Top Tony Blair adviser defends knighthood adding Iraq invasion was 'right thing' to do

3 May 2022, 10:06 | Updated: 3 May 2022, 10:26

Anji Hunter defended Sir Tony Blair's knighthood
Anji Hunter defended Sir Tony Blair's knighthood. Picture: LBC/Alamy

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Tony Blair's longest serving adviser has defended his knighthood, saying although people are "still very peeved about Iraq" she still believes it was "the right thing" to do.

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Anji Hunter was asked by LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast about the decision to give the former Prime Minister the title as part of 2021's New Year’s Honours.

A petition calling for it to be removed, citing Sir Tony's role in the Iraq War, rapidly gathered over a million signatures.

READ MORE: Govt has 'no plan' and 'no ideas' for how to fix UK's future, says Blair

READ MORE: Starmer insists Blair 'deserves honour' of knighthood as nearly 700,000 sign petition

However, Ms Hunter said despite having his critics, the knighthood was "thoroughly well deserved".

"People still feel very peeved about Iraq, mainly the left, the right if I may say so are slightly peeved because he was so successful, but I think it was thoroughly well deserved myself," she said.

On Iraq, she added: "If you had been there at the time, and you had seen what we had seen, you would also have said let's go in.

"Did we make mistakes after we went in? Yes, and Tony's put his hand up to that.

"Mistakes were made in the execution of it but the actual going in I still believe it was the right thing."

She said security services including MI5 and MI6 had provided "photographs and evidence of weapons of mass destruction", adding "you believe what they say and we believed that's what [Saddam Hussein] was doing and planning".

Ms Hunter, who began working for Sir Tony in the late 1980s and was Director of Government Relations during his first term, insisted his time in power should be viewed "extremely well".

She said: "We had record investment in the public services, we had an extremely steady economy through the independence of the Bank of England, we reduced class sizes, we reduced waiting lists, we raised maternity benefits and pensions.

"I think the people of this country were at peace with themselves in a way that I don’t think they are so much these days."

Asked what the administration's biggest regret might be, she responded: "We should have gone faster, Tony himself says so, he says he was too cautious in his first term

"My big thing is Europe, I think we should have stuck up for Europe a little bit more and I’m sad that we've left."

But she said: "I think [Sir Tony] felt he'd done the best he could.

"I can remember his very last PMQs... David Cameron tried to have a go at him, saying I see you've anointed your leader who brought out the dagger and Tony just did this sort of litany of all the things he'd done.

"We strove forward and put a programme to this country that was extremely well accepted."

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