How Tony Blair crony organised the award that discredited Save the Children
Over 500 Save the Children employees have signed an internal petition, more than 100,000 signed an online petition, countless people stopped their donations: all call for award to be revoked.
THE LEADERSHIP of Save the Children has acknowledged that the row over the global legacy award presented to Tony Blair has been a “painful” experience, and has appointed a team to try to contain staff anger.
A letter sent to employees from the charity’s chief executive, Jasmine Whitbread, says the episode has “touched a nerve close to our sense of identity”, and adds: “We are all frustrated and disappointed at the situation we are in.” She says there should have been better risk assessment.
Whitbread’s letter discloses that Justin Forsyth, chief executive of Save the Children UK and a former Blair employee in Downing St, played a key role in the process. Forsyth was hired by Blair to mastermind the Make Poverty History campaign at the G8 summit in Gleneagles in 2005, which was cited by Save the Children as a major factor in the award.
An internal petition circulated among Save the Children employees around the world is to be presented to head office. Describing the award as “morally reprehensible” and calling for it to be rescinded, the petition has gathered more than 500 staff signatures.
Save the Children has also faced protests from members of the public, with many saying they will no longer donate to the charity. Online petitions calling for Blair’s award to be revoked have gathered more than 100,000 signatures.
In the staff letter, Whitbread seeks to distance herself from the decision-making process for the award, which was given to Blair by the US arm of the charity. She writes: “SCUS simply did not anticipate anything sensitive – in the USA Tony Blair is widely seen very positively for his contribution to international aid.
“Carolyn [Miles, president and chief executive of SCUS] asked Justin [Forsyth] to deliver the invite and he did so because he wanted to be helpful to Carolyn. I first heard about this when it became public and was immediately in touch with Justin and Carolyn, who agreed with me that there should have been a better process of consultation and risk assessment and that we must learn from this.”
Whitbread acknowledges staff concerns, and says a team has been appointed “to contain the situation and stop things escalating further”. She adds: “While I can’t pretend I’m not very concerned about this situation, I’m confident that we can pull together to come out of it in a better place … Let’s use this experience, painful as it is, to inform our next strategy.”
Many staff are demanding an internal inquiry into the award and that those responsible for the decision to present it to Blair are held accountable. They argue that the charity has been irreparably discredited by celebrating the former prime minister’s legacy, disregarding his role the Iraq war in 2003.
Source: The Guardian