British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his wife, Cherie, have purchased a $6.4 million townhouse in Connaught Square and plan on spending another $900,000 fixing it up. The Blairs already own an $800,000 six-bedroom home in his Sedgefield constituency on which taxpayers have spent $3.6 million to turn it into a terrorist-proof fortress.
According to the British press, a down payment of $1.8 million would leave the Blairs with a $324,000 annual mortgage payment on their Connaught Square townhome. The mortgage payment would use up 100% of Blair’s pre-tax income as prime minister, leaving the couple to get by on Cherie’s income as a lawyer.
Blair is banking on his loyalty to President Bush to produce the future income to pay off his mortgage. The British press estimates that Blair, having provided cover for Bush’s ill-fated invasion of Iraq, can look forward to earning $3.6 million on the American lecture circuit once he leaves office, along with a $1.8 million book advance and lucrative directorships, Halliburton, no doubt, included.
Many have been puzzled why Blair, with Britain’s sizable Muslim population, threw in with the American neoconservatives’ agenda to attack weaponless, secular Iraq. Modern Britain has as many Muslims as Presbyterians, Methodists, and Jews combined. The answer, it appears, is money. By hiring out Britain’s army to the Republicans, Blair struck it rich.
According to news reports, one of Connaught Square’s true blue residents expressed some concern about the neighborhood with a politician moving in. But it is too late for that. A chief whip already inhabits the posh residential area. Make that chief whiplash. One of the Blairs’ neighbors will be a madam who specializes in sadism. According to press reports, whippings are a specialty of her "torture den."
"More honest work," quipped one cynic.
The British Labour Party, having spent the 20th century dispossessing the British aristocracy of their estates with death duties and super tax, has ensconced itself in the House of Lords with life peerages. The upper house now contains 500 government-created life peers and only 92 hereditary lords.
Life peers receive titles, but no country estates. Labour ministers in the Lords are setting about to remedy the situation. Two-thirds of them are cashing in on a housing allowance to purchase country homes.
According to the London Times, the Cabinet Office concedes that the taxpayer-funded allowance is large enough to support the mortgage on a $1 million home. Lords ministers do not have to serve constituencies outside London. But what is a Lord without a country home?
Some of the proletariat’s representatives feel that it is unseemly to purchase million dollar country estates on the taxpayers. Labour Science Minister, Lord Sainsbury of Turville, whose family is worth $2.7 billion, does not claim the allowance.
The question arose: Can a Labour Party tolerate perks for Lords that are denied to commoners? Tony Blair has cleared the way for a less lucrative housing allowance for ministers in the House of Commons. As Commons ministers are often elevated to the Lords at the conclusion of their political careers, they can make it up later.
In his great historical novel, The Leopard, Guiseppe di Lampedusa observed that "things have to change so they can remain the same."
The aristocracy collected land rents. The socialists collect taxes and hire out Britain’s army.
Dr. Roberts [send him mail] is John M. Olin Fellow at the Institute for Political Economy and Research Fellow at the Independent Institute. He is a former associate editor of the Wall Street Journal and a former assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury. He is the co-author of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.