The determination of Tony Blair and his wife Cherie to enrich themselves to the tune of tens of millions of pounds over the past decade has been one of the most unedifying spectacles of British public life.
In essence, Blair has been exploiting the know-how and contacts he acquired during his ten-year stint as Prime Minister to build up a fortune of a magnitude far beyond the wildest dreams of any normal, democratically elected politician.
It is true, of course, that to some degree most former British statesmen are involved in a similar racket — delivering tedious speeches to gullible foreign businessmen for six-figure sums, and offering exorbitant advice to financial companies which could be obtained far more cheaply elsewhere.
But Blair has uniquely plumbed the depths by earning stupendous amounts from the most unsavoury dictators. For example, he has pocketed millions from his consultancy work for President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, whose regime has been guilty of appalling human rights abuses.
A leak to a national newspaper now suggests that the avaricious former leader of the Labour Party has crossed a line which even he had previously respected. He really is a man without shame or sense of honour.
The nub of the case against him is that his work as an official Middle East peace envoy from 2007 was partly funded in secret by the oil-rich United Arab Emirates (UAE), which helped finance his London office.
Yet at the same time he received millions of pounds in consultancy fees from the state (an absolute monarchy, by the way, with a poor human rights record) and the sovereign wealth fund of its capital, Abu Dhabi.
In other words, while he was working on behalf of the so-called Quartet (the UN, EU, Russia and the U.S.) to try to sort out the Israeli-Palestinian imbroglio, he was enjoying a lucrative commercial relationship with the UAE, which was also partially funding his work as an envoy.
Tony Blair has pocketed millions from his consultancy work for President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan (pictured together in 2000)
Moreover, a senior foreign official seconded to help him in his official duties appears to have become involved in Blair's business activities. Michael Banner set up talks between a Korean oil company called UI Energy, which was being advised by the former Prime Minister, and the head of a state-run investment firm in Abu Dhabi.
If I mention that the chief executive of UI was a gentleman by the name of Kyu-Sun Choi, who had served a two-year prison sentence for bribery, you may get some sort of flavour of the kind of people with whom the former occupant of No 10 has been rubbing shoulders since he surrendered his seals of office.
Unsurprisingly, Blair's spokesman denied any jiggery-pokery when confronted by the Daily Telegraph. But if everything really was wholly above board, why were the United Arab Emirates' contributions to Blair's Quartet work not disclosed on the official website which did, however, declare sources of income from other countries, including the UK?
It is worth noting that UAE's formal relations with Israel are not friendly, though the two states share an antipathy towards Iran, and are believed to maintain covert contacts with each other. Blair may have wanted to conceal his financial connections with the UAE for diplomatic as well as private reasons.
All in all, this smells very fishy to me. In a properly regulated world, Blair wouldn't have had commercial dealings with any foreign countries while he was acting as an envoy. For him to have had hidden financial dealings with an important Middle East state offends against every notion of transparency.
Nor should we forget he failed totally in his mission as peacemaker, which he finally abandoned in 2015. It's true the Israel-Palestinian conflict is an intractable one, and the most committed envoy in the world could be forgiven for making little progress.
But Blair was hardly dedicated to the cause, visiting Jerusalem with his large entourage only about one week in four, so that for several years 15 rooms in a luxury hotel on the edge of the city (annual cost more than £1 million) lay empty for most of the time.
It's difficult to escape the conclusion that he regarded the important role of Middle East envoy as something of a sideline, which enabled him to make piles of cash from other sources — very possibly more than he otherwise would have done.
Do I think that these latest revelations, illuminating as they do Tony Blair's innate greed and underhand behaviour, will represent the fatal death knell for his already ruined reputation? I doubt it.
The Chilcot Report was critical of Blair's behaviour before the Iraq War, but it acquitted him of deliberately misleading the British public
Our political Establishment, though it has largely disowned him in private, is reluctant to concede in public that an ex-British Prime Minister could be remotely comparable in moral terms to dodgy European politicians such as Blair's old friend, the Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi, who was finally done for tax fraud.
The Chilcot Report was critical of Blair's behaviour before the Iraq War, but it acquitted him of deliberately misleading the British public.
Yet last month Sir John Chilcot seemed to go further in a BBC interview when, apparently caught on the hop, he said he didn't believe Tony Blair was 'straight with the nation' about his decisions in the run-up to the Iraq War.
But IF the Establishment (including many Tories) continue to find excuses for him, I don't think the British people are so indulgent. The disclosures about his commercial dealings with the UAE will be widely adduced as further proof that the man is not to be trusted.
Here is someone who, despite his loudly professed Christian convictions, seems almost sick with avarice. No one wants a former Prime Minister to starve, but the way in which he has built a fortune on the back of his time in office (at the latest count, the Blair family own 38 homes worth an estimated £33 million) is nauseating.
And this is the man who would like to put himself at the head of the Remain cause, gleefully announcing recently that 'it's possible now that Brexit does not happen'. Ten days ago he was hobnobbing with the Prime Minister of Malta, Joseph Muscat, an almost equally passionate anti-Brexiteer who, like Blair, has a long association with the corrupt and repressive dictatorship of Azerbaijan.
As someone who voted Leave, I suppose I should be glad that such a person should be offering himself as the standard bearer of a cause which, he hopes, will succeed in reversing a democratic vote. In a sense I am, since his leadership would inevitably be the kiss of death.
But looking at this morally bankrupt character, and considering the latest revelations, my feeling is that even dyed-in-the-wool Remainers deserve better than Tony Blair.
DailyMail, 15 August 2017