Tony Blair was last night improbably named philanthropist of the year by a leading magazine.
The former prime minister was handed the award to a ‘muted’ response at a celebrity-packed gathering in central London. It was in recognition of his ‘philanthropy, establishing three charities’.
GQ magazine’s decision drew immediate criticism, with Labour MP John Mann saying last night: ‘It sends the wrong message. This sort of award should go to an unsung hero who has given up their time for charity.’
Tory MP Charlie Elphicke pointed out that Mr Blair has advised Kazakh leader Nursultan Nazarbayev, including on how to improve his image after his police killed 14 unarmed protesters.
He said: ‘It is jaw dropping that he should be given this award given his involvement in spinning the alleged brutal massacre in Kazakhstan.
‘People will be greatly concerned and wonder if this was the right decision.’ Gary Lineker tweeted: ‘Apparently, Tony Blair has won GQ’s philanthropist of the year award. Finally these awards have grasped irony!’
The GQ Men of the Year awards are popular among celebrities with many A-listers attending last night, including Kate Middleton’s sister Pippa and the model Cara Delevingne.
On receiving his award at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, Mr Blair, 61, said: ‘I would like to dedicate this award to the people that work with and for my organisations.’
He and his wife Cherie have a property empire worth an estimated £30million, having bought homes for their children.
Earlier this year, Mr Blair, who earns millions of pounds a year from his consultancy roles and charges fees of £250,000 for public speaking, was forced to deny being motivated by money.
He insisted: ‘In respect to my new life, first of all, I have to say that reports of my wealth are greatly exaggerated. Just for the record, I read I’m supposed to be worth £100million – Cherie’s kind of asking where it is. I’m not worth that, half of that, a third of that, a quarter of that, a fifth of that … I could go on.’
Sherlock Holmes actor Benedict Cumberbatch, Doctor Who’s Peter Capaldi and Love Actually star Colin Firth all won gongs.
Former Beatle Ringo Starr picked up an award for his humanitarian work and Pirates Of The Caribbean actor Johnny Depp presented punk pioneer Iggy Pop with the ‘icon’ trophy.
The tribute to Mr Blair on the GQ website read: ‘In 2007 Tony Blair stepped down as prime minister, but his surging momentum’s shown no signs of slowing.
‘Alongside his role as a Middle East peace envoy, Blair’s channelled his energy into philanthropy, establishing three charities.
‘The Tony Blair Sports Foundation pairs volunteer sport coaches with children in Britain’s North East and his Faith Foundation aims to reconcile the three Abrahamic faiths, but his most ambitious is the Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative.
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