently given a fawning interview on BBC Radio 4’s flagship morning Today programme in which he had free rein to attack current party leader Jeremy Corbyn, describing him as “existential threat” to the party.
What was not revealed in that interview is that Blair’s Institute has received £9 million from the Saudi tyrant Mohammed bin Salman, making him effectively a mouthpiece for the Gulf regime in Britain. Blair, not surprisingly, has lavishly praised the Saudi crown prince’s so-called reform policies and his brutal war in Yemen.
In a Financial Times report on the Tony Blair Institute’s first annual accounts, it confirmed the receipt of millions from Media Investment Limited (MIL), which is a subsidiary of Saudi Research & Marketing Group, registered in Guernsey. Its former chair was Saudi Culture Minister Badr bin Abdullah bin Mohammed al-Farhan.
Blair’s institute “was set up in late 2016 after Blair announced that he was wrapping up his controversial business empire in order to focus on philanthropy,” reported the FT.
Blair is a very rich man and declares that he does not take any of the money as income for himself. Nevertheless he can hardly be treated seriously as a commentator on British politics when his entire post-politics career has been built on forging business links with Gulf and other oil-gas interests.
Blair chairs the US financial group JP Morgan’s international council and is on the advisory panel to the Southern Gas Corridor pipeline.
The latter is a $40 billion project to bring gas from the Caspian Sea to western Europe via Georgia, Turkey and Albania and, not coincidentally, is probably the most significant threat to Russia’s dominance of Europe’s gas market.
His meeting last week with Italy’s far-right Home Minister Matteo Salvini was mainly to discuss the Adriatic end of the gas pipeline, which is supposed to reach Italy if it can overcome opposition to its environmental impact.
Blair’s other big funder is Ukrainian billionaire Victor Pinchuk who is close to the pro-Nato government of fellow billionaire Petro Poroshenko. Pinchuk has been funding Blair’s Faith Foundation since 2011.
Blair seems to have a finger in every pie related to Western energy interests in the Middle East and the former Soviet sphere. He is like a British Henry Kissinger, if not as intellectually respected.
Since he first became party leader, Blair always linked himself to the most neoconservative leaders and power brokers in the Western elite, from Margaret Thatcher to Rupert Murdoch and George W Bush.
Following his disastrous role in the Iraq war, he has become a bagman for the oil-gas sector across the wider Middle East, with powerful friends from Dubai to Astana.
Blair has consistently been hawkishly pro-war since he left office, backing military action across the Middle East and favouring a hard line against Iran. He is close to the far-right Israeli government as well as to the rulers of the United Arab Emirates.
However, Today’s presenter Nick Robinson preferred to describe him as Labour’s most successful politician and left it to left-wing commentator Owen Jones to point out his links with “murderous dictatorships.”
Should Corbyn have been found to be in the pay of any Middle Eastern authoritarian regime, we can be sure it would be the top political story of the day. Not so for Blair.
Blairite MPs have spent all summer alleging anti-semitism in the party was out of control and making slanderous attacks on Corbyn. Despite this, Labour is ahead of the Tories in the polls.
The crisis in the party is really about a large group of MPs who can’t stand the leadership and despise the new mass membership that backs its socialist agenda.
Since the manufactured anti-semitism crisis has failed to topple Corbyn, it now falls to Blair to take up the baton of trying to split the party and prevent a left-wing Labour government coming to power.
However, he is a discredited figure politically. No matter how much airtime he gets, he will not be able to reverse history and turn Labour back into the pro-war, pro-business party it was under him.
But, if he does encourage a parliamentary breakaway to form a new centre party, the risk to Labour’s chances of forming a government is real and present.
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