And a certain ex-ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother. And Blair, said, All these have I, you know, kept from my youth up. Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. And when Blair heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich. And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. And Blair did answer, Lummee.
– Adapted from the Gospel according to Saint Luke
The announcement that Tony Blair is to wind down his money-making ventures to concentrate on good works will surprise many, who imagined he would carry on offloading wealth from the world’s multi-billionaire dictators until he dropped from sheer exhaustion.
It was certainly a bolt from the blue. The revelation that Bashir Al Assad had decided to give up state terror in favour of a bid for the secretary-general’s job at the UN would, admittedly, have occasioned greater surprise, but it still came something of a shock.
Did our former prime minister, unlike the Syrian despot, have a Road to Damascus moment? Did he talk to God and get a flea in his ear? Or did he simply grow tired of the British press, and his many ill-natured critics in the Middle East, pointing out, with no small measure of contempt and derision, that he was coining it as the Arab World burned?
Who knows? We may have to wait for the reviews of volume 2 of his memoirs to find out. For myself, I think there were two factors at work.
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First, Blair is an ego-maniac, most obviously when he acts humble. Aged 63, he may just be feeling mortality’s hand on his shoulder, obliging him to confront the fact that – notwithstanding the garlands awarded him this week for his “early work” by Lib Dem leader Tim Farron – he is generally regarded as a bit of an arse.
Tony Blair does not like being thought of as an arse. He much prefers to be viewed as a liberal intellectual reformer who, having transformed Britain during ten action-packed years in Downing Street, went on to perform selfless acts of goodness and charity in a troubled world.
I am reminded of Hank, the gormless sidekick in the U.S. sitcom The Larry Sanders Show, who observes, in reference to his many high-profile charity appearances, “I give of myself, and it pays really well”.
Second – and the two are connected – I suspect that Blair reckoned enough was enough – literally. He has made his pile. He has also bought a number of piles and settled various others on his children. It is now time for him to do the good works, or as he put it, to devote 80 per cent of his time to pro bono work while holding on to “a small number” of personal consultancies “for his own income”.
Christ, I believe, adopted much the same approach.
Sadly, his decision will result in a number of redundancies. The bulk of the 200 or so Tony Blair Associates located across the globe are to be disassociated in order that the Great Man be liberated from the lures of Mammon and, indeed, from having to pay their salaries.
Today, as he contemplates his future, it will be as a man re-born, ready to roll up his sleeves in a renewed, cash-unimpeded bid to secure world peace and expand not his personal weal’, but the Commonweal. We should salute him, as, no doubt, do his security officers and others who accompany him on his daily rounds.