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.