Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has been given a knighthood in the New Year Honours list alongside medical heroes who have selflessly worked to bring the country through the pandemic.
The longest-serving Labour PM said it was an “immense honour” to have been made a Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, the oldest and most senior British Order of Chivalry, to which appointments are in the Queen’s gift without advice from the Government.
The newly-styled Sir Tony said he was “deeply grateful” to the Queen and added: “It was a great privilege to serve as prime minister and I would like to thank all those who served alongside me, in politics, public service and all parts of our society, for their dedication and commitment to our country.”
Current Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer MP, said: “The last Labour government delivered enduring change from the national minimum wage to the peace process in Northern Ireland. My congratulations to Tony Blair on this recognition for his public service to our country.”
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England’s chief medical officer (CMO), Professor Chris Whitty, deputy CMO, Jonathan Van-Tam, and Wales’ and Scotland’s CMOs, Frank Atherton and Dr Gregor Smith, have been given knighthoods.
There are also damehoods for UK Health Security Agency chief, Dr Jenny Harries, and Dr June Raine, chief executive of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), after a year in which the threat of new variants arose and more than 130 million vaccinations were administered.
The Government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, who was originally knighted in the 2019 New Year Honours list, is elevated to a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath.
Team GB’s Olympians and Paralympians who took gold in Tokyo are among those named, including cyclists Jason and Laura Kenny, who are thought to be the first married couple to be recognised on the same honours list.
And teenage tennis sensation Emma Raducanu has added another title after winning the US Open in September, as she can now say she is a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE).
The Cabinet Office said nearly one in five (19%) of the honours are for Covid-related service.
Scientists have played a central role in keeping the public informed during briefings throughout the year in response to Covid-19 and are being recognised for services to public health and science.
Sir Patrick said: “I am really pleased to see so many outstanding scientists and engineers recognised in this year’s honours, including those that have been working tirelessly as part of the response to the Covid-19 pandemic.”
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And the MHRA chief, Dame June, said: “I am enormously honoured by this recognition of the substantial contribution which the MHRA has made to the nation’s response to Covid-19 over the last two years.
“This is thanks to the dedication and commitment of all our talented staff, who work so tirelessly to make sure vaccines, therapeutics and medical devices are safe and effective for people across the UK.”
In a separate announcement, Buckingham Palace said Labour peer Baroness Amos has become the first black person to be appointed to the Order of the Garter, while the Duchess of Cornwall is also appointed to join other senior royals.
A Buckingham Palace statement said: “Her Majesty The Queen has been graciously pleased to appoint Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall, GCVO, to be a Royal Lady of the Most Noble Order of the Garter.
“In addition, The Queen has been graciously pleased to appoint The Right Honourable Valerie Ann, Baroness Amos CH to be a Lady Companion and The Right Honourable Anthony Charles Lynton Blair to be a Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter.”
Elsewhere in politics, former Labour MP Frank Field, now a crossbench peer, has been made a member of the Order of the Companions of Honour for his public and political service.
Lord Field of Birkenhead, 79, told the PA news agency: “I’m very honoured to receive this acknowledgement, it’s a
terrific privilege considering the honour itself and what it represents.
“Following the work I’ve done it’s a lovely thought from which to conclude this year.”
On the list, 15.1% of recipients are from an ethnic minority background, slightly higher than the line-up in June, but just 35.9% of recipients at CBE level and above are women.
It is dominated by sporting figures from the pool to the velodrome, but none of England’s Euro 2020 finalists have been included, with the exception of assistant manager, Steve Holland.
Raducanu, who was voted the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year, is made an MBE after a fairy-tale 2021, in which the 19-year-old stormed to victory in the US Open in New York in September.
She was the first qualifier ever to win a grand slam tennis tournament and also became the first British woman since Virginia Wade in 1977 to win a grand slam, claiming the prize without dropping a set.
The British number one said: “It makes me immensely proud and grateful to be listed to receive an MBE from Her Majesty the Queen. This year has been full of amazing surprises for me so to end 2021 with this appointment is very special.”
Jason Kenny’s exploits in Tokyo made him Great Britain’s most decorated Olympian and he now has a knighthood to go with his seven gold medals, while his wife, Laura, is made a dame after becoming the most successful British female athlete in Olympic history.
Diver Tom Daley, who won gold in the 10m synchro, will be made an OBE, while his partner, Matty Lee, will be made an MBE.
Strictly Come Dancing star Adam Peaty will be made an OBE and there is an MBE for Tom Dean after both swimmers won Olympic gold.
Seven-time Paralympic champion Hannah Cockroft, who has been made an OBE after winning two golds in wheelchair racing, urged more disabled children to take up sports in school.
In entertainment, Daniel Craig has been given a special diplomatic honour after his final outing as James Bond in No Time To Die.
The departing 007 is made a companion of the Order of St Michael and St George – which is styled CMG and was also conferred on the fictional spy in the film series and Ian Fleming’s books.
Actresses Joanna Lumley and Vanessa Redgrave are to be made dames, while James Bond franchise producer Barbara Broccoli will be made a CBE.
Lumley, who is being honoured for services to drama, entertainment and art, said: “I am astonished and thrilled and touched beyond words to receive this colossal honour.
“It comes as a complete and unexpected surprise, and is the kindest and most beautiful present imaginable.”
Diversity member Ashley Banjo and former Spice Girl Mel B are both to be made an MBE.
The comedian Adam Hills, who is also to be made an MBE, told the PA news agency: “I am absolutely chuffed to bits to be given this honour. I’ve already Googled ‘Australian comedians who have received honours’, ‘when can I start writing MBE after my name?’ and ‘are Australians even eligible for an MBE?’
“Turns out the answers are ‘Barry Humphries and Clive James, ‘when you receive the medal’ and ‘yes’.
“Honestly though, for a boy from the southern suburbs of Sydney, this is quite a massive deal.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “These recipients have inspired and entertained us and given so much to their communities in the UK or in many cases around the world.
“The honours are an opportunity for us to thank them, as a country, for their dedication and outstanding contribution.”