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Tony Blair: Hundreds of thousands sign petition calling for knighthood to be withdrawn

Inclusion of former prime minister in New Year's honours list provokes outrage over role in Iraq war
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair leaving the BBC after appearing on The Andrew Marr Show, 6 June 2021 (AFP)

Hundreds of thousands of people have signed a petition calling for former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s knighthood to be rescinded over his role in the Iraq war.

Many criticised the inclusion of Blair in the New Years Honours list citing his decision to begin military action in Iraq and Afghanistan, with families of military personnel who died fighting in the US-led invasions also condemning the move.

"Tony Blair caused irreparable damage to both the constitution of the United Kingdom and to the very fabric of the nation’s society," wrote the petition's organisers.

"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.”  

Others took to social media to express their anger at the appointment and share the petition, with many referred to Blair as a “war criminal.”

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His inclusion in the New Year’s Honours list would anoint him as Sir Tony and appoint him a Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, the oldest and most senior British Order of Chivalry. 

One petition supporter wrote, “Tony Blair should be prosecuted, not knighted. Someone like this being honoured shows how corrupt & vile the system is.”

While the honour is frequently given to former prime ministers, Blair had to wait 14 years to get the appointment. 

He described it as an “immense honour”, stating: “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.”

Blair held office from 1997 to 2007. He was preceded by John Major and followed by his former chancellor, Gordon Brown. 

House of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle defended the appointment.

"Whatever people might think, it is one of the toughest jobs in the world and I think it is respectful and it is the right thing to do, whether it is to Tony Blair or to David Cameron.

"They should all be offered that knighthood when they finish as prime minister. I would say if you’ve been prime minister of this country, I do believe the country should recognise the service they’ve given," he told BBC Radio 4.

“It is not about politics; it is about the position they have held in this country.”

The Chilcot Report 

Blair’s time as prime minister has, for many, been overshadowed by the Iraq war.

The Chilcot Report, which concluded a long-running inquiry into UK involvement in the war in 2016, found that Blair’s government “chose to join the invasion…before the peaceful option for disarmament had been exhausted”.

It added that “military action at that time was not the last resort.”

The report also found that Blair had exaggerated the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s administration as he made a case for military action to MPs and the public in the buildup to the invasion in 2002 and 2003.

Critics of the war, which resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths and Iraq's descent into years of civil war and terror attacks, have argued that the rise of the Islamic State (IS) group and its subsequent attacks across the world came as a direct result of the conflict.