ED Vaizey, also known as Baron Vaizey of Didcot, neatly surmised one of the reasons why the UK establishment loves the honours system. Discussing Tony Blair’s knighthood on Times Radio yesterday morning, the Baron expressed glee that Blair’s elevation would require him thenceforth to be known as Sir Tony, thus “upsetting all the right people”.

It’s doubtful, though, that many of those 500,000 people (and counting) who have signed a petition calling for Blair’s knighthood to be withdrawn would ever be inclined to call him “sir”. They don’t even call him “mister”.

One of the ironies implicit in this mass petition is that many of the signatures belong to people who probably revile the UK honours system anyway. Yet, by suggesting that Blair isn’t worthy of being honoured in this way actually signals their endorsement of this grand charade. That being considered a knight of the realm is something to be valued and that by including Blair among their number belittles it.

Tony Blair is actually a model candidate for knighthood. It is the ultimate honour that can be conferred in the name of the British Empire. And while the empire exists now only in the fantasies of people like Jacob Rees-Mogg and his band of arch-Brexiteers, the values it represents continue to underpin the sort of society they favour: one built on deference; class hierarchy and unearned privilege.

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Few people did more to maintain the ideas of empire than Tony Blair. During his premiership, the British armed forces participated in seven wars and military engagements in overseas territory. These included the Kosovo conflict, Afghanistan and Operation Desert Fox in Iraq as well as the long-forgotten skirmish in Sierra Leone in 2000 under the codename Operation Palliser. This was a large-scale deployment of British troops in one of the most brutal of Africa’s many civil wars.

The National: File photo dated 26/11/2012 of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, as Boris Johnson claimed that Mr Blair's unhinged attempt to rewrite history is undermining arguments for Western intervention in Iraq. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday June

Yet, it bore the hallmarks of many other military interventions by Britain on overseas territory, the most notorious of which was the war against Saddam Hussein in 2003. These were wars of adventure for reasons that had nothing to do with safeguarding the British people from attack by a belligerent foe or defending the security of the realm. Rather, they were desperate and obscene engagements fought for little other than making Britain seem important in world affairs. Many of them were caused by a century of ruinous predations by Britain and her western allies in countries they had sought to drain of their natural resources.

The second Iraq war was fought on false intelligence assembled to justify the blood-lust of a witless US president out for revenge. In this he was egged on by corporate America who had long salivated at the prospect of annexing an oil-rich region and helping themselves to construction opportunities. In becoming America’s chief backers in this enterprise Blair was also helping the US build a new empire. Perhaps, having lost its own empire over the course of the preceding century, Blair felt the next best thing for Britain was to be given a seat at the right hand of the new emperors.

The narrative of these wars waged by the west is always the same. Nothing about empire, of course, is ever mentioned. Instead, it’s about western “values” and opposing tyranny and savagery. It’s about making the world “a safer place”. Such sophistry was deployed in the wake of Britain’s disorderly retreat from Afghanistan and by Tony Blair among others.

And all of it deliberately bypassing the fact that Britain’s meddling in this region had led to this ultimate chaos. That the brutality of tribal warlords was often supported by our forces and then justified because it was all about taking down the Taliban was overlooked.

SO, few others more than Tony Blair have deserved the honour of Knight Companion of the Order of the Garter, one of the oldest orders of chivalry this entire system of patronage can bestow.

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Some critics of the award have suggested that the system now needs an overhaul, but not really in a good way. They would retain all the baubles of empire: the knighthoods, the OBEs, MBEs and CBEs. But just give them to their own favourites. All of them try to signify virtue by suggesting more of the common soldiery should be given them for acts of valour in the field, including sacrificing their own lives. Yet, this would become just another tool by which the UK establishment sought to recruit young men to fight its wars of capital.

There is nothing morally repugnant or otherwise questionable about the concept of a national honours system. Every country in the world – and since the dawn of civilisation – likes to confer honours on those who have made heroic contributions to the life of the state. Thus, it raises them up as examples of best practice to the rest of us. At its best it’s a way of showing gratitude to those whose work might otherwise go unrecognised beyond the immediate neighbourhood where it occurred.

But in naming these honours for an empire built on centuries of greed, torture and genocide insults those who deserve recognition for the opposite of such wickedness: selflessness, compassion, excellence in public service and putting the interests of others above your own. Nor would I ever seek to denigrate those unsung, everyday heroes who accept such honours.

And besides, many of them do retain a deep affection for Queen Elizabeth, if not for the royal family. It’s not for us who might revile this contrived institution to disparage them.

Any overhaul of the honours system, though, shouldn’t merely involve de-coupling it from the wretched nomenclature of empire. It should seek to reduce the opportunity it presents for political leaders to manipulate it with petty corruption.

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They have lately used these honours as an auction by which rich and powerful people get to extend their influence or garnish it with something noble and undeserved. It would immediately be purified if political parties were removed from the selection process.

No politicians should ever be given an honour, unless for deeds unconnected with politics. Nor should millionaire sports personalities. Business leaders who are rewarded simply for profiteering at the expense of poorly-paid employees should be nowhere near these awards. And nor should civil servants who have done little more than amass a pension for 30-odd years of mediocrity.

Removing ourselves from this tawdry exercise in exploitation doesn’t of itself make Scottish independence much more attractive. It would simply be one of its more pleasant and desirable bonuses: to honour those among us who have earned our admiration and deserve their day in the sun.