Tony Blair accepts holiday from Egypt’s dictator Mubarak

Tony Blair in 2005 (World Economic Forum – CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 via Flickr) and Mubarak watches over a street in Egypt – c. 2006 (Eve Fouché – CC BY 2.0 via Flickr).

23 December 2005

Today in 2005, Prime Minister Tony Blair, his wife Cherie and four children flew off to Egypt on, as his spin doctor Alistair Campbell politely put it, ‘another of his controversial holidays.’  Campbell also noted in a footnote to the diary entry that ‘Blair had previously been criticized for accepting hospitality from private individuals and foreign governments on holidays.’1

One of those controversial visits had been to Egypt in December 2001, when he had spent his first of several vacations at one of Mubarak’s villas at Sharm El Sheikh. Although Blair claimed he made a donation equivalent to the cost of the holiday, Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker, was among several MPs left unimpressed by the prime minister’s ethics. Baker pointed out that Blair’s acceptance of the gift was ‘inappropriate’, ‘cheapened’ the office and that any reasonable person would suspect such generosity from Egypt’s hated dictator, Hosni Mubarak, might influence Britain’s foreign policy in the region.  Could he not simply have paid for his holiday, ‘rather than allowing this convoluted arrangement ?’2

Blair and his family enjoyed their 2001 stay so much that they returned in 2002 and 2003, and by December 2004 Downing Street claimed that officials were so concerned about the predictability of his plans that they insisted that for security reasons he should use the Queen’s Flight, an R.A.F. 70-seater 146 jet, at a cost to the taxpayer of approximately £1,800 per hour of flying plus accommodation and generous allowances for the crew of eight for the duration of the prime minister’s holiday. An RAF employee informed the Daily Telegraph that ‘they all came back this time with a great tan. They said they had been on the beach.’5

It can’t have surprised many when, on 1 February 2011 during the Arab Spring, Blair rushed to defend the tottering tyrant, praising him as ‘immensely courageous and a force for good.’ That same day the Daily Telegraph reported that the huge protests across the country were jeopardising the prospect of Blair’s future stays at Mubarak’s Sharm El Sheikh villa, which he had become so accustomed to that he spoke of it as ‘my’ holiday home.6

FOOTNOTES

  1. Alastair Campbell, From Blair to Brown: Alastair Campbell, Diaries: Volume 6, 2005-2007, Biteback Publishing, London, 2017, p. 185.
  2. ‘Blair Criticized over Egypt Holiday,’ BBC News, 5 April 2002, accessed online at url http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/1912162.stm
  3. Melissa Kite, ‘What Soars Ever Higher ? The Cost of Blair’s Queen’s Flight Freebie,’ The Daily Telegraph, 16 January 2005 accessed online at url https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1481299/What-soars-ever-higher-The-cost-of-Blairs-Queens-Flight-freebie.html
  4. Tim Walker, ‘Egyptian riots put Tony Blair’s holiday in peril,’ The Daily Telegraph, 1 February 2011 accessed online at url https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/8293432/Egyptian-riots-put-Tony-Blairs-holiday-in-peril.html

Please feel welcome to post comments below.  If you have any questions please email alisdare@gmail.com

© 2020 Alisdare Hickson All rights reserved

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