Former British Prime Minister turned hired gunslinger Tony Blair is giving PR a bad name by finessing his lucrative relationship with the reprehensible ruler of Kazakhstan. He's too touchy about his work.
tony blairThe politico, who enabled George W. Bush's wrongheaded invasion of Iraq and now and forever is known as "Bush's Poodle" thanks to the UK press, says via a spokesperson that the millions earned from the regime of Nursultan Nazarbayev "does not personally go to him." It apparently goes to Tony's PR shop. C'mon, Tony. That old canard just doesn't cut it.
Blair's current PR headache follows the leak of one of his memo's to Nazarbayev following the murder of 14 protesters and wounding of scores more by police in 2011.
That 2012 missive urges Nazarbayev to play up the positives of his energy rich country. Blair noted the slaughter as tragic though it "should not obscure the enormous progress that Kazakhstan has made."
Hugh Williamson, director of Human Rights Watch's Europe/Central Asia region, said: 'It is disgraceful that Tony Blair has taken millions of pounds from this autocrat to write speeches for him without really tackling head on the huge human rights problems in Kazakhstan."
Though this blogger is a HRW booster and not so hot on Blair, Tony has every right to represent Kazakhstan.
At its best, PR is public relations open to all -- sinners and saints. Tony is right to say political progress is accelerated when an autocrat is allowed to engage in the public forum.
One must believe Blair is nauseated at what is going on in his client's country, but understands reform there takes time and engagement with the outside world.
Since rising to power in 1989, many top-shelf PR/lobbying firms have worked for Nazarbayev, who has been courted by the US government in the post-Soviet Union era. APCO Worldwide, Edelman, Hill and Knowlton, Livingstone Group and Arnold & Porter are among them.
BGR, the firm of former Mississippi governor and Republican powerhouse Haley Barbour, currently has the honor of repping Kazakhstan.
In my book, Kazakhstan deserves the same right to PR as does Saudi Arabia/Bahrain (MSL Qorvis) and Vladimir Putin/Russia (Ketchum).
Stand tall, poodle -- tough you may have to hold your nose while cashing Nazarbayev's check.