Only a day after an online petition calling for Tony Blair’s Save the Children Global Legacy Award to be revoked gained over 100,000 signatures, Prime Minister David Cameron has called Blair’s choice for the accolade “remarkable.”
Cameron was questioned about the legitimacy of the award in the House of Commons, when Andrew Turner MP asked whether it was appropriate that Blair had been handed the honor.
“Should Tony Blair get a global legacy award from Save the Children for taking us to war unnecessarily in Iraq?” he asked.
The PM responded saying it was “remarkable” that Blair should be furnished with such an award, especially by a former employee of ex-Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
“Obviously the person who gave the award knows about peacemaking and peacekeeping,” Cameron quipped sarcastically.
An internal letter from Save the Children staff said awarding the prize to Blair was “morally reprehensible.”
The letter railed against the decision to award Blair, who is currently under investigation for alleged deception in the run up to the 2003 Iraq invasion, saying it “endangers our credibility globally.”
“We consider this award inappropriate and a betrayal to Save the Children’s founding principles and values. Management staff in the region were not communicated with, nor consulted about the award and were caught by surprise with this decision,” the letter said.
The petition calling for Blair to be stripped of the award reached 200 signatures in less than six hours.
David Cameron’s comments in the House of Commons on Thursday have led to speculation about the political independence of Save the Children, following the revelation of personal links to former PM and Blair ally Gordon Brown.
A number of the charity’s senior managers were previously linked to high-ranking global politicians.
The UK Chief Executive Justin Forsyth was formerly a special advisor to Blair, and Jonathan Powell, a member of the board, was Blair’s Chief of Staff.
Save the Children’s Director of Global Programs Fergus Drake was an adviser to Rwandan President Paul Kagame in Blair’s Kigali office.
Blair was handed the award for his work on the Make Poverty History campaign, under which he was responsible for convincing members of the G8 summit in 2005 to pledge $40 billion of debt relief to poor countries.
The former prime minister is currently central to Sir John Chilcot’s inquiry into Britain’s controversial and protracted war in Iraq. UK MPs, campaigners and citizens have long argued that the brutal war divided Britain and blackened Blair’s decade-long leadership.