POLITICS

Tony Blair Insists Reports Of His Wealth Have Been 'Greatly Exaggerated'

21/07/2014 14:07 BST | Updated 21/07/2014 14:59 BST

Tony Blair has insisted he is not rolling in quite as much cash as everyone thinks, as he gave a speech to mark the 20th anniversary of him being elected Labour leader.

Since stepping down as prime minister in 2007, Blair has taken on a series of business interests as well as acting as the Quartet's representative in the Middle East. Blair's speech to the Labour Progress group found him among friends, however even his closest allies worry that his accumulation of money has damaged his reputation.

Asked about his "new life" by the Financial Times during the Q&A that followed his speech on Monday afternoon, Blair said: "I read I'm worth £100m." He added that "the reports of my wealth are greatly exaggerated" and suggested it the true figure was closer to a fifth of that, or £20m.

And in a joking reference to long-running suggestions that his wife is obsessed with money, he said: "Cherie is asking kind of where it is."

Blair added: "I haven't actually changed, despite the way people want to say I have."

The FT has made a point of looking into the former Labour leader's financial interests, and an exasperated Blair told the paper in June: "This notion that I want to be a billionaire with a yacht; I don’t! I am never going to be part of the super-rich. I have no interest in that at all."

Charles Clarke, a Blair ally who served as his education and home secretaries, told The Huffington Post UK last week that there was "no question" that his former boss has damaged his reputation in Britain. "The money has damaged his reputation, some of his contacts have damaged the reputation, some aspects of the way he's spent his life have damaged his reputation," he sad.

Blair used his speech to defend the legacy of New Labour, an era from which Ed Miliband has tried to distance the modern Labour Party. Blair said a Labour government "is always better" than a Conservative one but warned it could only win if it campaigned "from the centre ground".

And he warned Miliband not to pay too much attention to left-wing groups within the party that wanted to steer him away from that centre.

"We should, of course, listen to the interests associated with us, and the assortment of pressure groups banging on our door but never conflate their noise, which with social media can seem deafening, with public opinion or let them decide policy. Those who shout the loudest don't necessarily deserve to be heard the most," he said.

Blair also back at London mayor Boris Johnson, who recently said Blair was "unhinged" and needed "professional psychiatric help" after he called for further military intervention in the Middle East.

The former prime minister joked: "It's a little disconcerting to be described as mad by Boris Johnson. It's not a high bar."