Tony Blair wants world to ‘move on’ from Qatar protests: ‘Going over the top’

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair appears on The News Agents podcast

Former prime minister Tony Blair thinks the world should “move on” from Qatar’s LGBTQ+ rights abuses.

Blair spoke out amid ongoing criticism of the World Cup, comparing the situation in Qatar, where it is illegal to be gay and recent reports indicate the abuse of LGBTQ+ Qataris, to England hosting the World Cup in 1966, 56 years ago, when homosexuality was still illegal.

“The point is countries change,” he claimed. “If you have visited [Qatar]… There is a process of change.”

Speaking on The News Agents podcast with Emily Maitlis and Jon Sopel, Blair commented on reports Transport for London (TfL) has banned adverts encouraging travel to Qatar.

He said: “I think we are in danger of going over the top on this.”

The former PM added: “It’s not sensible of us to disrespect Qatar. This is their biggest event they’ve held.

“It’s a huge event for the country. They are allies of us, they invest huge amounts of money in this country.

“It’s happening now, they’re staging it… It’s important now I think having made the point, we move on.”

Blair also addressed the fiasco around players wearing a pro-LGBTQ+ OneLove armband – countries pulled out from the gesture after being threatened with sanctions

Blair said wearing an armband would not “determine whether the country moves into a more progressive position or not”.

He added on the podcast that he supported David Beckham’s controversial multi-million deal with Qatar during the World Cup, with Blair explaining he would “prefer the icon for the World Cup to be British rather than not”.

Ahead of the World Cup, Labour MP Kate Osbourne wrote for PinkNews about the importance of highlighting Qatar’s record on rights for women, LGBTQ+ people, and migrant workers.

“Despite these abuses being well-documented by many organisations, groups, and countries worldwide, including Amnesty International, Qatar have been allowed to ramp up the sportswashing of its image,” she wrote.

“Earlier this month, FIFA… said ‘we should focus on the football’. We should absolutely not just ‘focus on the football’.

“We all need to make sure we shine a light on the abhorrent record, human rights abuses and laws that still exist… Let’s not forget LGBTQ+ people cannot live safely in Qatar, they face persecution, imprisonment and even death.”

Under Qatar’s Penal Code 2004 queer people can be jailed for up to seven years if convicted of having sex, and under Sharia law, homosexuality is punishable with the death penalty.

Despite the assurances of FIFA, fans wearing rainbow colours or displaying Pride flags have been hounded by security at the World Cup in Qatar.

Qatar has since U-turned on this ban, promising that rainbow clothing will “not be prohibited” in World Cup stadiums.