Starmer insists Blair 'deserves honour' of knighthood as nearly 700,000 sign petition

4 January 2022, 22:55 | Updated: 4 January 2022, 23:03

Starmer has backed Blair amid calls for him to be stripped of his knighthood
Starmer has backed Blair amid calls for him to be stripped of his knighthood. Picture: Alamy

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Sir Keir Starmer has insisted former prime minister Sir Tony Blair "deserves the honour" of a knighthood as a petition calling for it to be stripped neared 700,000 signatures.

The Change.org petition calls for Sir Tony's appointment by the Queen to the Order of the Garter - the oldest and most senior British Order of Chivalry - to be rescinded.

It cites his domestic record and the Iraq War and had been signed by 670,000 people by Tuesday evening.

READ MORE: Half a million sign petition for Tony Blair to be stripped of knighthood

READ MORE: Boris Johnson's govt 'unworthy of your trust' says Sir Keir in major speech

But Sir Keir insisted today that the honour is not a "thorny" issue and that Sir Tony had been a "very successful prime minister".

The award could clear the way for Sir Tony's successors in No 10 to be given similar honours, following reports that the delay in granting the accolade was blocking the others.

The Labour leader told ITV's Good Morning Britain: "I don't think it's thorny at all; I think he deserves the honour. Obviously I respect the fact that people have different views.

"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."

Meanwhile, vaccines minister Maggie Throup told LBC: "I think he did lots of good things. And I think it's only right that we do honour our previous prime ministers. And he was prime minister for such a long time."

In a hint that Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Theresa May could be in line for honours, she said: "I think obviously it now opens the doors for others to be recognised in the same way."

Former Labour MP Luciana Berger said of Sir Tony, "the list of his achievements as a Prime Minister in our country for 10 years is considerable", adding: "This is a decision of the Queen and I think it's the right one."

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle has suggested that all former prime ministers should be offered a knighthood because "it is one of the toughest jobs in the world".