TONY Blair has earned a knighthood but Boris Johnson hasn’t, Sir Keir Starmer has said.

The UK Labour leader defended his predecessor’s knighthood in the New Year honours, as a petition demanding it be rescinded attracted almost 600,000 supporters.

Mr Blair became Sir Tony after he was appointed by the Queen to the Order of the Garter, the oldest and most senior British Order of Chivalry.

It led to a backlash over his domestic record and taking the UK into the Iraq War.

Sir Keir, who got his honour in 2014 after a five year term as director of public prosecutions, said Sir Tony had been a “very successful prime minister”.

He told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “I don’t think it’s thorny at all; I think he deserves the honour. 

"Obviously I respect the fact that people have different views. I understand there are strong views on the Iraq War. There were back at the time and there still are.

“But that does not detract from the fact that Tony Blair was a very successful prime minister of this country and made a huge difference to the lives of millions of people in this country.”

He also mentioned Sir Tony later in a speech on his plans for government, noting he was just one of three post-war Labour party leaders who won an election. 

At the same event, he was also asked if the current prime minister merited a knighthood once he had left office.  

He said: “No, I am sorry, I don’t think that this Prime Minister has earned the right to have an honour. I do think Tony Blair has.”

A Change.Org online petition calling for Sir Tony to be stripped of the honour had been signed by more than 580,000 people as of Tuesday lunchtime.

UK vaccines minister Maggie Throup suggested Sir’s Tony’s knighthood clears the way for his successors - Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Theresa May - to be honoured.

She told LBC: “I think he [Blair] did lots of good things. And I think it’s only right that we do honour our previous prime ministers. And he was prime minister for such a long time.

“I think obviously it now opens the doors for others to be recognised in the same way.”

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle recently suggested that all former prime ministers should be offered a knighthood because “it is one of the toughest jobs in the world”.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Appointments to the Order of the Garter are a matter for Her Majesty the Queen, there is no involvement of the Prime Minister or Government, so it wouldn’t be one for me to comment on. I would point out every former prime minister before Tony Blair has received the Order of the Garter or Thistle.”

Asked if Mr Johnson believed the signatories of the petition were wrong, the spokesman said it was “a matter for the Queen”.

It would also be a matter “entirely for Her Majesty the Queen” whether Mr Johnson receives a knighthood after leaving office, the spokesman added.