Blair says he's only worth a fifth of estimates

Philip Gould Lecture

Tony Blair told Labour Party supporters that estimates which claimed he was worth £100 million were way off the mark. He said he was worth less than a fifth of that, and that he hadn't been chasing money since leaving power, but doing what he felt was important.

So where has the confusion come from?

The Daily Mirror reported that the claims emerged when Blair gave a speech marking 20 years since he became Labour leader. He was questioned by the audience about his considerable business interests.

In the seven years since he was Prime Minister, Blair said his focus had been on making a difference not making money, and that reports of his wealth were exaggerated. He added that he spends two thirds of his time doing unpaid work.

Where did the figures come from?

The difference between the estimates and the reality have some simple origins. It's partly due to the Blair family's property empire of nine homes. This has been well-documented, and is usually considered to be part of his fortune.

The Daily Telegraph calculates that this alone is worth around £25 million - as it has been substantially boosted by rising property prices. However, it's worth pointing out that Blair's name is not on the deeds of these properties, including those bought for his children, so technically he could be discounting this from his estimates of his net worth.

Estimates also come from substantial media coverage of his earnings. As well as all his charitable and diplomatic work since leaving government, Blair has also had a number of commercial roles, including advising JP Morgan and Zurich international. His remuneration for that is not public, but cannot be dismissed.

He is also reportedly a prolific speech-giver and makes regular public appearances, which are said to earn him up to £250,000 a time. The combination of all this paid work has given rise to the bulk of the estimates of his worth.

However, Blair pointed out that he has to pay a staff of 200 people, so we cannot assume he keeps every penny. Then there is the cost of travelling around the world for work. This gives weight to Blair's claims that £100 million is a gross exaggeration.

Should we care?

Even if the estimates were correct, there are those who would argue that it's nothing new for senior politicians to be worth a penny or two. In 2012, Wealth-X estimated David Cameron's fortune at around £4 million, and before the re-shuffle, the cabinet's combined net worth was thought to be almost £70 million.

Meanwhile, while they have a long way to go to rival Blair's fortune, the same study found that Nick Clegg was worth around £2 million - and Ed Miliband and his brother David are worth around £1.9 million each.

It seems that those who are outraged at the wealth of politicians and the earning power of former politicians - whatever their political persuasion - are going to spend much of their life in a state of apoplexy.

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