Leaked Save the Children e-mail shows extent of Tony Blair scandal and attempts at containment

Leaked internal e-mail sent from Jasmine Whitbread to save the Children staff shows they just do not get it.

To: SCI all staff
Dear colleagues
I wanted to write to you directly about the concerns over the recent award given to Tony Blair by Save the Children US at their annual gala dinner in NY. In the scheme of all the critical work we are doing for children around the world some of you might ask why I am focusing on this issue, but it has touched a nerve close to our sense of identity and as such I think it’s important that we have a shared understanding of how this happened, what we are doing about it, and how we will come out of this together.
First, understanding how this happened…
We are all frustrated and disappointed about the situation we are in, but I think we can understand how this happened: In our current structure, members make their own decisions about their marketing and fundraising as long as these are in line with our brand and other agreed guidelines. If there is a sensitive question then they consult, and this does increasingly happen. In this case, SCUS simply did not anticipate anything sensitive — in the USA Tony Blair is widely seen very positively for his contribution to international aid. Carolyn asked Justin to deliver the invite and he did so because he wanted to be helpful to Carolyn. I first heard about this when it became public and was immediately in touch with Justin and Carolyn, who agreed with me that there should have been a better process of consultation and risk assessment and that we must learn from this.
Simultaneously, staff in different parts of the world began to express concerns. We respect your views and want to hear from you. It was very helpful to hear from those of you who communicated internally and we appreciate being able to engage directly. Some staff chose to express themselves by signing a petition which I believe we can expect tomorrow. Sadly there have also been leaks of internal emails to the media.
What we are doing about it …
We have to address things on two levels — both urgent and important. Urgently, right now, a team is trying hard to contain the situation and stop things escalating further, detracting from our wider work for children. The point has been made and more coverage of the issue will not help children.
Importantly, we must safeguard and rebuild the trust and commitment to our shared values that we have worked so hard on over the last few years. This will take time and effort. We will want to design a process to reach out widely to staff and use this opportunity to really bottom-out our beliefs and strengthen the kind of culture we want to have in Save the Children. Your contribution to this will be vital.
While I can’t pretend I’m not very concerned about this situation, I’m confident that we can pull together to come out of it in a better place. There is so much that is amazing about what we are doing together for children — our signature programs, our campaign, our humanitarian responses are reaching millions of the world’s most marginalised children. We have to keep focused on this. We are still in the early days of working together as One Save the Children — we have come so far, but we still have a way to go. Let’s use this experience, painful as it is, to inform our next strategy. We have a unique opportunity to forever change the world for children by 2030 — but only if we learn from experience, build a shared culture and align all our efforts behind our mission for children.
Thank you for listening. I also want to listen to you, so do feel free to reply as always, plus I will be holding open calls to hear your thoughts and perspectives.

At a tacky glitzy New York celebrity infested bean feast, Save The Children honoured Tony Blair with a humanitarian award.

In Revolution, Russell Brand describes how he was told that attendance at such an event was mandatory, as it was good for his career.

We have had assembled tax-dodgers release Band Aid 30. They could have supported Africa Stop Ebola, West African musicians doing their bit for West Africa.

It would be difficult to envisage a least appropriate person than Tony Blair for a recipient of a humanitarian award from Save the Children.

The illegal war in Iraq is just for starters. The country has been torn apart.

This is a man who hobnobs with some of the world’s worst dictators and corrupt politicians, sleaze does not begin to describe Tony Blair, Silvio Berlusconi and Hosni Mubarak count as his cronies.

His latest has been to advise brutal ruler of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev how to sanitize human rights abuses and killing of unarmed protesters, for a retainer of £7 million a year.

He has also advised Al Sisi whose fingers are dripping with the blood of tortured and murdered innocent protesters.

Prior to being toppled from power, Tony Blair backed Hosni Mubarak in his crackdown on the pro-democracy demonstrators gathered in Tahrir Square.

He has acted for a Saudi oil company in a secret deal which promised him £41,000 a month and a cut in successful negotiations. The contract between Tony Blair Associates and PetroSaudi signed in November 2010, said Tony Blair would personally arrange introductions to his contacts in China, such as senior politicians. Saudi Arabia has an appalling human rights record.

He has quashed a Serious Fraud Office investigation.

Staff at Save the Children have expressed their revulsion.

Nearly 118,000 people have signed a petition calling for Tony Blair to be stripped of this award.

The internal e-mail from Jasmine Whitbread simply indicates how out of touch is Save the Children.

She was not even aware of the award until the shit hit the fan.

She is concerned at the damage to the save the Children brand. What is it, a Mars bar?

Sadly there have also been leaks of internal emails to the media.

Concern seems more to be on image, than substance, that a risk assessment did not take place.

How can Jasmine Whitbread not know what was going on, she is the chief executive? And even now, she fails to understand how toxic Tony Blair.

Urgently, right now, a team is trying hard to contain the situation.

Containment, image management, a team devoted to the task.

While I can’t pretend I’m not very concerned about this situation, I’m confident that we can pull together to come out of it in a better place.

The impression given, is that she just does not get it. The emphasis is on brand, image, containment.

Why not simply admit you got it wrong, and strip Tony Blair of the award?

Her e-mail would have done George Orwell proud.

From my conversation with Save the Children staff, they have a little more integrity than Jasmine Whitbread.

And whist we are stripping the award from Tony Blair, let us have a purge of his cronies who seem to have a stranglehold on Save the Children.

The award has raised serious questions about Save the Children’s integrity and independence because of close links between Tony Blair and senior people at Save the Children.

Its UK chief executive, Justin Forsyth, was a special adviser to Blair for three years, and Jonathan Powell, Blair’s former chief of staff, is currently on the board of Save the Children.

Save the Children was attacked last year when it was learnt Justin Forsyth was paid £163,000 a year, including more than £22,000 in performance-related pay. He has since taken a pay cut to £140,000.

It is the same old story, advisers and politicians, leave politics, nice little earners on the board of quangos and NGOs, the political-media establishment, revolving door, jobs for the boys, you look after my interest, I will look after yours.

What next from Save the Children, a special posthumous Christmas humanitarian award to King Herod? Or maybe an award to war criminal Benjamin Netanyahu for his humanitarian work in Gaza?

The latest scandal to hit Save the Children, a hospital built in Sierra Leone with British aid money to treat Ebola victims, of 80 beds, only 14 are occupied. It has entered an area, which requires expertise that Save the Children lacks. The money would have been better directed to Médecins Sans Frontières‎ who have the expertise.