FORMER UK Prime Minister Anthony ‘Tony’ Blair was branded a hypocrite last night for accepting a knighthood after leading the charge to strip Robert Mugabe of his.
As prime minister, Sir Tony told MPs in 2003 that he would ‘certainly look at the issue of the honorary knighthood’ granted to Mugabe, then president of Zimbabwe.
Mugabe was eventually stripped of his honour by the last Labour government, under Gordon Brown.
The honorary knighthood was annulled in 2008 by the Queen, following a recommendation by foreign secretary David Miliband “as a mark of revulsion at his abuse of human rights and abject disregard for the democratic process”.
Miliband had previously served as Sir Tony’s chief of staff in No 10 and was a close personal and political ally of the former PM. Sir Tony himself had been challenged in the Commons in 2003 by Tory MP Andrew Robathan – now Lord Robathan – to rescind the honour.
Lord Robathan said last night: “Many people will find it extraordinary that Tony Blair thought it appropriate to remove Robert Mugabe’s knighthood while seeing nothing hypocritical in accepting one for himself. It is truly bizarre.”
Sir Tony spoke out in favour in stripping Mugabe of his knighthood in December 2003, eight months after the start of the Iraq war – and claimed removing the honour was one way to force regime change in Zimbabwe. Mugabe was eventually ousted in a coup in 2017, and died two years later.
Mugabe had been made an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath in 1994 when Sir John Major was prime minister.
Sir Tony has been made a Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter – the most senior form of knighthood, which has been bestowed upon all bar one of his predecessors in the Queen’s reign.
Unlike the New Year’s Honours list, which is drawn up by the Government for the Queen’s approval, the Order of the Garter is bestowed as a personal gift by the monarch herself.
The Honours Forfeiture Committee, which can remove honours for those involved in scandals, cannot recommend the removal of knighthoods handed out in this way.