Jack Straw’s involvement in the recently revealed ‘cash for access’ scandal underscores British Government’s continued failure to ensure politicians don’t exploit their positions for financial gains.
The former foreign secretary admitted he used his clout and charisma to benefit corporate entities. Mr Straw, perhaps in a self-destruct mode and unaware that he was being secretly filmed, boasted that he “operated ‘under the radar’ to use his influence to change European Union rules on behalf of a commodity firm which pays him £60,000 a year.” Sir Malcolm Rifkind, who manages Britain’s intelligence agencies on behalf of Parliament, said he could arrange ‘useful accesses to every British ambassador in the world because of his status.
Britain has been grappling with the issue of influential politicians, both former and present, extracting financial benefits courtesy of their illustrious position and network. There is a grave need to scrutinise the opaque corporate finances of MPs and Ministers.
But what’s more worrying is documents revealed this week to me concerning not a former Foreign Secretary, but Prime Minister.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s race for cash since leaving office in 2007, with an opaque network of financial interests that stretch from the United Arab Emirates to Kazakhstan to America, has raised suspicions and various section of the political establishment believe everything might not be above board.
Latest documents supplied by an ex British intelligence official puts Tony Blair in the dock, yet again! He reportedly signed a fresh contract with UAE’s foreign ministry during the end of 2014. Using his exalted position as former Prime Minister, and the connections and network acquired during his time in office, Mr Blair has built an intricate empire simply on the basis of advising foreign Governments and large corporations. The latest country to fall under his sphere of influence is Serbia, a country Britain bombed on Mr Blair’s order in 1999 during the Kosovo war. But that was war, this is business, and Mr Blair apparently has no qualms about it.
According to a senior Serbian official, Mr Blair’s private consultancy firm, Tony Blair Associates, is being paid for by the United Arab Emirates. UAE, funding his role in Serbia, has been known to hire foreign Human Rights Groups and Trade Union organisations to give credit to its international image and denting the image of Qatar which is known to have cold war with UAE. Global Network Rights and Development (GNRD), a pretentious human rights group, conveniently placed UAE amongst top 15 countries with excellent human rights record, a claim disputed by United Nation’s human rights watch, which places UAE at a much lower rung of the ladder.
An ex intelligence officer also supplied receipts showing payments to GNRD from UAE.
Mr Blair’s responsibility as a behind-the-scenes business and political broker in the Middle East has also attracted raised eye brows. Relationship between the UAE and the UK has not been friendly of late and Tony Blair advising UAE is likely to be seen as catering to UAE’s interests more than Britain’s.
According to an ex-British intelligence officer, there are strong indications that suggest covert attack on countries with which UAE has bad relations, such as Qatar. Qatar is a crucial ally of UK . The ex intelligence officer also revealed Labour party’s hostility towards Qatar, an act that can potentially sabotage the existing friendly climate. He indicated this could all be an orchestrated effort by UAE, which has clear differences in opinion on the role of Islam in the Middle East.
Simply put – former Ministers and especially Prime Ministers should be banned from being employed by foreign agents, because they can simply not always be in British interests. If they could and would not do it in office, they should not do it out of office.