Yesterday former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair won the prestigious Philanthropist of the Year award, which he received at the Royal Opera House during a glamorous gala. The ceremony, hosted by men’s magazine GQ editor Dylan Jones, saw Blair recognized for his peace efforts in the Middle East and his creation of three charities.
Blair’s charities target a variety of issues. The Tony Blair Sports Foundation teams volunteer sport coaches with underserved students. The Faith Foundation works to promote cooperation amongst the three Abrahamic faiths. Perhaps Blair’s most ambitious organization, however, is the Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative, which operates in six African countries and helps to connect African leaders with definitive solutions to their countries’ challenges.
Upon accepting the award, Blair said he “would like to dedicate this award to the people that work with and for my organizations.”
While Blair has certainly accomplished many things with his charities, his receipt of the award was met with more than a little incredulity. When Blair was Prime Minister from 1994-2007, he was heavily involved with the controversial war in Iraq, and after retiring, he earned quite a bit of ire by doing consulting work with authoritarian leaders in developing countries. He has also amassed considerable wealth (a $49 million property empire, according to some) and has earned as much as £250,000 for making a speech.
Tory MP Ian Liddell-Grainger said Blair’s receipt of the award was “a slap in the face for all the damage he has done to the UK.”
“It sends the wrong message,” agreed Labor MP John Mann. “This sort of award should go to an unsung hero who has given up their time for charity.”
Others honored at the event included Ringo Starr, Johnny Depp, and Kim Kardashian.