Whilst Tony Blair may have decided to get charitable with his money, it seems that the British public remain less than charitable in their attitude towards Tony Blair. News of the former Prime Minister’s very public announcement that he plans to give the profits from his memoir to the Royal British Legion to help fund a sports centre for injured troops has been greeted with suggestions that the money is being given to ease guilt, pave a legacy or avoid eternal damnation in the afterlife.
But Blair’s donation follows in a long tradition of such charitable donations. Who for instance could forget Idi Amin’s generous gift to the Uganda Orphanage Society or the sizeable sum Pol Pot gave to set up a rehabilitation centre for those who had survived the Killing Fields. There have also been recent rumours that Charles Taylor and Naomi Campbell are also planning a joint donation to the Mia Farrow Fund for Liberian Amputees.
Poor Tony. Wherever he turns in Britain he seems to face oppoprium. It is not surprising that he prefers to spend more and more of his time outside of the UK where he is still regularly treated like the world statesman and visionary that he believes he is. And whilst donating the profits from his book may not seem too big a deal for a man who has reportedly amassed a personal fortune of between £20 and £60 million since leaving office, Blair’s attachment to wealth should not be overlooked.
Whilst he has made it clear that he feels no guilt, Tony Blair clearly does feel a sense of responsibility: responsibility for the decisions made in office and responsibility for the blood-price paid by British service personnel as well as Iraqi’s. By repeating the mantra “I did what I thought was right” continuously in his head Blair may be able to insulate himself from some of the guilt but that single decision must still weigh heavily on his sun-kissed shoulders.
Blair knows that history will be his judge and that history is littered with tales of hubristic leaders who fought wars that they believed were ‘just’, ‘Holy’ or ‘necessary’. At the Chilcott Inquiry earlier in the year the he stated he had “no regrets” about the invasion of Iraq. But no matter how often he says it or how clearly he writes it in his book, few of us believe him.
In those heady days in 1997, a newly-elected, shiny-faced Tony Blair said in a speech: “Mine is the first generation able to contemplate the possibility that we may live our entire lives without going to war or sending our children to war.” Two wars and countless deaths later, Tony Blair must still ask himself each day where it all went so horribly horribly wrong.