Charity Commission 'assessing concerns' raised about Tony Blair's role at his charity

A newspaper article by a former employee of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation alleges that the former Prime Minister's influence over its operation clashes with his role as a patron

Tony Blair
Tony Blair

The Charity Commission has said it is assessing concerns raised about the Tony Blair Faith Foundation in a newspaper article by a former employee of the charity founded by the ex-Prime Minister.

A piece published in The Mail on Sunday yesterday, by Martin Bright, who recently resigned after five months as a website editor at the charity, says that Blair should not as a patron have any executive role in the organisation, but still exerts substantial influence over its operation, and used part of the charity as a personal think-tank.

Bright writes: "The Faith Foundation is an independent charity with Tony Blair as its patron. He is not supposed to have any executive role. But it was clear from the outset that his tanned, expensively dressed presence was inescapable. He was the main draw for potential funders and his reputation was to be protected at all costs."

The foundation, which had an income of £1.6m and employed 30 people in the year to 30 April 2013, was set up in 2008 to provide "the practical support required to help prevent religious prejudice, conflict and extremism", according to its charitable objects. It is based in the same London premises as the Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative.

Bright was hired in January to edit the religion and geopolitics section of the foundation’s website, but complains that there was "no chance" of having autonomy in the role. "Huge amounts of time were spent in meetings to ensure the website didn’t embarrass Blair," he says.

"Tony’s private office began to treat my website as its own think-tank or government department, with regular calls for briefings on the Middle East, radical Islam or particular conflicts," he says.

Bright also describes working with Blair as like being "in the presence of an Old Testament prophet". He writes: "He doesn’t do humility and nor do his organisations. Perhaps that’s his tragedy."

The article describes the charity as part of "a spider’s web of charities, funds, diplomatic activities and money-making enterprises", questions why it had five communications officers recruited from government and "ritzy West End offices".

Bright says: "It was like living through an episode of Twenty Twelve, the BBC comedy based on bureaucratic preparations for the London Olympics."

A spokeswoman for the commission said: "We are assessing the issues raised in the article to determine whether they raise any regulatory concern for us. Please note we are not investigating the charity."

A spokesman for the foundation said: "The foundation’s charitable mission is to provide the practical support required to help prevent religious prejudice, conflict and extremism in order to promote an open-minded and peaceful society.

"We are a registered charity in the UK, abiding by all relevant laws and regulations and are governed by independent trustees who ensure we meet our charitable objectives. As with all well-run charities, this means we have robust internal procedures that make sure we do this properly."

 

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