How Former Prime Ministers Get Rich

The last four British prime ministers left office and became speech makers, receiving enormous fees.1 Tony Blair, as a superstar, commands the highest. He was prime minister for ten years and at the centre of world affairs. His earnings are sort-of understandable. Theresa May? Three appalling years as prime minister, marked by consistent failure and political disaster.2 Why does she command fees of tens of thousands of pounds? What’s going on?

The going rate for speech-making is lucrative beyond belief but apparently they’re being rewarded for their insights. Policies which ought to be in the national interest shouldn’t be for sale. The former prime ministers didn’t take bribes. They didn’t need to. Speech-making opportunities are known to be on offer immediately after leaving office. So obviously they wouldn’t introduce obnoxious policies, which antagonised their future employers.

Theresa May, with Boris Johnson, had a meeting in New York to discuss Brexit. The meetings were with Goldman Sachs, Amazon and others.3 When she left office she undertook speaking engagements earning more than a million pounds in less than two years. Some of the companies paying Ms May for speaking engagements are bank JP Morgan Chase, World 50 Inc, and more.4 This is the ‘nod-and-wink’ territory Cameron identified in 2010.5 The ‘understanding’ is behave and get rich.

Let’s imagine a world where Save the Children, Oxfam, Help the Aged, Bipolar UK and other charities fund six figure appearance fees for retiring prime ministers.6 Would policy pivot towards them? Retiring prime ministers are hypnotised by the promise of life changing pay-days. They’d be less than human to maintain objectivity when dealing with the interests of those they know will fund their lucrative post-political life. Bankers and others are sending a signal to current politicians by paying grotesque fees to retiring politicians. It’s carefully calibrated corruption.

Addendum: Boris Johnson’s speech-making fees 9th July 2018-23rd July 2019

[Boris Johnson] pulled in £797,262.68 — putting him firmly inside the 45 per cent tax bracket for most of his extra-parliamentary earnings.

Over half of his sudden windfall came from the after-dinner speaking circuit. Boris was flown to New York, New Delhi and Geneva by banks and corporations.

A single speaking engagement in Delhi earned him a fee of £122,899 from media firm India Today which also paid for flights and accommodation. He pocketed £94,507 from GoldenTree Asset Management for flying to the United States. A speech in Dublin earned him another £51,250.

Altogether Mr Johnson made £450,475 from nine paid speaking engagements. The former journalist also cashed in on the demand from people to read his views as speculation mounted that he might succeed Mrs May.

NINE SPEECHES THAT NETTED £450,000

November 8 2018, £94,507.85 plus expenses for speech to GoldenTree Asset Management, Park Avenue, New York.

December 4 2018, £28,900 plus travel and accommodation for speech to KNect365.

January 10 2019, £51,250 from Pendulum Events & Training, Dublin.

March 2 2019: £122,899.74 plus transport and accommodation for a speech to India Today, New Delhi.

March 12 2019: £38,250 plus VAT for speaking to Citigroup, Canary Wharf.

April 10 2019: £25,297.62 plus transport expenses giving speech for Banque Pictet & Cie SA, Geneva.

May 14 2019: £21,250 plus VAT for speech to Pomerantz LLP, New York.

May 16 2019: £25,540 plus VAT for speech to British Insurance Brokers Organisation.

May 24 2019: £42,580 from Swiss Economic Forum AG, for speech. Transport provided for Mr Johnson and member of his staff.

Did a shock £350,000 tax bill trigger Boris Johnson’s pleas for Downing St cash? (msn.com)

Notes

1 The sources are only listed to give you the flavour of what’s going on

For Tony Blair see Blair becomes world’s best paid speaker, pocketing £364,000 for just one hour’s work | Daily Mail Online

For Gordon Brown see Gordon Brown signs up for $100,000 speaking engagements | Gordon Brown | The Guardian

For David Cameron see David Cameron ‘charging £120,000 per hour for speeches on Brexit’ | The Independent | The Independent

For Theresa May see Theresa May paid £160,000 for postponed speeches: COVID-19 stops ex-PM from speaking | UK | News | Express.co.uk

2 Theresa May’s Conservative Party Conference speech 2017 Theresa May’s Tory conference speech – watch live – YouTube It begins at 40 mins

3 Theresa May canvasses Wall Street over Brexit | Financial Times (ft.com) 26th September 2016

4 Theresa May paid £600,000 in speech fees since the first lockdown – Berkshire Live (getreading.co.uk) 30th March 2021

5 What David Cameron said about lobbying in 2010 | The Independent His personal connexion is highlighted here Tory links to Jersey – one of the ‘worst tax havens in the world’ (thelondoneconomic.com)

6 Retiring politicians also get offered well paid jobs. George Osborne is the classic example Nine jobs George: Osborne adds new role at venture capital firm | Venture capital | The Guardian

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