Tony Blair's book decision sparks comment

By Ross Hawkins
Political correspondent

image captionThe decision to support a charity was made when Mr Blair left office

The armed forces rehabilitation centre to be built partly with Tony Blair's money will not bear his name.

But his critics have inevitably seen his decision to give up the proceeds from his book deal as an attempt to reshape his legacy.

Peter Brierley, whose son L/Cpl Shaun Brierley died serving in Iraq, suggested Mr Blair was motivated by his conscience, and the donation could amount to "blood money".

Its size has inspired some to reflect on how much he must have earned after leaving office to afford such a gesture.

Mr Blair's former constituency agent John Burton spoke for the opposing side of the debate, saying this was typical of his generosity, and saying his one-time MP was not acting from a guilty conscience as he believed his decision to go to war in Iraq was correct.

The office of Tony Blair offered only a statement from a spokesman, which recognised the courage and sacrifice not just of those forces who served in the most controversial conflicts of his time in office, but also of those troops sent to Northern Ireland, Sierra Leone and Kosovo.

It was neither a statement of contrition, nor a rebuttal of his critics. For many people, there is nothing Mr Blair can say or do to change their view of his foreign policy.

'No regrets'

The decision to support an armed forces charity was made when Mr Blair left office, although the Royal British Legion was selected only recently as a beneficiary.

The value of the initial book deal, while officially unconfirmed, is known to be around £4m. If it proves popular the total could be larger.

High-profile political memoirs that do badly prompt ridicule. Those that do well tend to encourage people to ask whether a donation is in order.

Two things are certain. Tony Blair's money will now contribute to a facility that will do much good for injured service personnel, and had he retained the cash for himself he would have faced fresh criticism.

His book will be published on 1 September. As Mr Blair prepares for book signings, campaigners are preparing to protest at the launch event.

During a six-hour evidence session before the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq war in January, Mr Blair said he bore the responsibility for removing Saddam Hussein but had no regrets. The inquiry is expected to issue its final report around the end of the year.

The publication of that report and of the memoir will prompt another lengthy conversation about Mr Blair's record.

More on this story