Desmond Tutu refuses to share a platform with Tony Blair

The Archbishop withdraws from event, citing Blair's support for the war in Iraq as "morally indefensible".

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has withdrawn from an event later this week in Johannesburg because he feels he cannot share a platform with Tony Blair.

The retired archbishop, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his campaigning against apartheid, said that he had withdrawn from the event because he found the former prime minister's support for the invasion of Iraq to be "morally indefensible".

A statement from his office explained:

Ultimately, the Archbishop is of the view that Mr Blair's decision to support the United States' military invasion of Iraq, on the basis of unproven allegations of the existence in Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, was morally indefensible. The Discovery Invest Leadership Summit has leadership as its theme. Morality and leadership are indivisible. In this context, it would be inappropriate and untenable for the Archbishop to share a platform with Mr Blair.

A spokesman for Archbishop Tutu told me that this should not be viewed as a snap decision, saying that Tutu is "a very prayerful man" who will have "spent hours on his knees considering this decision". "He thinks and prays and then acts," he said. "That's how he's always done things, including during the struggles."

Blair and Tutu, alongside chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov, were due to appear at the Discovery Invest Leadership Summit in Johannesburg later this week. The Muslim political party Al Jama-ah has already announced that it will attempt to arrest Blair when he arrives in Johannesburg for "crimes against humanity".

A spokesman for Tony Blair said: "Obviously Tony Blair is sorry that the Archbishop has decided to pull out now from an event that has been fixed for months and where he and the Archbishop were never actually sharing a platform. As far as Iraq is concerned they have always disagreed about removing Saddam by force - such disagreement is part of a healthy democracy."

Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Photograph: Getty Images

Caroline Crampton is assistant editor of the New Statesman. She writes a weekly podcast column.

Getty
Show Hide image

Election 2017: Which Labour MPs are standing down?

13 Labour MPs have announced they will not fight the June 8 general election.

Theresa May's decision to call a snap election - and the grim outlook for Labour - means a number of the party's MPs will not fight the June 8 poll. Here's a full list. 

Dave Anderson (Shadow Scotland and Northern Ireland Secretary) - Blaydon (14,227 majority)

Tom Blenkinsop - Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland (2,268 majority)

Andy Burnham - Leigh (14,096 majority)

Jim Dowd - Lewisham West and Penge (12,714 majoirty)

Michael Dugher - Barnsley East (12,034 majority)

Pat Glass - North West Durham (10,056 majority)

Alan Johnson - Hull West and Hessle (9,333 majority)

Fiona MacTaggart - Slough (7,336 majority)

Rob Marris - Wolverhampton South West (801 majority)

Steve Rotheram - Liverpol Walton (27,777 majority)

Andrew Smith - Oxford East (15,280 majority)

Gisela Stuart - Birmingham Edgbaston (2,706 majority)

Iain Wright - Hartlepool (3,024 majority)

0800 7318496