Knighthood for Tony Blair entirely appropriate, says Michael Gove

Michael Gove has defended former prime minister Sir Tony Blair as an “outstanding statesman and performer”.

The Tory Cabinet minister came to the former Labour leader’s defence after a petition to strip him of his knighthood gathered more than one million signatures.

Sir Tony was appointed by the Queen a Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, the oldest and most senior British Order of Chivalry, in the New Year’s honours list.

But a change.org petition said: “Tony Blair caused irreparable damage to both the constitution of the United Kingdom and to the very fabric of the nation’s society.

Tony Blair knighthood petition
A screengrab from the Change.org website of a petition which aims to strip the former prime minister of his knighthood (Change.org/PA)

“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.

“Tony Blair is the least deserving person of any public honour, particularly anything awarded by Her Majesty the Queen.”

However Mr Gove told Sky News on Monday: “I think we should all recognise that he served this country, he continues to serve this country, and I don’t think it’s possible for anyone to be in a position like that without attracting controversy and without inviting opposition.

“But for myself, if I look back at Tony Blair’s record, while there are aspects of it with which I can disagree, I think any fair-minded person would say that he was an outstanding statesman and performer and as a prime minister who put public service first this recognition from Her Majesty is entirely appropriate.”

Mr Gove highlighted the introduction of academies, a “crackdown on crime and antisocial behaviour” and Sir Tony’s “recognition of the importance of a country like the United Kingdom being on the side of liberty internationally”, as policies he agreed on with the former PM.

Current Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer previously said his predecessor had earned his knighthood, arguing he “made Britain a better country”.