Politics

Labour MP Chris Bryant defends Tony Blair knighthood as petition against it nears 800,000 signatures

Josh Milton January 6, 2022
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Former British prime minister Tony Blair arrives in Downing Street

Former British prime minister Tony Blair. (Tayfun Salci/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Labour MP Chris Bryant clashed with the author of a petition calling for Tony Blair’s knighthood to be rescinded.

After it was announced in the New Year’s Eve honours list that Blair will be made a Knight Companion of the Order of the Garter, the former prime minister’s legacy has faced renewed scrutiny.

More than 770,000 people have signed a petition calling on the government to rescind the knighthood.

The petition’s author, Angus Scott, appeared on BBC Politics Live Wednesday (5 January) where he clashed with MP for Rhondda, Chris Bryant.

Bryant noted that the Order of the Garter honour is routinely given to former prime ministers.

“Politics is a rough game and no politician is perfect, as it happens I voted for the Iraq war. I certainly voted for devolution,” he said.

Bryant continued: “I’m a gay man – it was thanks to Tony Blair’s legislation that I was able to enter a civil partnership.” He went on, crediting Blair with “radically transforming Britain” on issues such as housing and the NHS.

But Bryant did little to budge Scott, who refused to support Blair. “There is a balance of the scales,” he said, “and on the one side, you have his good deeds – the gay thing, et cetera.”

“The gay thing?” Bryant, a former priest, interjected. “The gay thing? Is that how you describe it? Really?”

Scott said: “I beg your pardon… I forget the legal terms.”

Bryant accused Scott of “betraying” himself, with Scott stressing that he is a “complete supporter of that”.

Labour MP Chris Bryant. (Scarff/Getty Images)

Tony Blair’s government introduced civil partnerships for same-sex couples in 2004.

It was among a wave of equality legislation that came under the New Labour government, including same-sex adoption, the Gender Recognition Act and the bedrock of anti-discrimination law, the 2007 Equality Act.

Blair has in recent years urged Labour not to get involved in a “culture war” over trans rights.

He’s also urged current Labour leader Keir Starmer to “reject wokeism” and warned he will never win power if he “looks askance” at figures such as JK Rowling.

Nearly 15 years since he left 10 Downing Street, Blair’s steadfast support for US president George Bush in the Iraq war is among his defining – and most divisive – legacies.

In his petition, Scott argued that Blair was “personally responsible” for causing the deaths of countless civilians and service members in “various conflicts”.

“For this alone,” Scott wrote, “he should be held accountable for war crimes.”

More: Chris Bryant, Tony Blair

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