Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair demanded over $500,000 USD to speak at a conference on world hunger.
The organizers disinvited him.
Blair was asked to address the 2015 EAT Food Forum in Stockholm, Sweden, a conference that claims its vision “is a transformation of the global food system to sustainably feed a healthy population of nine billion people by mid-Century.”
For a mere 20-minute speech, Blair’s representatives asked for a £250,000 fee plus an additional £80,000 for expenses. The total, £330,000, is approximately $502,000 USD.
The conference organizers offered Blair £215,000 (almost $330,000 USD), but, the Daily Express reports, “after months of talks, an agreement was not reached.”
In other words, Blair wanted to be paid over $25,000 USD (£16,500) per minute to speak at a world hunger conference.
The multimillionaire former prime minister owns millions of dollars worth of property, yet insists that he is “absolutely not” in “the league of the super-rich.”
When the former Special Envoy to the Middle East traveled to Sardinia to discuss the war in Syria, which has left over 200,000 people dead and displaced over nine million, Blair stayed in an enormous luxury yacht owned by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich—who, as I have written about before, spends over $50,000 on lunch for just six people.
Blair’s office responded to the controversy by claiming that Blair himself would not have earned the money; it would have rather been donated to his wife’s foundation, the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women.
Critics say powerful figures often disguise large financial transactions as donations to ostensible non-profit foundations they control.
Former US President Bill Clinton addressed the EAT Food Forum in 2014. For his roughly 30-minute talk, he received close to $500,000 USD (£327,000).
The Clintons are also known for funneling large sums of money—often from suspect donors like theocratic Gulf absolute monarchies, Colombian oil companies, and “blood phosphate” corporations—through the Clinton Foundation.
This is doubtless the (neoliberal) “Third Way” Blair and Clinton envisioned.