Daniel Kalder

Mr Blair goes to Kazakhstan

Western former leaders are making themselves available to corrupt regimes for PR purposes

Ah, Tony Blair — you can’t keep a good hustler down. One minute he’s singing the praises of formaldehyde at the opening of a methanol power plant in Azerbaijan (£90,000 for a 20-minute talk), the next he’s accepting a gig ‘consulting’ in Kazakhstan. For his advice on ‘issues connected with policy and the economy’, he could reportedly make as much as £8 million a year.

In May, Blair and a gang of his associates were spotted at a meeting of the Foreign Investors’ Council in Kazakhstan. Among them was Lord Renwick of Clifton, vice-chairman of JP Morgan, which (coincidently) pays Mr Blair £2 million a year for advice — and Lakshmi Mittal, Britain’s richest man, a generous Labour donor, and the largest employer in Kazakhstan. Blair praised the nation’s ‘wonderful’ achievements.

How things have changed. Ten years ago an authoritarian leader of an ex-Soviet state would get excited if Vanessa Mae came to town. These days, they find that if they toss enough coins and crank up the organ, former leaders of western governments will dance for them like performing monkeys.

Blair has now joined the select group of ex-statesmen from liberal democracies who work for authoritarian regimes. Tony Blair Associates has been building its foreign contacts book for some time: the government of Kuwait is among its high-paying clients. Somehow, even with all that pro bono work he does building peace and inter-religious harmony in the Middle East, he still finds time to advise unelected monarchs and owners of methanol power plants in Azerbaijan.

In fairness, Kazakhstan is probably the least awful country in Central Asia. But it has never had a free election; no man criticises the president very loudly if he knows what’s good for him; and there are many reports of human rights abuses.

Nursultan Nazarbayev has run the country since 1990, when Gorbachev appointed him to clean up corruption in the (then) soviet republic.

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