SDP Member of Parliament Sanna Marin is seen checking her smartwatch during a plenary question time session in Helsinki on September 7, 2023. Marin announced today that she has been appointed as a strategic advisor to the Tony Blair Institute and, as a result, has requested to resign from her position as a Member of Parliament. SDP Member of Parliament Ilmari Nurminen is pictured alongside her. LEHTIKUVA


Despite being hailed as the world's youngest serving prime minister when she took office in 2019, Sanna Marin carries with her a notably thin résumé. Having risen quickly through the ranks of Finnish politics, she spent little time in each of her preceding roles, prompting critics to question the depth of her experience and her ability to govern. With the ink on her master’s degree still fresh, and a relatively short tenure in the Finnish parliament, concerns abounded regarding her competence in managing complex political landscapes, both domestically and internationally.

Some argue that Marin's rapid ascension highlights not her own prowess, but rather a broader trend of prioritising optics over substantial experience in political leadership roles and diminishing quality of leadership in Europe.

Antti Rinne's tenure as Finland's Prime Minister was cut short due to a wave of political turbulence surrounding a postal service dispute in late 2019. Rinne and his government were accused of mishandling the situation and providing misleading information about their involvement and the decisions made. Interestingly Marin herself who was the Minister of Transportation and Communication, in charge of the postals services emerged unharmed and later benefited from the scandal. While Marin did not publicly oppose Rinne, her statements were carefully crafted to protect her own position and reputation amidst the political turmoil.

The climax came when members of the Centre Party, a key coalition partner, expressed their loss of confidence in Rinne's leadership. Under immense pressure and to prevent a governmental collapse, Rinne opted to resign in December 2019.

Given that they led the coalition government. The decision was to be made by the party’s leadership and its council. Sanna Marin secured a narrow victory 32 -29 over Antti Lindtman in an internal voting. This internal party vote effectively determined Finland's next Prime Minister.

Critics argue that if it had been a direct election for the premiership, Marin, with her limited experience and relatively short political track record, would have almost zero chance of securing the top job. Her ascent can be seen as a testament to internal party manoeuvring rather than an overwhelming endorsement from the Finnish populace.

Marin’s term as prime minister was overshadowed by bursts of scandal and incompetence. All-night partying and afterparties in the official residence were not as important as the destruction caused to Finland’s economy and geopolitical status. One poorly prepared bill proposal after another stalled the political process. Mismanagement of the Covid crisis resulted in hundreds of unnecessary deaths. Ironically, Marin was saved by the same crisis her government mismanaged. Finns being one of the most cautious nations in the world, did not want to ”rock the boat” during a pandemic and later because of the war in Ukraine, otherwise Marin’s time as prime minister would have been rather short, reminiscent of Lis Truss. In Finnish politics, predecessors have vacated their positions for much lesser reasons.

The Murky Waters of the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change

In the heart of London operates a think tank bearing the name of one of Britain's most polarising figures in recent history: Tony Blair. But the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change (TBI) is more than just another non-profit. Like Blair himself, it embodies the interplay of politics, money, and influence in ways that sometimes blur ethical boundaries.

While TBI claims to address global challenges, concerns have been raised regarding its transparency in funding. Reports suggest that it has received funds from governments such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Given Blair's post-PM consultancy roles with various governments and businesses, it's challenging to see the institute's initiatives as entirely impartial. After leaving office, Tony Blair took on consultancy roles with the government of Kazakhstan, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), JPMorgan Chase, entities in Saudi Arabia, a modernisation project in Kuwait, and various entities in the gas and oil sector. In 2015, Tony Blair's Faith Foundation received money from a financial fraudster linked with illegal Israeli settlements and an American Islamophobic network. In 2017, Leaked emails suggested that while the UAE funded Tony Blair's Middle East peace efforts for the Quartet, British diplomats may have aided Blair in pursuing business interests, raising concerns about a potential conflict of interest in his dual roles in the region.

These and several other issues have prompted inquiries into whether TBI serves as a mechanism for global improvement or merely as a subtle instrument for governmental and commercial agendas.

Moreover, the Institute’s governance work, especially in Africa, is worth a critical gaze. Is it genuinely about building capacity, or is there a neo-colonial undertone to its operations?

It's impossible to discuss Tony Blair or any initiative associated with him without addressing Iraq. Blair's role in the Iraq War has led many to label him a 'war criminal'. While not officially indicted, Blair’s decision to back the U.S. invasion, based on what's widely accepted as flawed intelligence about Weapons of Mass Destruction, resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands and the destabilisation of an entire region. The Chilcot Report of 2016 highlighted “serious shortcomings” in the decision-making process which led to the war.

Can an institute truly address global challenges like extremism and governance without first acknowledging and reconciling with the controversial actions of its founder? The name 'Blair' might attract money and attention, but it also carries a baggage that TBI might never be able to shake off.

Certainly, Marin's luminous political trajectory in Finland appears to be dimming, and a mere parliamentary role won't suffice for her ambitions. She seems eager to capitalise on her international acclaim before it fades too. The question lingers: will Marin effectuate global shifts in international dynamics or seek the foundational experience at TBI that perhaps she has been missing in the first place?