Tony Blair has joined the select group of retired politicians from liberal democracies who make big bucks from authoritarian regimes. He recently signed a contract to advise President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, and has opened an office in the capital, Astana, although the nature of the advice is confidential. It seems that the advice is not on electoral matters because Mr Blair's client managed to secure the vote of over 95% of Kazakhs and his party holds all of the seats in the Kazakh parliament.
According to some reports, Blair is advising the president on a bid for next year's Nobel Peace Prize. I wasn't aware that this was a beauty contest,.but that may be my naivety. Tony WMD Blair is a curious source of advice on such matters, although we should not forget the contribution made to world peace by a Nobel Prize winning US Secretary of State by his use of carpet bombing in IndoChina.
If he was a US citizen Blair would be held to account for such actions under The Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), enacted in 1938. FARA is a disclosure statute that requires persons acting as agents of foreign principals in a political or quasi-political capacity to make periodic public disclosure of their relationship with the foreign principal, as well as activities, receipts and disbursements in support of those activities.
But in the not-at-all-corrupt UK, Blair's remunerated business interests are not open to public scrutiny. They are not mentioned on the website of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba), the watchdog that oversees the wheeling and dealing of ministers after they have been kicked out by the voters.. Blair is not a peer of the realm, so avoids listing his business interests in the House of Lords register of Members interests and he did not have to notify the Foreign Office of his appointment.
All of this leads towards the question of why we pay this former prime minister a pension immediately after leaving office? The idea was that prime ministers, who would probably be quite elderly would retire to the country with a comfortable allowance with the understanding that participation in any form of politics or world affairs would be likely to either undermine the present incumbent or compromise the dignity of their office.
From discussions last weekend with a cabinet minister I understand that this might change for the present and future prime ministers, but it doesn't stop Blair from having his cake and our cake, and wanting to eat them both. But there may be limits. If any advice is given in relation to this country, Blair will likely be in breach of his Privy Council oath, an oath of loyalty to the Queen and her successors and against the opposing interests of all other foreign leaders.
"You do swear by Almighty God to be a true and faithful Servant unto the Queen's Majesty, as one of Her Majesty's Privy Council. You will not know or understand of any manner of thing to be attempted, done, or spoken against Her Majesty's Person, Honour, Crown, or Dignity Royal, but you will lett and withstand the same to the uttermost of your Power, and either cause it to be revealed to Her Majesty Herself, or to such of Her Privy Council as shall advertise Her Majesty of the same. You will, in all things to be moved, treated, and debated in Council, faithfully and truly declare your Mind and Opinion, according to your Heart and Conscience; and will keep secret all Matters committed and revealed unto you, or that shall be treated of secretly in Council. And if any of the said Treaties or Counsels shall touch any of the Counsellors, you will not reveal it unto him, but will keep the same until such time as, by the Consent of Her Majesty, or of the Council, Publication shall be made thereof. You will to your uttermost bear Faith and Allegiance unto the Queen's Majesty; and will assist and defend all Jurisdictions, Pre-eminences, and Authorities, granted to Her Majesty, and annexed to the Crown by Acts of Parliament, or otherwise, against all Foreign Princes, Persons, Prelates, States, or Potentates. And generally in all things you will do as a faithful and true Servant ought to do to Her Majesty. So help you God."
As Borat would say "Yak-she-maj to that"