Tony Blair Gets 'Philanthropist Of The Year' Award From GQ Magazine Amid Backlash

09/03/2014 03:22 pm ET | Updated Sep 04, 2014
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British GQ magazine is defending its decision to name former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair "Philanthropist of the Year" at its 2014 Men of the Year awards.

The event, which took place Tuesday at London's Royal Opera House and recognized a wide range of artists and leaders in various fields, honored Blair for his work heading three charities: The Tony Blair Faith Foundation, which aims to prevent religious conflict and extremism around the world, the Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative, a nonprofit working with African leaders to build more prosperous futures for their countries, and the Tony Blair Sports Foundation, which promotes health through athletics in northeast England.

Blair's critics have pointed to his time in office to rebuke the honor, including his support and participation in the war in Iraq, as well as his relationship with a Khazakhstan president whose government allegedly killed unarmed civilians at a 2011 protest, the BBC reported.

HuffPost UK documented some Twitter users' responses to the news that Blair would be awarded the recognition. Among them was former English soccer player and sports broadcaster Gary Lineker who tweeted: "Apparently, Tony Blair has won GQ's philanthropist of the year award. Finally these awards have grasped irony!"

The event's producer Richard Dodgson said selecting controversial winners is part of the magazine's strategy.

"We like to have celebrities at our event who cause a bit of a stir," Dodgson told BBC Radio 5 live. "So having Tony was fantastic. We like to have people who have opinions and are forthright."

British GQ clarified its decision-making regarding Blair on Wednesday, sharing a column in defense of the prime minister on Facebook:

In the magazine's rebuttal, Charlie Burton writes:

When Blair went into Iraq he said that history would judge whether it was the right decision. The problem is, we've bought a partial, revisionist history of an entire premiership. Its great myth is that Blair didn't achieve anything in office; the truth is he fundamentally transformed the country. It's not just Northern Ireland and the minimum wage: he left a vast legacy. Civil partnerships. Bank of England independence. The Welsh Assembly. The Scottish Parliament. A mayor of London. A plunging crime rate. Even abroad, his brand of liberal interventionism in Sierra Leone and Kosovo was a success.

As far as the former prime minister was concerned, he was happy to receive the award in recognition of those helping his foundations around the world.

"I would like to dedicate this award to the people who work with my organizations," Blair said during his acceptance speech, according to the BBC. "I feel the pulse of progress beating a little harder."

Clarification: A previous version of this article referred to Richard Dodgson as the event organizer. He is the event producer.

Related on HuffPost:

  • 1 Immigration
    Tony Blair fought off an anti-immigration campaign run by Michael Howard's Tories in 2005. In his conference speech that year, Blair told Labour delegates: "One of the most satisfying things about the election was that the country saw through the Tories' nasty, unprincipled campaign on immigration. People who come to work and make their lives here make Britain not weaker but stronger."
  • 2 The minimum wage
    The minimum wage was introduced in April 1999, having been a key part of Labour 1997 election manifesto. The policy was opposed by the Conservatives. However fast forward to 2015 and George Osborne was advocating a 'National Living Wage' of more than £9 an hour by 2020.
  • 3 Europe
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    Tony Blair was a strong advocate of Britain playing a role in the heart of Europe and signed the UK up to the Social Chapter, guaranteeing workers' rights.
  • 4 Gay rights
    Tony Blair's government equalised the age of consent, removed the ban on gay people serving in the military, introduced civil partnerships, enacted hate crime legislation, banned discrimination in the workplace and allowed gay couples to adopt.
  • 5 101 women MPs
    Under Tony Blair, Labour introduced all-women shortlists for candidate selection. In 1997, 101 women female Labour MPs were elected.
  • 6 The NHS
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    In 1997 NHS spending was at around 5% of GDP. By 2010 NHS spending had risen to around 10% of GDP.
  • 7 International development
    Tony Blair created the Department for International Development after winning election in 1997, creating a new cabinet level position and taking aid policy out of the Foreign Office. Aid spending became one of the key planks of David Cameron's 'detoxification' strategy and he is now committed to spending 0.7% of GDP on development.
  • 8 Fox hunting ban
    Blair pushed the fox hunting ban through, even using the Parliament Act to push it through the Lords. After being confronted by a huge pro-hunt demonstration, Blair observed there could not be too many hunts going on. "There hasn't been a safer day for foxes for years," he joked.
  • 9 The Tories couldn't touch him
    Tony Blair saw off four Conservative leaders. He beat John Major in 1997, William Hague in 2001 and Michael Howard in 2005. And he beat poor Iain Duncan Smith without even having to face him in an election.
  • 10 Oh...
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