Saturday, December 22, 2007

What's Tony Blair Been Doing Lately?

This was pulled from a website that the creater is pulling down according to its author. His decision to pull it was made the night before Mr. Blair converted to Catholicism. Since I just stumbled across it, and now it will disappear, I wanted to post some of his latest about Mr. Blair before it was too late to refer to it. It follows...

Article follows, from The Sunday Times, December 16, 2007
Tony Blair talks big money as £1m speech maker
Tony Blair is earning up to a million a month with his addresses. But how does a Middle East peace envoy have the time?

By Robert Watts
TONY BLAIR is making between £500,000 and £1m a month from public speaking engagements, matching the earning power of President Bill Clinton.
Sources close to Blair, who left Downing Street last June, say he is delivering up to five speeches a month, with a typical fee of between £100,000 and £200,000.
Blair, who is also working unpaid as a Middle East peace envoy, is to embark on his most lucrative speaking tour in January, when he is likely to make as much as £500,000 in America and Canada for three speeches in four days.
On January 14 he will address 5,000 people at the Gibson Amphitheatre, a rock music venue in Universal City, near Los Angeles, for the American Jewish University. The most expensive ticket, at $2,500 (£1,200), includes the chance to join the former prime minister and other speakers at a cocktail reception and dinner, and to have a picture taken with him.
Tickets are being sold for up to $1,000 to hear him speak the next day at the Californian millionaires’ resort of Indian Wells. Tim Parrott, executive director of the Desert Town Hall lecture series, said Blair currently had greater pulling power than Clinton, who earned £15m for speeches in the four years after he left the White House.
“There is great interest in how he managed to get along so well with two presidents, one liberal, one conservative,” Parrott said. “His Middle East peace role will ensure he remains in demand for years to come.”
On January 17 Blair will address 2,000 people at the Westin Harbour Castle, overlooking Lake Ontario, in Toronto. The event is sponsored by TD Bank Financial Group.
One sponsor said: “Blair has been at the centre of the world’s most important geopolitical events for 10 years. People here want to know what he has to say about his role as a Middle East peace envoy.”
Last month it was reported that Blair received up to £240,000 for one 20-minute speech in China. Cherie Blair typically charges about £15,000 a speech.
If he manages to maintain his high profile, the Blairs should easily be able to service and pay off the mortgages of almost £4m on their properties in Connaught Square, in London, Bristol and Sedgefield, Co Durham.
The former premier is maintaining a relentless pace as he combines his roles as peace envoy with that of international speaker and philanthropist.
At his headquarters at the American Colony, a luxurious hotel near Jerusalem’s Old City, he usually rises by 6am, his meetings frequently start at 7am and he often continues working past midnight.
One hotel staff member said: “One day recently he had meetings with four Israeli ministers in the morning. They came in one after the other – boom, boom, boom, boom. Then he had dinner with Condoleezza Rice [the US secretary of state] in the evening.”
Last Monday Blair breakfasted in Riyadh, having met Saudi royals the night before. He lunched in Kuwait City with the Kuwaiti prime minister. Then it was on to Doha, to hold a meeting with the Qatari government and meet the editorial board of Al-Jazeera, the Arab news network. A 30-minute live television interview followed.
By Tuesday morning he was meeting the prime minister of Qatar, before jumping on a plane to Israel. That afternoon he addressed the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, held a press conference and then headed off to stay the night in Bethlehem to promote western tourism in the holy land. Blair’s schedule now involves far more international travel than when he was prime minister. He uses scheduled airlines as much as possible, but often charters private jets to keep up the pace.
“He’s worse than he was before,” said John Burton, the agent who has stood at Blair’s side since he won the Sedgefield parliamentary seat in 1983. “I think Cherie thought she’d see a bit more of him when he finished as prime minister, but he’s in Britain about two days a month.”
“I feel sorry for the family,” said one observer close to the Blair camp.
Cherie did drop in to inspect her husband’s new Middle East residence for the first time two weeks ago. But he was on the other side of the Atlantic, embroiled in peace talks in Annapolis, Maryland. She lunched alone in the hotel’s courtyard and booked into the David Citadel, an even more expensive hotel.
Sir Winston Churchill, Graham Greene and Lawrence of Arabia used to be regulars at the Colony, where Blair and his entourage have taken over the fourth floor, with security provided by discreet Scotland Yard protection officers rather than Uzi-toting Israeli-style security.
A display in the lobby lists recent guests as the actors Uma Thurman, Richard Gere and Robert De Niro; Kofi Annan, the former United Nations secretary-general; the fashion designer Giorgio Armani; and the musician Sting. Field Marshal Sir Edmund Allenby, who liberated Palestine and Syria from Ottoman rule during the first world war, was a frequent visitor to the hotel and said: “If you want dialogue, this is where it happens.” Details of Blair’s new life have largely been kept from public view. But over the past two weeks, members of his entourage have disclosed the minutiae of his daily round and given insights into his new role.
He apparently jokes with room service at the Colony that in the Middle East he can evade a coffee ban imposed by Cherie after his 2004 heart operation. He usually orders two large cafetières of a potent Arabic brew each morning. Others report that he is a regular in the hotel gym, pounding on the running machines well before dawn.
One American tourist recently flaunted a snap taken on her mobile phone of her embracing a sweaty Blair midway through one such session.
At one point the attention became too much for the former prime minister and he asked hotel staff to install a running machine in his room.
About 60% of Blair’s time is taken up by the attempt to bring peace to the troubled region as the peace envoy of the “quartet” powers – the United Nations, European Union, United States and Russia.
He is trying to put into practice some of the lessons of the talks that ultimately led to a peace deal in Northern Ireland, such as involving leaders as closely as possible in face-to-face talks to ensure they have a personal stake in a successful outcome. Hamas is barred from talks because of its demands for the destruction of Israel.
Tomorrow Blair will co-chair a conference in Paris to secure £2.8 billion of donations for the Palestinians to prop up their ailing finances and support development projects.
For Blair, the meeting is every bit as important as the Annapolis talks last month: it is part of his strategy to build “Palestinian capability” – the infrastructure needed to create a state.
Ninety delegates representing dozens of countries, as well as institutions such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, UN and EU, will gather in Paris at the request of the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas. The British government has already said that it will pledge £250m for the next three years.
Blair is also promoting projects that provide jobs and housing for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, including a Japanese-funded agricultural and industrial park near Jericho and a sewage plant in northern Gaza.
Negotiations have proved successful over a business park close to Jenin and a new tourism campaign to promote the holy land that will employ both Israelis and Palestinians. However, the number of jobs such schemes will create are counted by the dozen, not the hundred.
New Labour’s strong links with Israel mean that Blair must tread carefully. One of the property schemes in the West Bank being considered by Blair’s team is backed by the Portland Trust, a charity run by the financier Sir Ronald Cohen, who has close links to Gordon Brown. Cherie Blair is now working with the Portland Trust in a promotional role.
Blair has also consulted Daniel Levy, who has worked as a special adviser to various senior Israeli politicians. He is the son of Lord Levy, Blair’s chief fundraiser, who was at the centre of the ultimately fruitless cash-for-honours inquiry.
Sources say Blair relishes the opportunity to oversee such projects by getting out into the region and meeting locals. In recent weeks he has met the mayors of Gaza, Hebron and Bethlehem, with Israeli security officials and with members of the public.
Much of the public reaction is discouraging. In Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the Palestinian territories, few people on either side believe much will come of his intervention. Say “Tony Blair” to a Palestinian, and the words “arrogant”, “Iraq” and “Bush’s poodle” are often fired back.
The running costs of Blair’s peace mission are considerable. Accommodation at the Colony exceeds $1m a year, and the travel budget adds a similar amount. He has a UN fleet of vast silver SUVs and three Mercedes. Locals resent his road convoys, which are blamed for traffic snarl-ups.
The salaries of the dozen officials seconded to Blair from the UN, EU, Whitehall and the World Bank are not known. David Miliband, the foreign secretary, recently declined to answer a parliamentary question about the cost of providing staff for his old boss.
About a quarter of Blair’s time is spent on establishing his two UK foundations, a sports charity for the northeast and a think tank to improve dialogue between the Jewish, Christian and Islamic communities.
The sports body’s goal for next year is to attract 365 adults back into coaching football, athletics, indoor rowing and tennis. Its HQ is Myrobella House, his old Sedgefield home, but the key staff of both charities are based in London.
Blair’s setup in the capital signals the scale of his ambition. He has taken a £550,000-a-year lease, to run until 2017, in Grosvenor Square on the site of a property that in 1785 became the first US embassy on British soil.
The team that work in the rooms of the Colony are newcomers. In his London offices he has found roles for many of the staff from his Downing Street days.

Ruth Turner, once his head of government relations, whose home was subjected to dawn raids by police during the cash-for-honours inquiry, works full-time on the inter-faith foundation. She is an unpaid volunteer on the sports one. Nick Banner, a former Foreign Office official and close confidant from the No 10 days, has been installed as Blair’s head of staff.

Amid all this activity, Blair has had little time to contemplate his time as prime minister. His memoirs, for which he negotiated a deal worth £4.6m with the publisher Random House, have been put on the back burner and are unlikely to appear for another two years.

By then he will hope to be able to add another chapter: The Middle East Peacemaker.

Inter-faith foundation
— Being set up by Ruth Turner, Blair’s former head of government relations, it is to be launched in late February or March 2008.
— It will be an inter-faith think tank designed to promote better dialogue between Muslims, Jews and Christians. Among its key aims will be encouraging faith communities to quell extremism. There will be regular meetings and an annual conference, similar to the Clinton Global Initiative, the think tank set up by the former US president.
— Faith leaders, including senior members of the Church of England, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Muslim leaders and Roman Catholic bishops in North America, have been consulted.

As long as it lasts, here is the link to this site:

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