Elevated to the Most Noble Order of the Garter in the New Year’s honours list, Tony Blair was being addressed by two titles this week. Knight of the realm. And war criminal.
For most of us, the latter would take a wee bit of shine off the former. But with Teflon Tony you never know if the barbs even sting. In his case, however hurtful the name calling, it’s hardly a weapon of mass destruction.
Blair has been called a war criminal many times before. The Sir, on the other hand, has been a long, long time coming. It’s almost 15 years since he was in Downing Street.
The Order of the Garter honour which elevates him to the knighthood, was bestowed by the Queen and reflects some generosity on the part of Her Majesty. When he was PM, she was said not to have got on terribly well with Sir Tone.
After the way his wife almost wrenched the elderly monarch’s arms from their sockets during the memorable Auld Lang Syne singsong at the millennium, you’d imagine she wouldn’t have been all that keen on Cherie either.
The Queen obviously feels that Blair has earned his gong, but a petition calling for it to be rescinded has attracted hundreds of thousands signatures - and rising. Signatories include lefties who never liked him in the first place and more poignantly — and powerfully — many families who lost sons, daughters, mothers and fathers in the Iraq War and all that followed.
The former PM has his critics here in Northern Ireland too. Although he dines out on his self-designation as chief architect of the Belfast Agreement, there are many people (myself included) who never warmed to him or his many fudges, his so-called constructive ambiguity, his kowtowing to paramilitary killers and his hanging out to dry the parties of moderation in favour of the two extremes.
Tony Blair — knight or nightmare?
Being conferred with the Order of the Garter sounds like a right leg-up for a so-called socialist. But is it really such an honour when it unleashes, as it has, the current outpouring of public rage and contempt?
Sir Tony is a man known to be focussed very much on his legacy. He appears to regard himself as an international, intellectual colossus. He may well be immodest enough to view outcry from the citizenry as something inconsequential.
He led the Labour Party to three election wins and he served in what the Chinese might call interesting times.
War in the Middle East, peace processing in Northern Ireland, a special relationship with George W Bush and much posing in an open-necked shirt with his thumbs in the belt loops of his jeans. The Downing Street cowboy.
It’s ironic that his moment of crowning glory has led to such a humiliating public backlash.
People have long memories.
The same applies (although on a much lesser scale) to Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, whose mother-in-law the Queen has made her a Royal Lady of the Most Noble Order of the Garter — the same Most Noble Order as Sir Tony.
Camilla’s new honour is being seen as particularly significant. Although she already has more medals, ribbons, laurels and titles than the Royal Highland Fusiliers, this one — for services to the monarchy — is taken to signal her new importance within the Royal Firm.
It’s also seen as a pointer that, when Charles ascends the throne, Camilla will be his Queen, not Princess Consort, the unwieldy title previously earmarked for her.
Camilla may never have been called a war criminal but at the height of the War of the Waleses she had bread rolls thrown at her in a supermarket. Baguettes and stones may break your bones but names etc..
Even now, fans of the late Diana have never quite forgiven the mistress described as the third party in the Royal marriage. Luckily for Camilla, right now attention is deflected from her honour due to rage aimed at Blair over his. Camilla may remember him as the man whose other claim to fame was coining the label, the People’s Princess.
Whether or not the People’s Petition will lead to Sir Tony losing his knighthood — or, even more unlikely, he himself chooses to belatedly decline the title — the scale of public anger is unprecedented.
The new knight of that Most Noble Order must realise that.
Unless, that is, the man who lied about those weapons of mass destruction also lies to himself.
Sir Keir Starmer has just tested positive for the virus for a second time. Fortunately his symptoms are mild (he’s well vaccinated). Obviously, given his job, he’s more prone to coming in contact with Covid. The mystery is those people who also come in contact with it regularly yet seem immune to it. I know one man whose entire family came down with it (pre-vaccination) but he didn’t contract it. Others around him have had it since; he tests negative. Presumably he has natural immunity. If only we could bottle it.
The popularity of veganism means long-term vegetarians such as myself have never had such extensive choice on the supermarket shelves. I don’t like it. Why are veggie alternatives marketed as fake meat? There’s chicken-free goujons, meatless burgers, facon (non-bacon bacon) even fishless fish? Worst of all is meatless mince which is formed in those wormy shapes like the real thing and is even bloodier in colour. Believe me, the word that springs to mind when I look at this stuff isn’t “yum”.
A new international battlefront opened up this week. Serbia v Australia.
After tennis player Novak Djokovic was detained in Oz over his (non) vaccination status, the President of Serbia declared: “They are trampling over Serbia and, by doing that, they are trampling on the Serbian people.”
Novak’s father agreed. “They wanted to throw him to his knees, and not just him, but our beautiful Serbia.”
The Aussie deputy PM responded robustly: “If you wander off into our country, and don’t tell us the truth, we’re going to kick your a*** out of here.”
Love all? Obviously not.