LONDON (Dispatches) – Former British prime minister Tony Blair has criticized the ongoing attack on Qatar during its hosting of the World Cup, under various pretext, stressing that the tournament has begun and appreciation must be given to the country hosting the largest event in its history.
In an interview with the British The News Agents podcast, Blair said, “I think it’s not sensible of us to disrespect Qatar. This is their biggest event that they’ve held … it’s a huge event for the country,” adding “They are allies of ours; they do invest a huge amount of money in this country.”
Commenting on the protests against Qatar, he said “I think you can make the point that you hope – as I believe will happen, by the way, across the Middle East … one of the things I can see now is there is a kind of social revolution going on across the Middle East right now.”
Asked about accusations of corruption to win the organization of the World Cup, he said that “one can argue about how they got to host, but now that the event has started, it is important that now after presenting your point of view, we move forward.”
The comments by the former British prime minister came a day after Qatar sais it has launched a review of its investments in London after the city’s transport authorities effectively suspended all advertisements from the Persian Gulf country following World Cup controversies.
Transport for London (TFL) halted ads from Qatar on buses and the underground train system following criticism of Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers.
In response, Qatar has placed its future investment strategy toward London under review and is “considering investment opportunities in other UK cities and home nations”, a person involved in the review told the Financial Times.
The ban was “another blatant example of double standards and virtue signaling to score cheap political points around the Qatar World Cup,” the source added.
In 2019, TFL said it would suspend adverts from several countries - Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Pakistan, Qatar, the UAE, Mauritania, and Afghanistan.
However, some Qatar ads were still allowed since then but the TFL decided to implement the ban fully on the Persian Gulf state this week.
Pressure mounted on the TFL after the World Cup started in Qatar and several adverts ran on the London transport network. The move, driven by London Mayor Sadiq Khan, has apparently annoyed Doha, which has faced fierce criticism ahead of and during the World Cup.