Growing outrage over Blair's award: Donors, volunteers and celebrity ambassador attack Save the Children as 100,000 sign petition over honour
- Tony Blair has been granted the 'global legacy award' by Save the Children
- More than 100,000 people have signed a petition opposing the award
- Charity chief executive Jasmine Whitbread emailed staff to explain award
- Save the Children faced a backlash online on Twitter and Facebook
Daily Mail. November 27 2014 ShortURL
Save the Children faced a growing wave of protest last night as donors, volunteers and a celebrity ambassador for the charity condemned its decision to give a high-profile anti-poverty award to Tony Blair.
Angry former supporters took to social media to say they would be cancelling regular donations, and more than 100,000 people signed a petition demanding the charity withdraw the ‘global legacy award’.
The charity’s boss yesterday admitted the decision to honour the divisive former Prime Minister had created ‘global repercussions’ for its reputation.
Tony Blair, pictured, visiting a Palestinian refugee camp in 2007. He is a peace envoy to the Middle East
Tony Blair, right, signed a memorandum of understanding last night with Stefania Giannini, left, in Rome as part of his Faith Foundation to counter religious prejudice, conflict and extremism across the world
However, more than 200 members of staff from Save the Children have condemned Mr Blair's award
Save the Children International chief executive Jasmine Whitbread sent a humiliating email apologising to staff for not consulting them about the award, saying they had been ‘blind sighted’. But she also issued a lengthy defence of the decision to grant it.
The charity’s Facebook page was deluged with critical comments about the award given to Mr Blair by its US arm at a star-studded ceremony in New York last week for the last Labour government’s aid effort.
On Twitter comedian Dom Joly wrote that he was ‘pretty embarrassed’ to be an ambassador for the charity ‘when they hand out awards to Tony Blair for his “anti-poverty” work’, adding: ‘I can only assume they meant his own, personal poverty?’
Yesterday the Daily Mail reported how 200 Save the Children staff have signed a letter condemning the award as ‘morally reprehensible’ and ‘a betrayal’ of the charity’s principles.
Former City executive Miss Whitbread became the focus of fury earlier this year when it emerged Save the Children International paid its top employee, thought to be her, a total of £234,000 a year – one of 20 staff earning more than £100,000.
In her message to staff she said the award went down well in the US and in other countries but admitted ‘we have seen (and should have anticipated) concerns raised elsewhere in the world’.
She added that in future there would be ‘a more robust process of consultation, risk assessment and internal communications for any member decisions likely to have global repercussions on our brand’.
Defending the award, she said it was for Mr Blair’s leadership on international development, increased aid spending and his hosting of debt relief summits.
The backlash against the charity emerged in a flood of critical messages on Twitter and the charity’s own Facebook pages.
Some former supporters called for the charity’s chief executive to be sacked while others insisted they would never make another donation until the award is withdrawn.
One former employee of the charity, Paul Woodhead, wrote: ‘Save the Children unrecognisable (and not in a good way) from the organisation I worked in for 20 years. #Blair.’
On Facebook, volunteer Dave Owen posted: ‘I have opened my garden for years as a fundraiser for STC, but no more, unless the obscene award to Warmongerer Blair is revoked.’
Yesterday a volunteer at a Save the Children charity shop in South London said they had received angry calls threatening to stop donations. The volunteer, who did not wish to be named, said of the award: ‘I don’t think it should have happened.’ By yesterday evening a petition on the 38 Degrees website calling for the award to be revoked had attracted more than 102,000 signatures.
Miranda Pinch, founder of the petition, told Channel 4 News in an apparent reference to Iraq, which Britain invaded in 2003 when Mr Blair was Premier, that he is ‘remembered for the great deal of suffering he caused to the children of the Middle East’.
She said: ‘In accepting this award from Save the Children, he is doing them a great disservice. I have had a lot of emails from people saying how horrified they are that someone like him should be able to accept an award when to many, he’s done the very opposite of saving the children.
‘It’s not good for a charity that wants a very broad range of people to give money to them. There are other people that are doing good things in Africa. Why not give someone who has less recognition or public profile an award?’
Critics have also pointed out that two former aides of Mr Blair have significant roles in Save the Children, including Justin Forsyth who worked in Downing Street from 2004 to 2010 and is now the chief executive of Save the Children UK.
Jonathan Powell, who was Mr Blair’s chief of staff, is on the board of Save the Children International. At Prime Minister’s Questions David Cameron – whose wife is an ambassador for Save the Children UK – said: ‘The remarkable thing about this award is that Tony Blair got it from someone who used to work for Gordon Brown.’
John McTernan, Tony Blair’s director of political operations between 2005 and 2007, said: ‘The award was for Tony Blair’s commitment to Africa. This is an attack on Save the Children. Tony Blair doesn’t need the award. The work needs the recognition.’ Asked if Mr Blair should have turned down the award, he replied: ‘No’.
Save the Children International chief executive Jasmine Whitbread sent an email to staff defending the award