Why Tony Blair should keep his money

It has come to something when not just profit is a dirty word but raising money for charity has become an unethical activity

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The Independent Online

Is there no end to Tony Blair’s betrayal of the Labour Party? Not content with winning it three elections and helping it to make the country so much better, he now wants to save the party from bankruptcy.

I wondered how the weird anti-Blair cult would find ways to condemn him for daring to consider making further donations to the party.

George Eaton of the New Statesman reported yesterday that Blair has “recently had discussions with Labour figures about making a ‘large donation’ to the party”. It depends on your definition of “large”, but the story is accurate. He has already given £76,000 in the form of staff and resources during the 2010 election, and £12,000 in cash, and he is “in discussions about various ways he can best continue to support the Labour Party” confirms a friend of his.

So how would the haters, who are a noisy minority in the Labour Party and a noisy majority in the British media, react? “This Blood Money Is Proof of Blair’s Guilty Conscience” would make a good Daily Mail headline, but I couldn’t find it in my copy this morning. All I could find was a blog post by Jon Lansman, who was once Tony Benn’s campaign manager, on a website called Left Futures: “Union money is the cleanest in politics. Tony Blair’s is not. Let him keep it.”

I agree with Lansman’s conclusion, but not with his reasoning. It was the same reasoning advanced by the other wing of the alliance of the right and the so-called left who loathe Blair: Henry Smith, the Conservative MP, wrote today to Ed Miliband warning against taking donations from Blair because his money is from “questionable sources”.

It has come to something when not just profit is a dirty word but raising money for charity has become an unethical activity. The British ambivalence about money has curdled into something quite unpleasant in the case of the country’s most successful progressive prime minister since 1951.

It doesn’t matter that Blair raises money to employ nearly 200 people in foundations promoting inter-faith dialogue, African development and sport in the north-east. It doesn’t matter that his companies have paid £1.6m in corporation tax. It doesn’t matter that he has given nearly £10m to charities since he stepped down as Prime Minister, including the £4m advance for his memoir, which he gave to the British Legion.

On top of all that, he has the temerity to work hard and live comfortably. He owns even more houses than Michael Meacher and has provided for his adult children in a way that only the very rich can afford. And we are supposed to criticise him for it?

Unless Ed Miliband praises Blair’s post-prime-ministerial career as a shining example of public service, I hope Blair keeps his money.