LONDON: More than half a million people have called on the British government to rethink the award of a knighthood to former Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Sir Tony, who served as prime minister from 1997 to 2007, was named a knight companion of the most noble order of the garter — the highest accolade possible — in the queen’s honors list for 2021.
An online public petition calling on the government to push the queen to rescind the honor has accrued over 550,000 signatures.
The petition says: “Tony Blair caused irreparable damage to both the constitution of the United Kingdom and to the very fabric of the nation’s society. He was personally responsible for causing the death of countless innocent, civilian lives … in various conflicts. For this alone he should be held accountable for war crimes.”
Online petitions in the UK have legal standing if they are created on Parliament’s website — this one was not.
If petitions reach 100,000 signatures on the parliamentary website, they must be considered for debate by MPs.
Sir Tony, who led the Labour Party, has been a controversial figure in UK politics ever since he led the country into the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, which led to the deaths of hundreds of British soldiers.
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer defended the award, telling ITV’s “Good Morning Britain” program: “I think he deserves the honor. Obviously I respect the fact that people have different views.”
He added: “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.”