Tony Blair: the man with the golden gab

The world is paying our former PM millions to hear platitudes and bland 'insights'. But it's power, not money, that he really wants.

Tony Blair earns more money from public speaking than anyone else on the planet. In the Philippines recently, he was paid £364,000 for two speeches. That works out at £6,000 a minute.

Don't ask me why anyone pays him these vast sums. It's baffling. As Gordon Rayner pointed out in The Daily Telegraph, Blair can now earn in half an hour what he used to earn as prime minister in a year: £183,000.

I wonder if his audiences in the Philippines thought they were getting their money's worth, being treated to such insights as: "Politics really matters, but a lot of what goes is not great" and "religion [can be] a source of inspiration or an excuse for evil."

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I would pay not to listen to this rubbish, but people who attended the event at the Ateneo de Manila University coughed up up to £350 a head to do so and, amazingly, there is a two-year waiting list if you want Blair's services as a speaker.

No wonder Blair Incorporated has become a money-making machine "like no other in the history of former political leaders", as Rayner puts it. Not even Blair's old buddy, Bill Clinton, has been quite so shameless in exploiting his fame. Apart from the speeches, which rake in around £2.5m a year, there are the advisory roles with JP Morgan Chase and the Swiss financial services company, Zurich, which bring in another £2.5m, plus his latest venture, advising Kuwaiti leaders on "good governance", for which he's charging £1m.

That's right: £1m. Poor Kuwait. You might think that the man who presided over the wrecking of Britain's economy, made a mess of its constitution and caused havoc in the Middle East would be the last person in the world you'd pay to lecture you on good governance, but perhaps the Kuwaitis haven't been paying attention to recent British history.

And let's not forget the £4.6m book deal or, insignificant as it may sound, the £63,468 our ex-PM draws as a pension each year. (Surely that, at least, he might forego, given how hard up we now are partly due to him and that the experience he's now milking for millions came at our expense.)

Of course, there are outgoings to take into account mortgages (£384,000 p/a), staff (£2.4m p/a), office rental (£550,000 p/a) and renting a Gulfstream V jet (around £80,000 for a three-day trip, or £500,000 a year). But all in all, The Daily Telegraph calculates, Blair may net a "staggering" £80m by the time he reaches retirement age in ten years' time. And that's leaving out Cherie, who's no slouch herself when it comes to money-making, earning a £1m advance for her autobiography and pulling in around £25,000 a time for her speaking engagements, mostly through trips to America.

So will Blair be prepared to swap his current earnings, or some of them, to become president of the European Union (salary: £200,000) if the chance comes his way? The answer, I'm afraid, is yes. There's only one thing that interests Blair more than money, and that's power.

Tabloid money Gordon Brown's sickening hypocrisy

"I trust you've enjoyed your Easter eggs," says Sue Carroll in the Daily Mirror. And don't worry if you've put on a few pounds under a new scheme to tackle obesity the NHS will now give you cash to shed them, with payments increasing the more weight a patient loses. "This wouldn't be the same NHS which, in just one year, has paid out £246m in compensation for medical blunders, would it? And that's not counting the £134m in costs. [] Forgive my naivety, but wouldn't the thousands about to be spent on rewarding the greedy be better used on recruiting nurses?"

"Russian pop singer Oksana Pochepa, 24, claims to be the "mystery girl" blamed for ending Mel Gibson's marriage, says The Sun. "Dad-of-seven Mel faces having to hand over half his £640m fortune in a divorce settlement." Sexy Oksana says she has fallen in love with the 53-year-old.

"Listen to [Gordon] Brown lecturing America's Congress last month," says Fergus Shanahan in The Sun. "'My father was a Minister of the Church,' he sanctimoniously boasted to Obama and Co, before calling on them to 'celebrate men and women of integrity who treat people fairly'. What, like his own backroom boys and their sinister plot to spread obscenities about the Tories? How can he claim to occupy the moral high ground while presiding over a Cabinet of thieves? How can he pose as a family man while backing a home secretary who steals public money so her sweaty husband can slobber over blue movies? How can he boast about saving the world while turning Britain into a banana republic where extra banknotes are printed like Monopoly money to stave off ruin?"