Matthew Norman: Blair the benefits scrounger

Here is the former PM expecting the taxpayer to cough up untold amounts in order to protect him from the results of his self-indulgence in Iraq

Wednesday 07 July 2010 00:00 BST

There generally comes a point in the life of the addict, be it one blackout or roulette calamity or bad trip too far, when the self-deception becomes unsustainable and the need for help unavoidable. So here goes. My name is Matthew and I'm a Blairoholic.

I've fought the addiction for years, sometimes going months without a shot and convincing myself I had it beaten. But what can I say? It's an illness, and at least after 15 years I've found the courage to recognise that. A new dawn has broken, has it not, on the road to recovery?

The self-awareness tipping point in this case wasn't one bad trip, but a clutch of splendid ones, taken by Mr Tony Blair to various of the planet's more exclusive resorts with his lovely wife Cherie and his elite corps of Metropolitan Police protection officers.

It's the latter who have raised the eyebrows, hackles and stomach acid. Bending over backwards in the quest for fairness until the position makes the 15-year-old Olga Korbut look as supple as a marble plinth, it isn't the coppers' fault that they amassed expenses totalling £250,000 last year to safeguard Mr Blair on his jaunts.

What would you do if the chief super sidled over with a clipped "Right, Dimbleby, two choices. A couple of nights in the Focus watching that semi in Leytonstone where those Muslim brothers are keeping a bag of baking soda, in which case you can claim for McDonald's and a neck message. Or accompany codename Ego to Parrot Cay in the Turks and Caicos, the Caribbean's pre-eminent private island offering the super-rich 1,000 acres of unspoilt beauty and beach houses with private pools. You'll have to share with the others, I'm afraid. But the lobster is particularly sweet at the minute, and you can claim for swimming trunks, Ambre Solaire, two pairs of prescription Ray-Bans, a white mink tuxedo..."

Precisely how this quartet of cops ran up a reported expenses bill of £20,000 during a fortnight with the Blairs on Borneo we'll never discover. No doubt ice creams, bar snacks and diamond-encrusted deep-sea diving suits aren't cheap in such places, and if the good Lord had meant us to know, He would hardly have gone to the trouble of creating that catch-all entity for embarrassing things known down the ages as "the interests of national security".

The interests of Mr Tony's personal security, financial and otherwise, are equally all-encompassing when it comes to secrecy. He has, we do know, set up a chain of income-redirecting companies of such Byzantine impenetrability that it is impossible to work out who pays him how much for what work. It would appear, however, that he's done all right since leaving Downing Street, with his wealth now conservatively estimated at £20m.

It is at this point that this addict's self-loathing kicks in. Common sense screams that we shouldn't fret over his riches, or carp that he should feel obliged to cover the cost of the protection to which, as a sworn foe of Islamic terrorists, he is clearly entitled.

There's something degrading about dwelling on his wealth and freedom from shame about it. Nothing's too good for the workers, even if they spend time selflessly carved from floating on oligarchic superyachts on refreshing breaks in plutocratic resorts abutting miles of golden sands.

And yet, and yet... that voice nags away that throughout the New Labour years, we were endlessly told that the obese, smokers and boozers had forfeited the moral right to National Health Service treatment for damage done by their dangerous self-indulgence. Meanwhile, here he is expecting the taxpayer to cough up untold amounts of money in police time and overtime, flights, hotels, packets of Percy Pigs and so on – at a time when the police warn us that cutbacks will prevent them properly investigating alleged rapes – to protect him from the results of his self-indulgence in Iraq.

What he has become is a rarefied benefits scrounger – the offspring of Ma Boswell from Bread – hiding his money in the pot while claiming for what he can well afford himself. That £250,000 in police exes would take him half a day in an investment bank boardroom to recoup. He could hire a retinue of a dozen former SAS men, and write the lot off against income tax, or reimburse the Met Police, or make an ex gratia payment to the Treasury as a gesture of goodwill. If he has done any of the above, the spokesman who rebutted the suggestion that his police squad's expenses reflect poorly on him would have mentioned it.

The thing I most resent about Mr Blair, oddly enough, isn't Mr Blair. If pottering pointlessly about in Jerusalem, running his "faith foundation", or advising Goldman Sachs on how to cash in on Afghan mineral reserves persuades him that he is still a figure of global significance, the mature response is, so what? He's done all the damage he will ever do, and the few millions being stumped up in the cause of the self-delusional globetrotting make no odds to a deficit heading for a trillion.

It's what he brings out in me I resent, much as with Tim Henman. It wasn't Tim's fault that we projected on to him a level of ambition he wasn't psychologically capable of satisfying. The ambition that Mr Blair will wake up someone else, and regret his small-scale plundering of the Exchequer that his government did so much to bankrupt, is absurd. He is what he is. People don't change even when they want to – and he palpably doesn't.

But it's always there, this childish fantasy that he will have an epiphany about the disgrace he has brought on his office since leaving it, bubbling away with the nausea and making fools of us. And with it travels the debilitating suspicion that it will never stop... that in 30 years' time I will feel the bile rise and nausea grip on reading in the Daily Mail that we are paying £327,000 a year for a sextet of Filipino nurses to wipe his bum and feed him liquidised Beluga through a tube on some iPhone apps billonaire's yacht.

So it's time to go cold turkey, and join Blairoholics Anonymous. He's fed a need in me and others like me for 15 years, but this endless cycle of addiction has to end. Not another word then. Until the next time.

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