GQ Magazine has defended its decision to name Tony Blair its “Philanthropist of the Year” after the award was widely met with disbelief and horror.
Awards producer Richard Dodgson stood by the publication’s much criticised move, telling BBC Radio 5 Live it was “fantastic having Tony,” as the magazine likes to have celebrities at the event who “cause a bit of a stir.”
The magazine certainly achieved that aim, with thousands of incredulous social media users frothing at the mouth over the “jaw-dropping” decision.
The former prime minister, who earns millions from his consultancy roles and property empire, was handed the accolade at the glamorous ceremony on Monday to a reportedly “muted” response.
GQ clarified its decision on Wednesday, sharing a column in defence of the prime minister on Facebook which argued “whatever your views on Iraq, in many ways we would be lucky to have Blair back in British politics today.”
In the magazine’s rebuttal, Commissioning Editor Charlie Burton wrote that Blair “fundamentally transformed the country.”
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Tony Blair? The man who spent ten years in Downing Street has left an undeniably formidable legacy. Perhaps it’s the enduring peace in Northern Ireland, which he brokered in the build-up to the Good Friday Agreement? Or the 1.4 million people in the UK making a tenable living as a result of the minimum wage? No? Us neither. Betting is, you’re thinking of one thing: Iraq. Coffins draped in Union flags. Abrams tanks rolling through scarred thoroughfares. Blood on sand.
Burton argues “the Iraq War polluted our judgement of everything else that he has done.”
At the GQ Awards, Blair was praised by the editor of the magazine, Dylan Jones, for his “tireless charity work across the world” and “reconciling three Abrahamic faiths” and working alongside governments in Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Liberia, Guinea, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Senegal.
The Middle East peace envoy has advised Kazakh leader Nursultan Nazarbayev, including on how to improve his image after his police killed 14 unarmed protesters, it was revealed last week.
Yesterday, many queried whether the award was supposed to be ironic, particularly when reality TV star Kim Kardashian later picked up GQ’s Woman of the Year award.
Nevertheless, Dodson defended the decision, saying, “We like to have celebrities at our event who cause a bit of a stir. So having Tony was fantastic. We like to have people who have opinions and are forthright.”
But the timing couldn’t have been worse for the former Labour leader, who is often blamed for the violent insurgency gripping Iraq after toppling Saddam Hussein in 2003, as the prize was handed out on the same night a video was released showing the brutal execution of a second US journalist by Islamic State militants.
On receiving his award from the magazine, owned by publishing giant Condé Nast, at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, Blair, 61, said: “I would like to dedicate this award to the people that work with and for my organisations.”
But GQ magazine’s decision to give the award to Blair, who has launched three foundations, was met with shock.
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