Tony Blair's £4.6m charity donation branded 'classic PR idea gone bad'

Tony Blair's decision to donate all the proceeds from his memoirs to charity is a 'classic PR idea gone bad', a leading PR professional has commented.

Facing criticism: Tony Blair
Facing criticism: Tony Blair

Blair vowed yesterday to hand the £4.6m advance and any profits from his autobiography to the Royal British Legion to open a state-of-the-art sports centre for wounded servicemen.

Former cabinet ministers have said the move is an attempt to rebuild a reputation heavily tarnished since he left office in 2007.

Mandate Communications CEO Sacha Deshmukh said of Blair’s decision: ‘I think this has to go down as a classic PR idea gone bad. It is not going to change the view of anyone in the country or elsewhere on the rights or wrongs of the Iraq war, so it slightly smacks of desperation. 

‘As long as Blair refuses to convey any sense of doubt in his decisions, no form of communication is going to help his image with anyone other than his remaining band of hardcore supporters.’

Intensive media coverage

Several of today’s newspapers have covered the story on their front pages. The Daily Mail used the headline: ‘'Guilty’ Blair gives £5m book cash to troops’, while The Times ran with the heading: ‘Blair tries to turn page with a £5m donation’.

DLA Piper UK head of media and director, global government relations, Eben Black criticised how the announcement was made and said: 'This has all unravelled quickly in the face of the massive cynicism Blair now faces from the press. You do wonder how well it was actually thought through beyond the immedate headline, which is in no way reminiscent of the Blair government, of course.

'The lack of clarity over what exactly the arrangements are make it look more suspicious than I suspect it is and is the classic mistake of failing to prepare to be asked for details. It is a sign of how far Blair's reputation has sunk that he is facing such vicious attack over what on the surface appears to be an altruistic gesture.'

Defending Blair's actions

Meanwhile, Wolfstar founder and CEO Stuart Bruce hit back at those criticising Blair's donation and said: 'Blair would be damned if he did and damned if he didn’t. The donation wasn’t motivated out of any sense of guilt. Tony believes all the military actions the UK has undertaken under his premiership have been right. Instead it is a genuine, heartfelt commitment to the extraordinary service that our armed forces give to this country, and should be seen in the light.

'The donation isn’t about rehabilitating Blair’s reputation. Not everyone would say it is that tarnished, but was simply about doing the right thing. It’s a ridiculously cynical idea to say that it could possibly have been motivated to help publicise the book. Not least because it would be an extremely expensive gesture and as a marketing campaign definitely wouldn’t deliver value for money.'

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