While 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. His announcement that he plans to give the profits from his memoirs towards a sports centre for injured troops has been greeted with suggestions that the money is being given to ease guilt, prepare a legacy or avoid eternal damnation.
But Blair’s donation follows in a long tradition of such acts of charity. 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. Even Charles Taylor and Naomi Campbell are rumoured to be planning a joint donation to the Mia Farrow fund for Liberian amputees.
Poor Tony. Wherever he turns in Britain he seems to face opprobrium. It is not surprising that he prefers to spend more and more of his time outside of the UK where he is still treated like the world statesman and visionary he believes he is. And while 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 £20m and £60m since leaving office, Blair’s attachment to wealth should not be overlooked.
Though he has made it clear that he feels no guilt, Blair clearly does feel a sense of responsibility: responsibility for the decisions made in office and responsibility for the blood price paid by British soldiers as well as Iraqis. By repeating the mantra “I did what I thought was right” he may be able to insulate himself from some of the guilt, but that decision must still weigh heavily on his sun-kissed shoulders. At the Chilcot inquiry earlier this year 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 Blair said in a speech: “Mine is the first generation able to contemplate the possibility that we may live…