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Blair named GQ Philanthropist of the Year despite ‘jaw dropping’ work

Conservative MP slams award in light of former UK PM’s $11.5m consulting deal with Kazakhstan dictator

Published: Updated:

A decision by men’s magazine GQ to name former British prime minister and Labour Party leader Tony Blair its philanthropist of the year has sparked controversy just hours after the ceremony.

Citing his founding role in three charities and his work as a Middle East peace envoy, the magazine praised Blair’s various philanthropic efforts, including promoting sports among children in Britain’s impoverished North East, and the success of his Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative.

But Conservative MP Charlie Elphicke described GQ’s choice as “jaw dropping” in light of Blair’s consulting work with Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

A letter from Blair to the Kazakhstani president leaked in late August showed the former prime minister had advised Nazarbayev on the best way to speak to the Western media about a massacre of 14 civilians—PR work reportedly valued at £7 million ($11.5 million).

Many viewers took to social media to criticize the decision, also attacking his record as Middle East peace envoy and his decision to involve the UK in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Some, such as Twitter user @blanketperson merely questioned GQ's understanding of "philantrophy," but other users were more blunt. "I would be pleased for #tonyblair winning philanthropist of the year. But the millions of dead kids kind of spoil it," wrote @SamJenner77.

The annual event has been met with controversy in the past. At least year’s gala, singer Noel Gallagher attacked former UK foreign secretary William Hague’s presence at the ceremony in light of the events in Syria.

This year’s GQ Men of the Year issue hits newsstands on Sept. 4.