No to Blair’s knighthood!

There is clearly a wider push from the British Establishment to rehabilitate the warmongering former PM and his political project, says KEN LIVINGSTONE

THE news of Tony Blair’s knighthood felt like a classic case of “shocking but not surprising.” It is indeed shocking that a man who led Britain into a war unleashing nearly 20 years of death and destruction across the Middle East has not only faced little in the way of consequences, but has been honoured with Establishment pageantry.

At the same time, it is unsurprising that the British state sees involvement in mass slaughter as no barrier to hero status, or that a former leader of the party of organised labour is happy to embrace the archaic traditions of the monarchy.

While the Queen formally awards these honours, her function in practice is to nod through the list recommended by the Cabinet Office.

If you want an indication as to why this body would view Blair in a favourable light, it was previously named the Committee of Imperial Defence.

But whatever the specifics of his knighthood, there is clearly a wider push from the British Establishment to rehabilitate Blair and his political project — with shadow cabinet members openly identifying with the term “Blairite” and nauseating opinion pieces from the commentariat urging us to “look beyond” his role in the Iraq war.

The biggest stain on his legacy is also a highly important motivation behind this drive to repair it. The war was met with enormous public opposition at the time, with the largest protest in British history taking place against it, and numerous pro-war figures losing their seats (despite the official Tory opposition also supporting it).

But it also left a longer-term legacy of scepticism towards subsequent military interventions — in the case of the 2011 bombing of Libya, which just 15 MPs voted against, ComRes found 43 per cent of the public were opposed, compared to 35 per cent in favour.

During the parliamentary debate before David Cameron’s proposal for air strikes in Syria was voted down, numerous MPs cited messages from constituents urging them to learn the lessons of Iraq.

Even among Blair’s acolytes, when forced to address the issue of the war on the record, all but the most frenzied will look at their shoes and mumble that nobody is perfect, before changing the subject to how he nearly got rid of all hereditary peers.

Whilst the battle for public opinion over Iraq itself has long been lost by the warmongers, the precedent of a political leader being forever tarnished by crimes abroad is something which cannot be tolerated by an elite so keen to back up the US in any future military adventures.

Reviving Blairism is also something many at the top of the Labour Party are committed to. As I experienced when they threw the kitchen sink at trying to stop me running for London mayor, New Labour viewed party democracy with contempt: openly ignoring conference resolutions as soon as they passed and gutting internal structures.

It’s understandable that many socialists would care little about who does or doesn’t get a knighthood, but the backlash against this award illustrates just how little a rose-tinted view of Blair resonates with the public.

YouGov found that just 14 per cent approve of the decision, with 63 per cent opposing (including a clear majority of Labour voters).

Over a million have signed an online petition against it, and it has triggered fresh revelations from former defence minister Geoff Hoon, claiming that he was instructed to burn a memo from the attorney general questioning the legality of the war.

There’s no escaping that this has been a bruising and demoralising couple of years for the left, but it’s more important than ever that we keep up the fight against the rotten politics that Blair and co stand for, and make the case for peace and justice.

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This article originally appeared in The Morning Star