Blair given eclectic gifts during decade in power

Global Cool Reception Held At Downing Street
Prime Minister Tony Blair is presented with a gift by musician Perry Farrell at the Global Cool Reception at No. 10 Downing Street in London in January 2007.Chris Jackson / Getty Images
/ Source: The Associated Press

Prime Minister Tony Blair has received some eclectic gifts during his decade in office: a foal with a bloodline tied to expeditions by Napoleon, a glinting arsenal of daggers and richly woven carpets from the Middle East.

Now he must pay for them if he wants to keep them as mementos.

The outgoing British leader, who formally resigns Wednesday, has been laden with presents since 1997, some cherished, others — like a pony from a French village — accepted with reservation.

Aside from parting gifts of a painting from his Cabinet and a steel-stringed guitar from his party, however, he’s likely take few items with him, unless he chooses to snap them up quickly.

Government ministers must declare any gift valued at more than $280, and either buy them or hand them over to their department for display or storage before leaving office. Blair received 180 presents above this threshold between 2001, when the government began keeping records, and 2006.

Many of the gifts he has received are likely to be valued far higher than $280.

Statue worth $50,000
An iron statue of a horse once owned by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin and presented to Blair by Russian President Vladimir Putin, for instance, is estimated to be worth at least $50,000.

Blair, once a singer in the fledgling rock band Ugly Rumours, has also received five guitars — two of them gifts from U2’s Bono and Bryan Adams.

And he’s been given 22 watches, all but four from the government of Italy. Blair paid for two of the watches — ex-Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s favored gift for foreign dignitaries — in 2004 for a total of about $400.

It is not known how many items valued under $280 Blair kept.

The British leader has paid for gifts in the past, government records show. For anything that he buys, $280 is subtracted from the total amount.

A camera from Japan’s government, a wooden screen from Pakistan’s President Gen. Pervez Musharraf and a 12-piece dinner service from Bangladesh — all valued at around $400 each — were among the items Blair opted to pay for in 2001 and 2002.

Commemorative coins, crystal vase
In the latest documents covering April 2005 to March 2006, Blair opted to pay for a set of commemorative coins from Putin, a crystal vase from Italy and a print of a London given to him by the British capital’s 2012 Olympic organizers.

Souvenirs given to the British chief by the producers of “The Simpsons,” following Blair’s 2003 appearance on the show were donated to charity, government records show.

Britain’s cherished relationship with the U.S. has not seen the two countries’ leaders lavish each other with luxuries. Although former President Bill Clinton famously gave Blair a pair of cowboy boots, Blair has only received a holdall bag and a set of silver beakers from President Bush, records show.

During a conversation that was overheard at the Group of Eight summit in Russia last year, Bush thanked Blair for the gift of a sweater — joking he must have picked it out personally.

A gift to Blair by municipal leaders in the village of Saint-Martin-d’Oydes in southwestern France was more extravagant but less welcome.

The foal, a Pyrenees Merens breed that is descended from animals used in the Napoleonic wars, was given to the Blair family during talks with ex-French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin. Blair’s daughter Kathryn, then age 9, was thrilled, but he and wife Cherie chose to leave the foal in the care of a local family.