A petition to strip former British prime minister Tony Blair of his knighthood due to his role in the Iraq War has gained more than 1 million signatures and the backing of at least one Labour MP.
The petition, posted on Change.org a week ago, accuses Blair of causing “irreparable damage to both the constitution of the United Kingdom and to the very fabric of the nation’s society.”
Blair “was personally responsible for causing the death of countless innocent, civilian lives and servicemen in various conflicts,” the petition claims. “For this alone he should be held accountable for war crimes. Tony Blair is the least deserving person of any public honor, particularly anything awarded by Her Majesty the Queen.”
On January 1, Buckingham Palace announced that Blair had been made a Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, the oldest and most senior British order of chivalry. The knighthood given to Blair, who served as prime minister from 1997 to 2007, was decided by the queen and made without government advice.
Every prime minister before Blair has also received a similar honor from the queen.
As of Saturday evening, 1,053,725 people had signed the petition.
Labour MP Richard Burgon gave his implicit backing to the initiative, sharing a screenshot of the petition on Twitter and writing: “It says a lot about what is wrong with our system when, after being one of the leading architects of the Iraq War, Tony Blair is honored with a knighthood while Julian Assange, who exposed war crimes in Iraq, faces extradition to the USA and a lifetime in prison.”
But Labour leader Keir Starmer defended his predecessor and his record of accomplishments.
“I don’t think it’s thorny at all. I think he deserves the honor. Obviously I respect the fact that people have different views,” Starmer told a British morning show on Tuesday. “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.”
Blair, now 68, led his party to a landslide Labour victory in 1997 and spent a decade in office. His successes included securing peace in Northern Ireland and massively expanding gay rights. But he was widely reviled at home for his support for the 2003 US-led war in Iraq.
In response to the news, Blair said: “It is an immense honor to be appointed Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, and I am deeply grateful to Her Majesty the Queen.”
The Associated Press and AFP contributed to this report.