The Charity Commission has called a meeting with representatives of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation after a former senior employee turned whistleblower and raised concerns about aspects of its operation.
The Sunday Telegraph reported that the Commission has asked for the meeting after Martin Bright, employed by the foundation to edit its website analysing religious conflict, complained that the former Prime Minister was interfering.
He effectively accused Mr Blair of abusing his role as the charity’s patron to use it as a think tank for his private office. Bright also complained that large sums of money were spent on the communications team, and said this appeared to be aimed at protecting Mr Blair’s image rather than promoting the charity.
The controversy threatens to overshadow the recent announcement by GQ magazine that Tony Blair had won its Philanthropist of the Year award. Mr Blair has contributed more than £10 million to charity since 2007.
Mr Bright, former political editor of the New Statesman, told The Sunday Telegraph: “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 [Mr Blair’s] reputation was to be protected at all costs.”
Mr Bright, who runs his own charity, said that “huge amounts” of the foundation’s time “were spent in meetings to ensure the website didn’t embarrass Blair.”
He also complained in an earlier article in the Mail on Sunday that is being examined by the Charity Commission: “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 said that on one occasion, Mr Blair asked him to create an “interactive map” of Islamic religious schools or madrasas in the world “according to how radical they are.” He questioned why “such a small charity” needed five communications officers when its “sole aim seemed to be to say as little as possible.”
Mr Bright also revealed that Harvard Divinity School pulled out of a joint project with Mr Blair’s charity after the former prime minister wrote an article claiming that religion was responsible for fuelling conflicts.
Mr Bright was employed in January to launch and edit the “religion and geopolitics” section of the website but resigned five months later.
In a statement, Mr Bright said: “TBFF does important work to tackle religious extremism but it is hamstrung by the relationship with Tony Blair himself.”
A Charity Commission spokesman said there were no regulatory issues and the foundation is not under investigation. She added: “But we are to meet with the charity in the autumn for a general discussion. We then expect to publish an operational case report about our involvement.”
A spokesman for the foundation said: “Tony Blair established the Tony Blair Faith Foundation in 2008 because he believed that religious ideology and its impact on the world would be the biggest challenge facing the 21st Century. We are immensely grateful for the considerable amount of time and energy Mr Blair devotes to working as our founder and patron. The Foundation is an independent entity and a registered charity in the UK that abides by all relevant laws and regulations. We are governed by a board of independent trustees who ensure we meet our charitable objectives.”
Mr Blair runs consultancy under the umbrella Tony Blair Associates, is an unpaid Middle East peace envoy and besides the foundation has set up the Tony Blair Sports Foundation and the Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative.
Original Post by Christian Today
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