La Repubblica: The leader’s second life
© 05.06.2014


“It is legal to have a second life after leaving the world of power, but former leaders who do so, ought to, at least, choose their clients better.” This is the opinion of John Kampfner, the former editor of the historic Labour weekly magazine New Statesman, an international affairs commentator for the Guardian and the BBC and an expert on ethical issues, as his last book entitled “Freedom For Sale: How We Made Money And Lost Our Liberty.” (published in Italy by Laterza) shows.

Blair, Schroeder, Aznar, why do plenty of political leaders spend their “second lives” making money without restraint?

“It’s understandable that they do not wish to become old age pensioners as they belong to a generation of young politicians with 10-15 more years of active life ahead. Deep down in their hearts, they do not steal anybody’s money. The problem is that they do not limit themselves to writing books or holding lectures for money, which really pays off too, but they become counsellors of autocratic countries, such as Russia or Kazakhstan. They should at least choose their clients better.” 

They don’t do anything illegal but their clients are embarrassing.

Blair maintains that the more tyrannical a country is, the more we should make it engage in order to steer it towards democracy and, consequently, his job of a well-paid counsellor in fact pursues a noble political goal too. “Blair’s reasoning makes sense but he certainly did not apply it to the case of Iraq, choosing to invade it rather than greet it with a friendly embrace.” 

Clinton gives lectures for money around the world yet he does not seem to be selling himself to the highest bidder. Is it for ethical reasons or out of self-interest, ever mindful of the fact that he could return to the White House with Hillary?

“I think that after the scandal with Lewinsky as well as having been aware for a long time of his own wife’s ambitions, Clinton promised Hillary that he would never do anything that could jeopardise her future political career. For this reason, it is undeniable that he has behaved in a manner much more honourable than Blair or Schroeder, who went to work for the Russian Gazprom virtually a day after having left the post of the Chancellor of Germany.”

Perhaps there should be a code of honour for leaders who leave politics?

“It would be impossible to make them observe it. We should rather ask ourselves whether, to have a talented leader and ensure that they do not use their experience gained while in power to make money in an unscrupulous way, it would be necessary to pay them more: the salary of a prime minister or a president is much lower than that of a banker or a senior manager in the private sector. But it also needs to be borne in mind that a Blair who makes money having left the post of Prime Minister, might still be better than a Berlusconi who becomes Prime

Interview/an english columnist John Kampfner
From correspondent Enrico Franceschini
Source: La Repubblica