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Tony Blair, freelance statesman

1 September 2010

6:02 PM

1 September 2010

6:02 PM

Say what you like about Blair, but he is something of a political entrepreneur. He
detects a gap in the market and fills it: he did with New Labour in the mid-1990s. And he detects a trend in the globalised world: a system where governments don’t matter so much and power is held
by a global elite. This, CoffeeHousers, is what he’s up to with his memoirs. He is presenting himself in new incarnation, a statesman without a state, able to move without being tied down to an
electorate. There’s a very revealing passage in his book where he talks about Condi Rice:

“She is a classic example of the absurdity of people with experience and capacity at the highest level not having big political jobs after retirement from office,” he writes. “But
that’s another story!” Indeed it is. It’s the cover story of tomorrow’s Spectator.

Blair has evidently long regarded it as "absurd" that clever, talented people like him should leave the world stage simply because an ungrateful electorate has had enough of them. Read
between the lines of his book, and you can see a manifesto for the need for a Blair figure in this globalised world of ours. This memoir is not about score-settling, or making money. It’s not about
self-vindication. What he’s up to is far more clever – he’s using his memoirs to build Blair Inc and he has put together an extraordinary business model. We have the halo-seeking activities on one
side: charitable donations, unpaid envoy work, faith and sports foundations etc. This augments his reputation, which is turned into cash through his Kissinger-style consultancies: Blair Associates,
Firerush ventures and his other for-profit companies.


A look at the book’s chapters shows you that this is a case not of a man selling a book, but a book selling a man. There’s a chapter on "Managing Crises" which puts Blair Inc in the
market for the risk management industry. There’s "Peace in Northern Ireland" which bolsters Blair Inc’s credentials for conflict resolution. His declaration that he’s always found faith
more interesting than politics tees up the Blair Faith Foundation well. He has taken care not to be mean to any potential customer of Blair Inc: Putin is praised for his "warmth," and no
one in any position of real power is excoriated. The coalition government are spared all of the brickbats thrown in Gordon Brown’s direction.

Is he after the money? I don’t think this is the answer. Unlike his wife, Blair has never been motivated by accumulating capital – if he was, why give the estimated £7m of proceeds from this
book to the Royal British Legion? He wants to keep on being a leader. To become a statesman without a state. To keep the trappings of power, and lose the traps. By all accounts, he’s done this
already. He apparently has 130 staff, a rapid rebuttal unit (which I have seen in action), an entourage – his life is a blur of presidential suites and first-class travel. He says he has
"never felt…a greater urge to leadership" than he does now. Leader of what? Of whom? Is he just in denial? Again, this underestimates Blair. Just as he spotted a gap in the political
market for New Labour, he spots a gap in the world market for Blair Inc.

Blair’s book tells about how the world is changing, and governments are losing control of it. He paints a picture of a new global elite, and it’s easy to see that he regards himself as a potential
master of this new universe. No one elected Bono, but – Blair gushes – "he could have been a Prime Minister or President standing on his head". Bill Clinton has this status, of Global
Leader For Hire, and even found himself resolving real disputes – taking hostages back from North Korea last year. Blair is transcending both party (there’s nothing left-wing about his memoir) and
even country (he’s being less and less British every time he makes a guest appearance here). Like Clinton, he has discovered that a smile and a contacts book can be worth a lot of money.

"I now travel to China frequently" he says – and you can bet it’s not for the lemon chicken. Not for nothing does the Blair Faith Foundation have offices in East and West. This book is
about promoting a global brand: that of Blair himself. So we should not waste too much time scouring it for his thoughts about the country he has left behind.


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