Former PM Tony Blair receives Abraham Lincoln leadership award

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Former prime minister Tony Blair has been named as the first British recipient of an award for leadership in memory of Abraham Lincoln.

The Lincoln Leadership Prize honours figures who show “great strength of character, individual conscience and unwavering commitment to the defining principles of democracy” in a lifetime of service in the spirit of the 16th president of the United States.

Naming Mr Blair as its 2018 winner, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation cited his stewardship of the Northern Ireland peace process and introduction of the National Minimum Wage and civil partnerships.

The “revitalisation” of public services including health and education, improvements to maternity rights, success in lifting people out of poverty and equality and human rights legislation were other key contributions named.

The foundation hailed his record since leaving office in 2007 of work in the Middle East and Africa and fighting religiously-based extremism, as well as supporting a new generation of leaders through the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.

In announcing the award, the ALPLF made no mention of Mr Blair’s controversial decision to commit the UK to war in Iraq in 2003.

But the chair of its board of directors, Ray McCaskey, said the former PM shared with Lincoln an understanding that leaders have to take decisions, which will be unpopular with the public.

“Through his tenure as prime minister and his global good works since then, Mr Blair embodies the spirit of President Lincoln,” said Mr McCaskey.

“President Lincoln and Mr Blair both led their countries through tumultuous times and understood they would make decisions that might be unpopular with the general public.

“Yet, they remained singularly focused on the policies that would strengthen their countries and improve the lives of their constituents in the long term.”

Mr Blair, who will receive the prize at a ceremony in Chicago on April 24, joins previous winners of the Lincoln Leadership Prize including US President Bill Clinton, former Polish President Lech Walesa, film-maker Steven Spielberg and South Africa’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

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