Keir Starmer Backs Tony Blair's Knighthood After 500,000 Sign Petition Against Honour

·3-min read
Blair and Starmer (Photo: HuffPost UK)
Blair and Starmer (Photo: HuffPost UK)

Keir Starmer backed Tony Blair today after more than half a million people signed a petition calling for his knighthood to be “rescinded”.

The Labour leader said he understood people had “strong views” on the Iraq war but that did not detract from “the fact that Tony Blair was a very successful prime minister”.

Starmer said Blair made a “huge difference” to the lives of millions of people in this country and praised his work in the Northern Ireland peace process.

Asked if the knighthood was a thorny issue for him, Starmer told Good Morning Britain: “Well, I don’t think it’s a thorny issue for me at all.

“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 minimum wage or 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.”

It comes after the New Labour prime minister, now 68, was made a Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter in the new year honours list.

However, anti-war campaigners as well as relatives of soldiers who died in Iraq have called for the honour to be stripped.

An online petition calling for the honour to be “rescinded” had reached more than 530,000 signatures by Tuesday morning.

A statement on the website said: “Tony Blair caused irreparable damage to both the constitution of the United Kingdom and to the very fabric of the nation’s society.

“He was personally responsible for causing the death of countless innocent, civilian lives and servicemen in various conflicts. For this alone he should be held accountable for war crimes.

“Tony Blair is the least deserving person of any public honour, particularly anything awarded by her majesty the Queen.

“We petition the prime minister to petition her majesty to have this honour removed.”

Appointments to the garter are a gift of the Queen and are made without the prime minister’s advice.

In a statement, Blair said it was an “immense honour” and added: “It was a great privilege to serve as prime minister and I would like to thank all those who served alongside me, in politics, public service and all parts of our society, for their dedication and commitment to our country.”

This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.