Tony Blair Faith Foundation 'assessed' by charity watchdog after concerns raised about former PM's influence

The Foundation is not being investigated but a meeting will be held in autumn

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The Independent Online

A charity watchdog will meet with representatives from the Tony Blair Faith Foundation after a former employee claimed the ex-Prime Minister uses it as a “think-tank” for his private office.

The Charity Commission said it was "assessing" the concerns raised and will publish a report but has not started an official investigation or identified any “regulatory issues”.

The Foundation (TBFF) is one of several projects started by Mr Blair after his departure from politics and works to counter religious prejudice, conflict and extremism around the world.

He was controversially named "Philanthropist of the Year" by GQ magazine last week, prompting renewed criticism of his support for the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Martin Bright, a journalist formerly at the New Statesman, wrote about his “frankly weird” five-month term as the TBFF's website editor in the Mail on Sunday last month.

He claimed the former Labour leader still works from a ministerial “red box system”, employs five communications officers and operates a “government-in-waiting” .

Video: Tony Blair wins GQ philanthropist of the year

Operating from “ritzy” offices in a West End tower block, Mr Bright described a working atmosphere akin to a “global asset management” firm, punctuated by “morale-boosting doughnut breaks”.

The Foundation lacked the civil service-style resources to match its “grandness” and deliver on Mr Blair’s demands for Foreign Office-style research and policy positions, he claimed.

After completing work on his website, Religion and Geopolitics, he said he left out of frustration with the charity’s bureaucratic structures and Mr Blair’s “strident” positions on world affairs that were “affecting the ability of his charities to work independently”.

A spokesperson for the TBFF told The Independent Mr Bright’s claims about multiple press officers was incorrect, saying he was the only one, but would not go into others before the Charity Commission meeting.

He stressed that the Foundation is an “independent entity” governed by a board of independent trustees that meets its charitable objectives and abides by all regulations.

“Tony Blair established the Tony Blair Faith Foundation in 2008 because he believed that religious ideology and its impact on the world would be the biggest challenge facing the 21st Century,” he added.

“We are immensely grateful for the considerable amount of time and energy Mr Blair devotes to working as our founder and patron.”

One project in Sierra Leone is currently bringing together faith leaders in Sierra Leone to combat the spread of malaria and training community volunteers on prevention of the disease.