Tony Blair’s knighthood is a “kick in the teeth” for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, anti-war campaigners have said.
He was made a Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, the oldest and most senior British Order of Chivalry.
But Lindsey German, the convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, said she was “amazed” to hear that the former prime minister had been given the award.
“I think it’s pretty incredible given that this year, we’ve seen the collapse of Afghanistan, which [was] Tony Blair’s first major war in the war on terror,” she told LBC radio. “We have eight million people on the edge of starvation in Afghanistan now. We have… Iraq in a terrible state now, nearly 20 years after the invasion.
“And I think it’s a kick in the teeth for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, and a kick in the teeth for all the people who protested against the war in Iraq and who have been proved right.”
Sir Tony, 68, was given the knighthood 14 years after leaving Downing Street, after claims that the delay was blocking other former prime ministers from being honoured. He was in office between 1997 and 2007, leading the UK during the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Ms German said she understood the award was “convention” but added: “It’s 14 years on since he stopped being prime minister, so I don’t really see the justification for it at any time. It seems to me this is just him trying, yet again, to rehabilitate himself.”
John Smith, the son of Harry Leslie Smith, the Second World War veteran and author, said giving the honour to Gordon Brown would have been “more appropriate”.
A petition calling for Sir Tony’s honour to be rescinded had gained more than 14,000 signatures as of Saturday night. “Tony Blair caused irreparable damage to both the constitution of the United Kingdom and to the very fabric of the nation’s society,” the petition alleges.
But others praised Sir Tony for his service to the country. Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, said: “The last Labour government delivered enduring change from the national minimum wage to the peace process in Northern Ireland. My congratulations to Tony Blair on this recognition for his public service to our country.”
Neil Coyle, the Labour MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark, said Sir Tony had “transformed the UK for the better, won three outstanding victories for the party and [was] easily the best PM of my lifetime”.
In a statement, Sir Tony said: “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.”
The Speaker of the House of Commons on Saturday called for all former prime ministers to be knighted with the highest possible ranking.
Sir Lindsay Hoyle told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, that the appointment should be given to all ex-PMs including David Cameron because it is “one of the toughest jobs in the world”.
“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,” the Chorley MP said.
“I would say if you’ve been prime minister of this country, I do believe the country should recognise the service they’ve given,” Sir Lindsay added.
“It is not about politics, it is about the position they have held in this country: It’s about the position and it’s the respect that we show to those people who’ve led this country.
“I think it’s a fitting tribute to the job they’ve carried out.”