The lunch also came days after another sharp reminder of one of the most sordid episodes in Blair’s decade in power — his disgraceful ‘deal in the desert’ nine years ago with Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, which brought the despot in from the cold in return for him renouncing his weapons of mass destruction programme.
Less publicised was the apparent agreement for our intelligence services to act as outriders for a regime infamous for its barbarity.
Now, the British Government has given £2.23 million to a Libyan dissident and his family to stop a court case threatening to reveal embarrassing details of how British officials helped to round up Gaddafi’s enemies across the world.
Blair has apparently now formed a commercial alliance with Michael Klein, one of the most highly-paid bankers in the world
Sami al-Saadi says he was forced on board a plane in Hong Kong, flown to Tripoli, imprisoned and tortured. Britain did not admit liability, but it is safe to assume that hush money would not have been paid if the allegations were groundless.
Now, I understand from lawyers that a second case, involving Gaddafi’s most prominent opponent, is likely to go ahead.
Abdul Hakim Belhaj, the former leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group who led the attack on Gaddafi’s Tripoli fortress in 2011, wants his story heard in open court unless there is an official apology.
He says that MI6 was involved with his detention in Malaysia in 2004, from where he and his pregnant wife were flown in hoods and shackles to Libya. Once there, he claims he was tortured and isolated for four years by Gaddafi’s goons.
Blair, who held private meetings with Gaddafi after leaving office, dodged questions on these cases last month on the grounds that legal action was being pursued.
Perhaps he should offer to recompense taxpayers for the multi-million-pound payout, given how his government prostituted British interests to appease a bloody dictator.
Days after Gaddafi’s fall, I stood in the wrecked home of the British high commissioner to Libya and found piles of secret documents revealing the disturbingly close links between Blair and the oil-rich tyrant in Tripoli.
There were obsequious letters from Downing Street to Gaddafi, suggested questions from our security services to put to detained dissidents, and even offers to use British special forces to train the regime’s most feared troops.
Little wonder that Saif Gaddafi — whom Blair infamously helped with his dodgy PhD thesis at the London School of Economics — called him ‘a personal family friend’.
Another friend of the former British PM was ousted Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak, who used to lend Blair a luxury villa on the Red Sea for holidays. When the Arab Spring erupted and protesters poured into Cairo’s Tahrir Square, Blair hailed his corrupt pal — who embezzled billions — as ‘a force for good’. "