The GQ Men of the Year award ceremony is usually largely about the man crowned Legend of the Year. However, last night's Legend, Van Morrison, will have to learn to live with the fact that his achievement was entirely overshadowed by an incredibly controversial choice for Philanthropist of the Year: Tony Blair.
The magazine highlighted an under-reported fact: that since leaving politics, Blair has done an enormous amount of work for charity. On its website it said: "Alongside his role as a Middle East peace envoy, Blair's channelled his energy into philanthropy, establishing three charities. The Tony Blair Sports Foundation pairs volunteer sport coaches with children in Britain's North East and his Faith Foundation aims to reconcile the three Abrahamic faiths, but his most ambitious is the Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative."
This was launched in 2008 in six African countries, where teams work with government bodies to help bridge the gap between their leaders' visions for the future and the governments' ability to make it happen. GQ said: "In Sierra Leone, for example, AGI has helped delivered an entirely free healthcare programme that's cut the number of children in hospital dying from malaria by 80 per cent."
There was an immediate backlash - with Tony Blair trending on Twitter. Gary Lineker tweeted: "Apparently, Tony Blair has won GQ's philanthropist of the year award. Finally these awards have grasped irony!" while The Respect Party tweeted: "This must be some sort of joke?... "Tony Blair wins GQ Philanthropist of the Year" And James Doleman, legal correspondent for The Drum, tweeted: "Satire officially dead as Tony Blair named "Philanthropist of the Year" by GQ magazine."
Some critics are furious that this title could be given to someone who will forever be associated with the British government's decision to go to war against Iraq. Some compared it to the Nobel Peace prize given to Henry Kissinger.
Others are critical of some of the consultancy work he has been involved in. The Daily Mail reported that Conservative MP Charlie Elphicke called the decision 'jaw-dropping', given that he was paid to advise Kazazh leader Nursultan Nazarbayev on his image. At the time Nazarbayev was defending his country's human rights record after unarmed protesters were killed by police.
However, there were a few who asked whether this backlash was deserved, as @ArticulatePanda pointed out: "Has anyone actually looked into Tony Blair's philanthropy before saying he doesn't deserve the award?"
Shortly after this, Kim Kardashian was named Woman of the Year.
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