TONY Blair has been given the highest possible ranking of knighthood in the New Year's honours list. 

Blair, who ran a Labour UK government for ten years from 1997, has 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 former Labour leader said it was an “immense honour” to receive the knighthood. It has previously been given to other former prime ministers, with John Major being the last to receive the honour.

READ MORE: Ruth Wishart: It's time to do away with the forelock-tugging 'honours' of Empire

Blair said: “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.”

The news has led to a backlash on social media, with "Tony Blair" trending on Twitter.

Green MSP Ross Greer commented: "Yes, Tony Blair deserves a trial at the Hague rather than a knighthood. 

"An imperial 'honours' system which knighted everyone from Mussolini to Jimmy Saville doesn't really have a reputation to protect though, does it? Blair can't disgrace what's already shameful."

NBC host Mehdi Hasan wrote "a reminder", and shared an article from 2012 reporting on recently deceased Nobel peace prize winner Desmond Tutu calling for Blair to face the international criminal court in The Hague.

Alba Chris McEleny added: "Tony Blair - the man that committed British forces to assist America’s illegal war that led to the deaths of 100,000s. The only honour he should get is an en-suite cell in The Hague. 

"A rotten British State."

Journalist John Pilger wrote: "The contempt in which Britain's elite holds the public has never been more eloquently expressed than in the decision to award Tony Blair the highest order of knighthood. One million Iraqis dead, three million dispossessed, a trail of blood to 7/7. Rise Sir Tony!"

A petition to have the honour taken from the former Labour leader has been gathering pace. 

Other recipients of honours in the New Year's list include the medical chiefs leading the UK’s battle against coronavirus.

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).

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.