No one begrudges former Prime Ministers the right to live in dignified circumstances after departing from their office, provided they do not leave that office in disgrace. Certainly one would not wish them to have to rely on the Distressed Gentlefolk Association for nurture. But one does look askance at the conduct of the last two occupants of that office.

At the risk of accusations of pomposity, it seems to me that part of the deal of us putting these people into the highest office in the land is that this is the apotheosis of public service which becomes a lifetime commitment. Thus one expects that they should gravitate to the Lords there to place at the service the nation the accumulated wisdom and experience of their time in office. If, in addition, they wish to earn a crust on the lucrative lecture circuit (which, provided the speeches are any good, is another way of sharing that knowledge and experience), that is fair enough.

Where I draw a line, not just in the case of Mr. Blair and his ghastly wife but also in the case of Sir John Major, is their spurning of further public service and the placing of their experience to the benefit of narrow foreign commercial interests.

Thus Sir John Major, eschewing the House of Lords, returned to the world of high finance (which some, in view of his poor showing as PM, think may have been the limit of his abilities anyway) as a member of the European Advisory Board of Carlyle Group (for which, as your fancy takes you, see: this, this or this), a US Private Equity Group with heavy connections to the US establishment and what Eisenhower called the ‘military-industrial complex’. It is difficult to see that as anything different from a Defence Procurement minister going to work for BAE Systems when they get the push from government: only the title, the salary and your co-workers are of a different class.

At least, though, Sir John Major was reasonably discreet about it (as he was when cheating on his wife). Tony Blair does not do ‘discreet’. The ink on his P45 (employment tax certificate) is barely dry before he has found a trough loaded to the gunnels with swill and shoved his snout as deep into as he can get. Not for him a British company (unsurprising in view of the help he gave the Indian Mittals over their Romanian Steel works) which might have given him a modest bit of cover that he was advancing British interests, but instead he has chosen the JP Morgan trough into which to shove his snout.

I also have another objection which is that, although I have no doubt he will not disclose any specific detailed secrets to these foreigners, inevitably his wisdom and advice is based on the sum total of all he has seen and learnt whilst in office, which inevitably includes material submitted to him by our intelligence services. That strikes me as objectionable.

The press and others have also had their say (see, inter alia, here, here, here, here) and no one seems exactly filled with enthusiasm. Blair, of course, having a greedy wife to sustain in the style to which she is now accustomed and being equipped with a rhinoceros hide of impenetrable thickness, will be untroubled by the criticism.

Most people with any sense of propriety whatsoever would think that his acceptance of this immodest pourboire for services rendered would immediately preclude him from holding the office of President of the EU Council on the basis that the conflict of interest would be plain as a pikestaff to all and sundry. Legally the President of the Council may not hold national office but there is nothing in law to prevent him being an adviser to JP Morgan concurrently.

But in terms of propriety it is unthinkable that he should hold the two posts simultaneously: there is, at the very least, a huge apparent conflict of interest. Most would say there is also an actual conflict of interest.

He would, as President of the EU, be party to some of the most sensitive and secret deliberations of the EU, many of which touch upon the present and future economic state of Europe and its colonies (the erstwhile ‘member states’): it is simply unconscionable that he could fly from a meeting of the council in Brussels to a meeting of the board of JP Morgan there to share his knowledge as to the future plans of the EU.

In most countries it would be called ‘insider dealing’.

Yet, unsurprisingly, when asked:

EU officials said there would be no barrier to Mr Blair becoming the first EU President of the Council of Ministers while advising private sector companies at the same time.

Daily Telegraph 11 January 2008

When you think about it, how better can his accomplices reward him for delivering up to them the keys of the United Kingdom than letting him be both President of the EU Council and contemporaneously paid gazillions of dollars for sharing his thoughts on the world economy and globalization?

After all that is probably what thirty pieces of silver is worth after two thousand years of inflation.

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