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Petition to Rescind Tony Blair’s Knighthood Gets Hundreds of Thousands of Signatures

Petition to Rescind Tony Blair’s Knighthood Gets Hundreds of Thousands of Signatures
Written by publishing team

LONDON – Traditionally, former British prime ministers are honored by Queen Elizabeth a few years after she leaves 10 Downing Street, so Tony Blair’s elevation to equestrian status on New Years Day would have been a routine event.

Instead, more than 600,000 people signed an online petition calling for the tribute to be scrapped, illustrating how one of Britain’s most successful politicians remains a divisive figure, never forgiven by his critics for leading the country to war in Iraq.

Mr Blair, 68, says the petition, which has no legal force, was “personally responsible” for causing countless civilian and military deaths in “various conflicts”, adding that he “must be held accountable for war crimes”.

This sentiment reflects the extent to which the legacy of the opposition Labor Party’s most electorally successful leader was determined by his strong support for the United States and President George W. Bush in the war in Iraq that was increasingly unpopular in Britain.

The petition comes after Mr Blair became a member of the Order of the Lace, following the Queen’s appointment on New Year’s Eve. Dating back nearly 700 years, this order is Britain’s oldest and oldest chivalry. The office of the current prime minister, Boris Johnson, was not involved in the decision.

Mr Blair stepped down as prime minister in 2007, became Middle East peace envoy, set up a foundation and recently made a number of well-received suggestions on how to deal with the pandemic.

But the speed with which the petition has spread so widely shows that his efforts at political rehabilitation have had limited success.

“It’s a foolish job,” said Stephen Fielding, professor of political history at the University of Nottingham. His reputation at the moment is related to the Iraq war. He spent the last year of his prime ministership trying to establish his legacy, and it was all in vain because, like it or not, his legacy was Iraq, Iraq, and Iraq will remain.”

Mr. Blair led his Labor Party to a landslide election victory in 1997, served as prime minister for a decade and won general elections twice along the way. He lured Labor toward the political centre, helped negotiate a peace agreement in Northern Ireland and presided over the spending of a generally healthy economy on booming tax revenues on health and education.

But after leaving Downing Street, Mr. Blair became a wealthy man and advised some foreign governments and multinational corporations, cementing his reputation as someone who liked to raise the rich and powerful.

He is disliked by those on both wings of the political spectrum: those on the left have accused him of betraying his party’s values ​​by shifting Labor to the center, while the right has resented his massive electoral appeal.

“In a way, the hate is really a tribute to Tony Blair,” Professor Fielding said. “If he could see it like that, he’d almost enjoy it, but it obviously hurts for him.”

Of the four other living Prime Ministers, only John Major received a knighthood, although Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Theresa May served in Downing Street after Mr. Blair.

Despite its support, the online petition is unlikely to succeed in its goal of revoking Mr Blair’s medal, and current Labor leader Keir Starmer – who has also been trying to turn the party into the political center – has defended the decision to award it.

“I don’t think it’s a thorny issue at all for me, I think Tony Blair deserves that honor,” Mr Starmer told ITV, citing achievements including Mr Blair’s work on the Northern Ireland peace process. He won three elections, and was a very successful prime minister.

In a speech on Tuesday, Mr Starmer also praised Mr Blair’s government, saying it had “introduced a national minimum wage and reformed neglected public services under the Conservative Party”.

There was also support from the government minister, Maggie Thorpe, who told LBC Radio that Mr Blair had “done a lot of good things”, adding: “I think it’s only right that we honor our former prime ministers”.

Professor Fielding said that, historically, it is not uncommon for successful prime ministers to suffer a significant drop in their popularity after relinquishing power, and it often decades before their records are reassessed more fairly.

That time does not seem to have come for Mr. Blair, and to some of his critics, it probably never will. Among the petition’s signatories is Twiji Garcia, who, while working part-time at a restaurant in 2014 where Mr Blair was dining, attempted to arrest citizens of the former prime minister, allegedly for war crimes.

“I think it’s a bit shameful that the Queen is looking to give him a knight,” said DJ Garcia, who was unimpressed by arguments that Iraq should not detract from Mr. Blair’s other accomplishments.

“I think the good things Tony Blair has done for this country should not detract from the crimes he has committed and how we view them,” Mr. Garcia added, when asked if he would still try to arrest the former prime minister, replied: “One hundred percent, I will. that again.”

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