Why take Blair’s tainted money?

It didn’t take long for Tony Blair’s pledge of £1,000 to each of the 106 candidates in Labour’s main battleground seats to stir controversy, says Jim Pickard in the Financial Times.

While a spokesman said the party was “delighted” with the backing, the reality is that their former leader’s “jet-setting lifestyle is at odds with Labour’s increasingly leftwing… campaign… focusing on voters’ ‘cost of living crisis’”. So far two candidates have refused the money. Alistair Campbell, Blair’s former-spin doctor, responded by accusing them of “attention-seeking”.

There’s certainly good reason for candidates to see the cash as “tainted”, as Nigel Morris puts it in The Independent. Blair’s decision to take Britain into the Iraq war and his activities since leaving Number 10 still arouse anger.

Rhodri Glyn Thomas of Plaid Cymru told the Daily Mail that Blair had amassed his fortune by “doing the bidding of the global banks that created the longest-lasting recession since records began… He has worked for multinational energy companies, who have rigged the energy market created by his Labour government, resulting in inflated energy costs for consumers; and global dictators guilty of human rights abuses”.

That cynicism extends even to Blair’s diplomatic role as Middle East envoy, which has been “no more than a ticket to making ever more millions” for “Blair Inc”, says Alex Brummer, the Daily Mail’s City editor.

Given that, it’s hard to see why Labour would want his donations, concludes Dan Hodges in The Daily Telegraph. Ed Miliband’s strategy is to reach out to three groups: “former Labour voters who stopped voting Labour because they hate… Blair, former Lib Dems who wouldn’t have dreamt of voting Labour because they hated… Blair”, and students and first-time voters who only vaguely remember Blair, but hate him because they think it’s cool.

So why is Labour “broadcasting the fact” that he’s bankrolling their campaign? It’s not even as if £1,000 will go very far. “Each of those candidates is about to spend every hour between now and polling day being chased around by angry people in ill-fitting multicoloured jumpers who will shout, ‘Did you take Blair’s blood money!? Did you??!!!!’”

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