this is an extract a review of Tom Bower's book on Tony Blair which appeared in the London Review of Books
Bower is good at capturing both the inadvertent humour and the inadvertent horror of the netherworld in which Blair came to move, an uneasy mixture of celebrity, charity and wonkery. His post-2007 career has allowed him to indulge all his worst instincts in these directions, along with his burning desire to make a lot of money, which seems to have been there all along.
However, he hasn’t had it all his own way. Bower recounts what happened when Blair bumped up against another of his favourite subjects, the notorious do-gooder and skinflint Richard Branson. As a ‘face for hire’ providing consultancy advice for various ‘green’ ventures, Blair offered his services to Branson, who was dabbling in this area. ‘Almost inevitably,’ Bower writes, ‘Blair accepted Branson’s invitations to visit Necker, part of the British Virgin Islands, but eventually discovered that the tycoon refused to reimburse him for advice.’ Maybe there is no such thing as a free holiday after all.
The truly scary parts of Bower’s book don’t really concern Blair at all, or his intimate circle, or even his ever growing property empire or his flirtations with the international arms trade. It comes when he strays into the orbit of the Clintons, who have long inhabited the same netherworld in which he now operates. Blair hooked up with Branson via Bill Clinton, whose foundation has its finger in many of the same pies that Blair has been trying to access on the speechmaking/fundraising/deal-brokering circuit.
More than once, as I read Bower on Blair the international deliverologist, I found myself wondering what a no-holds-barred exposé of the Clintons’ activities over the same period would look like. It’s a chilling thought. Hillary Clinton is very likely to be the Democratic nominee for the presidency. She may well be facing Donald Trump, a candidate she should have no difficulty beating, other things being equal. But other things are not equal. The way Tony Blair and Bill Clinton have conducted themselves since leaving office is a hostage to the fortunes not just of their personal reputations but of the political causes they still represent. It is sometimes said that Clinton and Blair should shoulder the blame for making politicians like Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders so appealing to their erstwhile supporters. But that’s probably as it should be: parties move on