'It's Not About Politics': Commons Speaker Defends Tony Blair Knighthood
Earlier, news that former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair had been knighted by the Queen in the New Year Honours List unleashed a barrage of indignation on Twitter. Many had commented that Blair should be in prison for sending UK troops to Afghanistan and Iraq during his tenure.
Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle has defended the knighthood
conferred upon former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair by Queen Elizabeth II. According to Hoyle, it is a “fitting tribute” for a former PM, and is not about politics.
Blair, who will now be able to use the title ‘Sir’, has been made a Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter - the oldest and most senior British Order of Chivalry. Founded in 1348 by Edward III, the garter is awarded for outstanding public service and achievement. Made without prime ministerial advice, appointments to the Garter are in the Queen’s gift and are for life. Alongside Blair, the distinction was also given to Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and to the former Labour cabinet member Lady Amos.
The announcement was made as the main New Year Honours list, which is advised on by the Prime Minister's office, revealed other recipients, such as COVID-19 response professors Chris Whitty and Jonathan Van-Tam.
The knighthood received by Blair, who held the keys to Downing Street between 1997 and 2007, drew a barrage of criticism. Blair’s political opponents and the public on social media argued that the unsavoury legacy of his invasion of Iraq in 2003 rendered him unsuitable for the honour. Earlier in his tenure, Blair was one of the key proponents of NATO's 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia.
An online petition launched by Angus Scott on Change.org calling for the Queen’s decision to be reversed has already been signed by more than 109,000 people.
However, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, speaking on BBC Radio 4 on Saturday underscored that the job of Prime Minister was “one of the toughest jobs in the world”.
When asked if he believed all recent former prime ministers should now be knighted, he replied:
“If you have been prime minister of this country, I do believe the country should recognise the service given. Absolutely. You finish in the office and when you’ve finished it is the respect that we give to those prime ministers.”
Sir John Major, Blair’s predecessor at No 10, was the last to receive the honour from the monarch.
Earlier, Twitter erupted in backlash after Tony Blair’s knighthood announcement was made. From veteran investigative journalist John Pilger to former MP George Galloway, people on social media commented that Blair should be in prison for ordering UK troops in November 2001 to join the US-led invasion of Afghanistan following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America. The then-British Prime Minister had also taken a decision to participate in the 2003 US coalition-led invasion of Iraq, arguing that the Saddam Hussein government possessed an active weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programme. The latter fact was subsequently proven false, as no stockpiles of WMDs or an active WMD programme were ever found in Iraq.
Responding to the negative remarks regarding Blair’s ennoblement this weekend, the Speaker emphasised:
“It is not about politics. It is about the position they have held in this country and it’s the respect that we show to those and it is a fitting tribute.”