‘Tony Blair deserves the honour’: Keir Starmer defends the ex-Labour leader getting a knighthood and insists the appointment is not ‘thorny at all’ after half a million people sign a petition to strip the former PM of his new title
- Ex-PM Tony Blair received a knighthood in the Queen’s New Year Honours list
- More than 500,000 people signed petition calling for honour to be ‘rescinded’
- Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer today said that Sir Tony ‘deserves the honour’
Sir Keir Starmer today insisted Tony Blair ‘deserves’ his knighthood after more than 500,000 people signed a petition calling for it to be ‘rescinded’.
Sir Keir – who opposed the Iraq War in 2003 – said the former Labour leader was a ‘very successful prime minister’ and ‘made a huge difference to the lives of millions of people in this country’.
The current Labour premier also argued the appointment is not ‘thorny at all’ amid a growing backlash.
A Change.org petition, set up three days ago, aims to strip Sir Tony of the title, accusing him of causing ‘irreparable damage to both the constitution of the United Kingdom and to the very fabric of the nation’s society’.
The petition criticises the ex-PM for his role in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and claims he is the ‘least deserving person of any public honour’.
It is urging Boris Johnson to ‘petition Her Majesty to have this honour removed’.
Sir Keir Starmer today insisted Tony Blair ‘deserves’ his new knighthood after more than 500,000 people signed a petition calling for it to be ‘rescinded’
Sir Keir said the former Labour leader was a ‘very successful prime minister’ and ‘made a huge difference to the lives of millions of people in this country’
Sir Tony has been appointed by the Queen a Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter – the oldest and most senior British Order of Chivalry.
Appointments to the Garter are in the Queen’s gift and are made without prime ministerial advice, and are usually announced on St George’s Day on April 23.
However, the monarch can make the appointments at any time, and chose for Sir Tony’s to coincide with the New Year Honours list.
Sir Keir today defended the appointment, telling ITV’s Good Morning Britain programme: ‘I think Tony Blair deserves the honour. He won three elections. He was a very successful prime minister.
‘I haven’t got time this morning to list all of his many achievements which I think vastly improved our country, whether it’s minimum wage, Sure Start for young families.
‘But the one I would pick out in particular is the work he did in Northern Ireland and the peace process and the huge change that has made.
‘I worked myself in Northern Ireland for six years with the police service over there and I saw for myself the profound impact it had on peace, on both communities in Northern Ireland.
‘So, I don’t think it is thorny at all, I think he deserves the honour. Obviously I respect the fact that people have different views.’
He added: ‘I understand there are strong views on the Iraq war, there were back at the time and there still are, but that does not detract from the fact that Tony Blair was a very successful prime minister of this country and made a huge difference to the lives of millions of people in this country.’
Sir Tony, 68, led the Labour Party to a landslide general election victory in 1997.
He then went on to win two further general elections before quitting Westminster a decade later, as he handed the keys to Number 10 to his chancellor Gordon Brown.
A Change.org petition is urging Boris Johnson to ‘petition Her Majesty to have this honour removed’ from Sir Tony
He was prime minister during the Allied military invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.
After leaving politics the former barrister became a Middle East envoy and set up his own non-for-profit group, the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.
Each year, Royal Knights and Ladies of the Order of the Garter gather at St George’s Chapel in Windsor for a colourful procession and ceremony.
Crowds watch as they walk down the hill to the chapel from the state apartments, dressed in blue velvet mantles, red velvet hoods, black velvet hats and white ostrich plumes.
Sir Tony, who left Downing Street more than 14 years ago, was one of three new appointments announced by Buckingham Palace.