Former prime minister Tony Blair has become the first Briton to win a prestigious award for leadership and democracy.
Mr Blair was named as the 2018 winner of the Lincoln Leadership Prize – named after US President Abraham Lincoln – which honours figures who show “great strength of character, individual conscience and unwavering commitment to the defining principles of democracy” in a lifetime of service.
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation cited his stewardship of the Northern Ireland peace process, introduction of the National Minimum Wage and civil partnerships, “revitalisation” of public services including health and education, improvements to maternity rights, success in lifting people out of poverty and equality and human rights legislation.
It also hailed his work in the Middle East and Africa since leaving office in 2007, as well as supporting a new generation of leaders through the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.
The award will see Mr Blair presented with a statuette and a portrait of him painted and hung in the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.
He joins previous winners including US president Bill Clinton, former Polish president Lech Walesa, film-maker Steven Spielberg and South Africa’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
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In announcing the award the ALPLF did not refer to Mr Blair’s controversial decision to commit the UK to war in Iraq in 2003.
But the chair of its board of directors Ray McCaskey said the former PM shared with Lincoln an understanding that leaders have to take unpopular decisions.
He said: “President Lincoln and Mr Blair both led their countries through tumultuous times and understood they would make decisions that might be unpopular with the general public.
“Yet, they remained singularly focused on the policies that would strengthen their countries and improve the lives of their constituents in the long term.”
But the former PM’s critics pointed out that Mr Blair was not, in their view, an advocate of democracy after advising controversial figures such as the president of Kazakhstan since leaving office, as well as advocating a second EU referendum.
‘MP Nadine Dorries said it was beyond belief that Tony Blair, the man straining every sinew to overturn the votes of millions of people to leave the EU, is now being lauded for his commitment to democracy’ https://t.co/rWBeglJfdv
— Nadine Dorries (@NadineDorries) March 9, 2018
They included Nadine Dorries MP, who was quoted by the Daily Mail as saying: “It is beyond belief that Tony Blair – the man straining every sinew to overturn the votes of millions of people to leave the EU – is now being lauded for his commitment to democracy.”
A spokesman for the former PM said: “Mr Blair is deeply honoured to be awarded the Lincoln Leadership Prize in recognition of achievements in office and, since then, his work in Africa, the Middle East and with his Institute.”
(Top picture: PA)