LABOUR leader Sir Keir Starmer is being challenged to “sever all links” between his party and the think tank set up by Tony Blair.

Blair, who was Labour’s longest-serving prime minister, spending 10 years in Downing Street, set up the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change in 2016.

But SNP Westminster economy spokesperson Drew Hendy has highlighted “deep concern” about how the organisation is resourced, saying it has received funding from “authoritarian governments with damaging human rights records”.

Starmer used a speech earlier this month to highlight the “need to clean up politics”.  

The National: SNP MP Drew Hendry. Photo: UK Parliament

Hendry (above) challenged the UK Labour leader to “lead by example on this front and make a public commitment to sever all links between the Labour Party and the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change”.

In a letter to Starmer, Hendry insisted this was necessary because of the “unclear nature” of some of  the Tony Blair Institute's sources of funding and because of the “appalling human rights record of some of the countries which [...] fund its activities”.

Hendry said the Tony Blair Institute had accepted money from the governments of both Kazakhstan and Bahrain.

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He described Bahrain as being a place with “an extremely concerning human rights record and whose 2022 elections were described by Human Rights Watch as “neither free nor fair”.

The SNP MP added: “Most notably, the Tony Blair Institute accepted payment of £9 million from the Saudi Arabian government in 2018 – paid through a Guernsey-registered firm – despite the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi taking place in that same year.

“Overall, the Tony Blair Institute has seen its income from foreign governments rise by almost 50% over the past year, although its accounts only selectively list who it receives money from, sometimes vaguely referencing government partners.”

With Starmer, who is widely expected to be the UK’s next prime minister, having pledged to “restore standards in public life,” Hendry told the Labour leader he agreed with him on the “the need to both end the scourge of dark money in Westminster politics, and to restore public confidence in our politics”.

He went on to tell Starmer that cutting links with the Tony Blair Institute would “send a strong message that you are indeed serious about matching your rhetoric on cleaning up politics with concrete actions”.

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Hendry said: “Sir Keir Starmer has been vocal about his desire to end the scourge of dark money in Westminster politics. The SNP wholeheartedly agrees that this must be a priority for the UK Government.

“That is why I am urging him to cut ties with the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change after reports revealed the organisation accepted funding from authoritarian governments with shocking human rights records.

“Given it is pretty much certain that Labour will form the next UK government, they must lead by example.”

He added: “It is becoming difficult to find a policy in the Labour manifesto that Sir Keir Starmer hasn’t U-turned on but I very much hope that he stays true to his word on wanting to end the Tory practice of foreign money in UK politics.”

A spokesperson for the Labour Party said: “This is yet another example of the SNP playing games rather than serving Scotland.

“With one in seven Scots on an NHS waiting list, the Scottish Government should be focused on the issues that matter to people.

“If they can’t, they should stand aside and let Labour take over.”

The Tony Blair Institute for Global Change has been contacted for comment.