Keir Starmer backs Tony Blair's knighthood after a petition to strip it surpasses 500,000 signatures
Sir Keir Starmer has said former Prime Minister Tony Blair 'deserves' to be knighted
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has insisted Tony Blair was a "very successful" Prime Minister who "deserves" to be knighted, despite a petition to strip the honour surpassing half a million signatures.
Speaking on ITV's Good Morning Britain, Starmer said Blair's knighthood "is not a thorny issue" and he "deserves the honour".
“I haven’t got time this morning to list all of his many achievements which I think vastly improved our country whether minimum wage or Sure Start for young families," Starmer said.
“But the one I would pick out, in particular, is the work he did in Northern Ireland and the peace process and the huge change that has made."
Labour's longest-serving Prime Minister was appointed as a Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, the oldest and most senior British Order of Chivalry in the Queen's New Year's Honours list.
Starmer was responding to news that a Change.org petition set up three days ago, which aims to have Blair stripped of the honour, reached 500,000 signatures on Monday. By Tuesday morning it had reached over 540,000.
A statement on the website reads: “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.
“We petition the Prime Minister to petition Her Majesty to have this honour removed.”
Later Tuesday, Sir Keir will deliver a speech in Birmingham where he is expected to set out Labour's vision for the new year.
He is also expected to say that the government's incompetence is becoming plain, but Labour must work to earn the public's trust.
Recent opinion polls suggesting Labour has a modest lead over the Conservatives may have provided some cheer for Sir Keir, but critics say people still do not know what policies he stands for.