Tony Blair's £15m gravy train rolls on

A role as Tesco's sales envoy to the Middle East may have fallen through, but Tony 'Del Boy' Blair is unfazed. His wheeler-dealing has helped net him some £15m since he left office.

Last month, a hundred local dignitaries queued up in a Vancouver hotel to have their photographs taken with Tony Blair at £180 a pop, says the Daily Mail.

Such wheezes "might seem more suited to Del Boy Trotter than an international statesman", especially since Blair had already scooped £100,000 for his two-hour appearance. Indeed, this sort of wheeler-dealing has helped net him some £15m in the two years since he left office.

The latest revelation is that Tesco chief Sir Terry Leahy was contemplating paying the former PM £1m a year (only slightly less than his own salary) to act as the supermarket's "figurehead" in its bid to crack new markets in the Middle East.

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Tesco was reportedly "deeply disappointed" when plans for the Tel and Tony Show foundered, says The Daily Telegraph. But given Blair's high-profile role as a "peace envoy" to the region within the 'quartet' representing the UN, EU, US and Russia, what could he have been thinking in the first place? Did he really imagine "it would be acceptable to press the flesh for peace at the same time as banging the drum for a British plc and also lining his own pocket"?

On the evidence so far, quite possibly, says The Mail on Sunday. Critics claim "it can be difficult to see where Mr Blair's political work ends and his commercial endeavours begin". His most lucrative single contract is a £2.5m annual deal with JP Morgan, in which "one of his main roles is to explore business opportunities in Libya".

He has another £2m deal with Zurich Financial Services. But these together with the £5m he's getting from Random House for his memoirs and his lecture-circuit earnings are pin money compared with the fantastic cash flow on offer from Tony Blair Associates (TBA), the consultancy he has set up to "peddle his experience to foreign governments".

Indeed, says The Sunday Times, TBA's "secretive client list" already includes Kuwait (a reported seven-figure deal) and the United Arab Emirates' vast state investment fund, Mubadala. And Blair often "flips his roles" in official meetings. "One hour he is the official peace envoy the next he is a representative of TBA or JP Morgan."

Blair's office denies there is any conflict of interest. But there's no denying the anger in some quarters. Peter Brierley, whose son was killed in the Iraq war, believes the former PM's attempts to milk his contacts in the region are tantamount to making money "from the blood... of the soldiers who died in Iraq". Opposition MPs say his simultaneous pursuit of business and peace ought to scupper any hopes he has of becoming EU president.

Blair has always championed favoured companies, observes The Guardian. His administration's "cosy relationship" with Lord Browne's BP (dubbed "Blair Petroleum") being a case in point.

Meanwhile, the Blair gravy train looks set to roll on. In her memoir, Speaking for Myself, Cherie Blair elaborated on why she chose Tony over other boyfriends. "I fancied him rotten," she writes. But, "frankly, he fascinated me [as] somebody who could give me a run for my money". How right she turned out to be.

Why Cherie has a spring in her step

There's no disguising the spring in Cherie Blair's step these days, observed Vanity Fair last year. "Her lifelong fear of penury is receding as the money rolls in." During the Blair's time at Number Ten "there were constant charges" (starting with the "Cherie-gate" episode, in which she employed an ex-con as a property adviser) that "she exploited her position with obscene displays of greed". Now, at last, she and Tony can earn and spend at will.

No surprise, then, that Cherie is reported to be "cool" about Blair's mooted return to European politics, says the Daily Mail. What good is "Boney Blair" if you want to carry on playing "Cherie-Antoinette"?

And Mrs Blair has certainly been hitting the cheque-book hard of late. Her recent purchase of a £1.3m London mews house for her second son, Nicky, becomes the sixth property in a family portfolio worth some £12m including the £5.75m Buckinghamshire Queen Anne house once owned by Sir John Gielgud.

Unlike the bad old days when the Blairs had to mortgage themselves to the hilt they can now pay in cash.

In any case, Tony Blair evidently considers that he has now "piled up such a big fortune that he's ready for one more big public job", says Boris Johnson in The Daily Telegraph.

But even if he does land the job, the Blair household will hardly go hungry Cherie is, of course, no mean earner in her own right. Aside from a sizeable barrister's income, she's also making good money on the lecture circuit and scooped at least £1m from her best-selling memoir.