I could earn more if I wanted, says Blair after criticism of envoy role

 

Tony Blair has spoken out against "hurtful" allegations that he has profiteered from his diplomatic missions to the Middle East, saying that most of the work he does is unpaid.

Rising resentment against the former prime minister, especially from within Palestine, has dogged recent attempts to help push forward peace plans, and he has been accused of profiting from commercial deals.

"It's completely untrue. Even [for] me with my broad shoulders and thick skin after all these years, it's not pleasant to have people say that," he told an Indian television channel. "I probably spend two thirds of my time on pro bono activity. I probably spend the biggest single chunk of my time on the Middle East peace process, which I do unpaid.

"If what I was interested in doing was making money I could make a lot more and have a very gentle and easy life." On Libya he said: "I've never made any commercial deals out of Libya at all. I was very instrumental in bringing him in from the cold when he gave up his nuclear and chemical weapons, started co-operating in the fight against terrorism. I hoped he might shift internal policy to match external policy shifts, but he did not."

He also dismissed accusations of having too cozy a relationship with media barons. "If you're in a situation where these guys can literally take out any ministers and make your government rock, you've got no option to work hard and try to bring them around," he said

"This is not so much about a cosy relationship, it's a relationship in which you are dealing with people who have the capacity to do very great damage."

His comments came as the Palestinian Authority denied it plans to make a formal request to remove Mr Blair from his position as a Middle East envoy. The former Prime Minister has held the position of special envoy for the Quartet, made up of the US, Russia, the EU and UN, for four years. However, some Palestinians believe he is biased towards the Israelis.

A spokesman for the PA said while there was great unhappiness with Mr Blair's role as envoy, his removal was not a priority. He added there were no plans to formally ask for Mr Blair to be replaced. There has been a series of mainly anonymous Palestinian complaints about Mr Blair's role as a mediator in the run-up to President Mahmoud Abbas's application for UN recognition a week ago. And Nabil Shaath, a member of the delegation Mr Abbas took to New York, was highly critical 13 days ago of the draft Quartet statement, which Mr Blair presented to the Palestinian President a few days earlier.

Mr Shaath said on the record at the time Mr Blair seemed "sometimes" more like an "Israeli diplomat" than a neutral interlocutor.

Cherie turns to business

Cherie Blair has accepted the directorship of a company that hopes to make money from the opening up of the NHS to private firms.

The barrister wife of the former Labour Prime Minister is a founder director of Mee, a company that wants to open private clinics in supermarkets, which include Sainsbury's and Tesco. The company is believed to represent Mrs Blair's first foray into commerce.

The move will dismay the Labour Party, which used its conference this week to condemn Coalition plans to open up the NHS to private competition.

On Wednesday, the shadow Health Secretary John Healey told delegates the plans were a "betrayal of our NHS" and would "damage patient care".

The plans would, he added, "break up the NHS as a national health service and set it up as a full-scale market, ruled for the first time by the full force of competition law". Mee claims it will provide a "revolutionary new way of delivering health care".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
  • Get to the point
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own