Tony Blair warns West going over the top with Qatar criticism

UK in danger of 'going over the top' on Qatar protests says Blair

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Tony Blair has warned the West is “in danger of going over the top” in its criticism of Qatar during its hosting of the football World Cup. The former prime minister said while he believed it was paramount to “make your point” about their intolerance of homosexuality and their exploitation of migrant workers, following those remarks, it was necessary to then recognise that “for the country, it is a really important event”. He later accused Transport for London of “gesture politics” over its ban of advertisements promoting travel to Qatar, tourism in Qatar, or portraying Qatar as a desirable destination. 

Mr Blair said: “You make your point, but having made your point, you recognise for the country it is a really important event. 

“I think you can stage a protest in whatever way you want. I think it is sensible of people to say that, of course, you should engage with the country and be prepared to be there for the tournament and so on.” 

Responding to reports that Transport for London has banned adverts run by Qataris, Mr Blair said: “I think we are in danger of going over the top on this. 

“Remember, the last time we held the World Cup here in England, at that time in 1966, being homosexual was still illegal.” 

Emily Maitlis then responded by saying that was 55 years ago, to which Mr Blair said: “Right, but you know, that is to say, the point is countries change and they move. 

“I think there will probably be quite a big difference between the people who have actually visited Qatar in the last ten years and the people who have not. 

“And if you have visited, and I have myself reasonably regularly, I mean there is a process of change. 

“Is it happening quick enough? No. You always want it to happen quicker. But there is this process of change happening across the Middle East and I think it is important to recognise that even if you make perfectly reasonable points about the state of their law today.” 

Asked if he believed the banning of advertisements in London was “gesture politics”, Mr Blair added: “Frankly, I think it is.” 

Last week, Qatar issued a review into its investment in London following the ban on advertisement by Transport for London, saying “it has been interpreted as a message from the mayor’s office that Qatari business is not welcome in London”.

A source with knowledge of the review accused TfL of “double standards and virtue signalling to score cheap political points”. 

Through its sovereign wealth fund, Qatar has become one of the largest investors in London; it is the 10th largest landowner in the UK, and among the properties in the portfolio of the Qatar Investment Authority are department store Harrods in Knightsbridge and Britain’s tallest building, the Shard, which was built with nearly £2bn of Qatari investment. 

Confirming the ban that had been discussed in 2019 after Sadiq Khan called for TfL to review its policy on all advertisements referencing countries that criminalise same-sex relationships, the transport company said it would employ “stringent scrutiny” of all marketing. 


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In the latest round of backlash against the Gulf state, sports minister Stuart Andrew said he plans to wear the rainbow-coloured armband prohibited by Fifa when he attends the World Cup clash between England and Wales in Qatar.

The Conservative frontbencher, who is gay, said it was “really unfair” that football’s governing body prevented the captains of England and Wales from donning the OneLove anti-discrimination armband at the 11th hour.

Mr Andrew’s decision to wear the armband risks upsetting the World Cup’s Qatari hosts, with homosexuality still illegal in the Gulf state, punishable by up to seven years in prison or even death if the person is Muslim. 

Fans attending matches earlier in the tournament also reported having rainbow items, including T-shirts and Wales bucket hats, confiscated by officials before Fifa later insisted they should be allowed in stadiums.

Mr Andrew said Qatari laws meant LGBTQ+ fans had been excluded from the World Cup.


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