Saturday 26 December 2009
It’s another one of these “I just don’t believe it” moments.
It has been revealed in the Daily Telegraph that it costs the taxpayer around £6 million a year to protect Tony Blair from the vast array of enemies he has managed to collect over the years. Since leaving Downing Street Blair has taken a number of posts, for which he has to travel abroad regularly. He also is involved in 'charity' (or profile-raising) work in Africa, and of course the hugely lucrative 'personal appearance' work which he undertakes regularly. He is said to have earned in the region of £18 million in the last 2 years from this work.
Each time he goes abroad Scotland Yard has to send an advance team to carry out risk assessment, and he has to be accompanied by teams of police officers for round the clock protection. Apparently there is a team of some 20 officers assigned to Blair at a cost of £115,000 a week. Additionally members of his family receive protection. (The current Prime Minister has only 10 protection officers.)
Most of the foreign travel is undertaken for personal commercial gain. Apparently, like the bottom rungs of royalty, he rents himself out to open things and say a few words. It seems that Scotland Yard is not allowed to advise Mr Blair on what he should and should not do on the basis of cost; they are obliged to suck it up and pay out regardless of the bill to the British taxpayer. The only criteria for advice on whether to travel or not must be security based.
Not unreasonably the Metropolitan Police Authority have issues with how much this drains their budgets, particularly as Blair is out there making a vast amount of money, all for himself. The feeling is that he should be making a contribution to his security costs. It is feared that, after he has given evidence to the Chilcot Inquiry next year, the costs will rise again. When people discover more about how this man sent people to their deaths with little protection on the basis that God had told Mr Bush that it was the right thing to do, the hatred for Blair which makes him such a target, may well increase.
My view is that, when the ex-Prime Minster travels for the UK, or when he is operating on state business within the UK, he should be afforded the standard protection at our expense. However, if he decides to feather his own nest by travelling all over the world, he should be paying for that protection at commercial rates and from commercial protection organisations. We are not here to subsidise his family business.
In these hard times for our broke country, wished upon us largely by the likes of Blair, we all have to learn to live with less. Why is it that the people at the top seem to avoid any of the pain? The bankers, the other great cause of our misery, have us over a barrel. Pay us obscenely, or we leave and you’ll be even more broke. What’s Blair’s bargaining chip?