Tony Blair's award from Save the Children raises an important question: are they joking?

Had Blair been in Downing Street in the 1960s our brave boys would probably have been slugging it out with the Vietcong

Chris Maume
Wednesday 26 November 2014 18:35
Tony Blair speaks on stage at the 2nd Annual Save The Children Illumination Gala
Tony Blair speaks on stage at the 2nd Annual Save The Children Illumination Gala

Tom Lehrer famously remarked that political satire died when Henry Kissinger was given the Nobel Peace Prize. It died another day when our homegrown warmonger, Tony Blair, was made into a peace envoy for the Middle East. The position taken by the staff of Save the Children on Henry Kissinger is not known, though I doubt it’s terribly favourable. Their position on Blair, however, is unequivocal.

Two hundred of them have signed a letter protesting at the global legacy award given to Blair in New York last week, at a bash modestly entitled “Illumination Gala”, and by midday yesterday an online petition calling for the charity to take back the gong had attracted 99,000 signatures. The award, says the letter, is “a betrayal to Save the Children’s founding principles”.

The irony meter of the charity’s management must be a little off, too. Save the Children are co-signatories to a letter published today in The Independent calling for the UK to take more Syrian refugees – but they were only just honouring a man who bears at least some of the responsibility for their plight. It is, we can only presume, sheer coincidence that the chief executive of Save the Children UK is Justin Forsyth, who for three years was a trusted henchman of the former prime minister.

As with Kissinger, there have been calls for Blair to be tried for war crimes, for the part he made Britain play in the invasion of Iraq (bring on the Chilcot report, some might say – surely uncomfortable reading for him). When Kissinger was waging the Vietnam war on behalf of the free world Harold Wilson admirably refused to back him up. What would Blair have done?

His much-vaunted religious faith would surely have told him what to do – a faith which was instrumental, by his own admission, in sending us to war in 2003 (but which, also by own his admission, he omitted to mention until he’d left office in case we concluded that he was a “nutter”). Had he been in Downing Street in the 1960s I think we can safely assume that our brave boys would have been slugging it out with the Vietcong.

In the interests of journalistic transparency I should declare at this juncture that you mustn’t expect anything remotely approaching objectivity from me when it comes to Blair. As a Labour member until he took over the party leadership I’ve been saying “I told you so” for the past 20 years, since he wafted into office on a mission to destroy socialism.

But we should try to maintain a facade of Olympian dispassion, so here goes: in bestowing the honour, Save the Children cited the two G8 summits Blair hosted when he was PM, particularly the “Make Poverty History” declaration in 2005. But quickly casting objectivity aside, I feel free to opine that “Make Poverty History” is one of the emptiest phrases ever spoken by political leaders, a great blast of hot air that made the great and good feel great and good about themselves.

Accepting the award, Blair said that “from the beginning of humankind there has been brutality, conflict, intrigue, the destructive obsession with a narrow self-interest.” Indeed: cf. the invasion of Iraq. He went on: “But throughout all human history, never has been extinguished that relentless, unquenchable desire to do good.” Which must be why he signed his notorious filthy-lucre deal to advise the vicious regime in Kazakhstan.

But does anyone, apart from the decision-makers at Save the Children, and the Kazakh president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, take Tony Blair seriously any more? The STC staff certainly don’t – their letter says that the award “endangers our credibility globally”. In fact – apart, perhaps, from arms-dealing and autocracy – is there any cause that wouldn’t be damaged by association with Tony Blair?

Milk’s the newest cash cow for our friends at Coca-Cola

Swiftly following on from Blair and Save the Children, another dispatch from the You Couldn’t Make It Up Department: Coca-Cola, scourge of the health professions since 1886, are going into the dairy industry. Fairlife, they’re calling their new product – or, as the ads put it, “Milk with flair”.

They say it will have 50 per cent more protein and 50 per cent less sugar than the old-fashioned stuff we’ve been stuck with since farming began all those thousands of years ago. And, appropriately, it will cost about 100 per cent more.

At least Coca-Cola, who have done well out of their Simply line of fruit juices, are upfront about why they’re branching out. They could have come up with some guff about wanting to save lives and make the world a healthier place, but no: as a senior vice-president put it: “It won’t rain money in the early couple of years. But, like Simply, when you do it well, it rains money later.”

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