A petition calling for Sir Tony Blair to be stripped of his knighthood has been signed by more than 670,000 people.
The former prime minister was made a Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter in the Queen’s New Year’s honours list.
However, a petition started three days ago has said he is the “least deserving of any public honour” due to his involvement in the Iraq War.
As the petition ticked beyond 670,000 on Tuesday evening, the Daily Mail published claims that Mr Blair’s defence secretary was ordered to “burn a secret memo” which said the 2003 invasion “could be illegal”.
‘He should be held accountable for war crimes’
The petition’s Change.org page 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 and servicemen in various conflicts. For this alone he should be held accountable for war crimes.”
The Mail’s report, which references the petition, is based on comments by Geoff Hoon, who was Mr Blair’s defence secretary from 1999 to 2005.
Mr Hoon’s principal private secretary was reportedly told by Downing Street “in no uncertain terms” to burn a memo about the legality of the war. It was instead locked in a safe, he claims.
Mr Blair has previously described the claim as “nonsense”, the Mail says.
Starmer backs predecessor’s record
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer defended the decision to honour his predecessor, and insisted it is not a “thorny” issue, adding that Sir Tony had been a “very successful prime minister”.
The current Labour leader was himself knighted in 2014, for “services to law and criminal justice”, following his time as director of public prosecutions.
He said: “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.”
Sir Tony, 68, led New Labour to a landslide victory in 1997 and won two subsequent general elections before quitting a decade later.
After he left politics, the former barrister became an envoy in the Middle East and set up his own non-profit, the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.
The prime minister’s official spokesman said: “Appointments to the Order of the Garter are a matter for Her Majesty the Queen, there is no involvement of the Prime Minister or Government, so it wouldn’t be one for me to comment on.
“I would point out every former prime minister before Tony Blair has received the Order of the Garter or Thistle.”
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Sir Tony’s knighthood could clear the way for his successors in No 10 to be given similar honours, following reports the delay in granting this accolade was blocking others.
Asked whether Mr Johnson believed the signatories of the petition were wrong, the spokesman said it was “a matter for the Queen”.
It comes as Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle suggested that all former prime ministers should be offered a knighthood because “it is one of the toughest jobs in the world”.