I ONCE had the opportunity to do a face-to-face interview with the man we must now call Sir Anthony Charles Lynton Blair, member of the Most Noble Order of the Garter. Or Sir Tony as he wants to be called, in a bizarre and false attempt to appear just one of the lads.

Our Tone was never one of the lads – from his Edinburgh private school days to his time as a barrister, to his post-Downing Street period as an aspiring property millionaire. But then, for the new knight of the realm, appearance has always counted for more than substance.

As we all know by now, the Most Noble Order of the Garter is granted at the discretion of the Queen and her minions. Well, that’s what we are being told. But I very much doubt if making Tony a sir was decided without a lot of discussion between the palace and the Cabinet Office. The monarchy is not – and never has been – some independent sphere outside of politics.

It is a deliberate piece of institutional camouflage that masks the working of the real deep state. Which means Tony now wears a garter because of his services to the Atlantic alliance and Boris Johnson’s desire to destroy what is left of the Labour Party and social democracy in England.

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Interviewing Sir Tony was an interesting experience. He is more diminutive in real life than you expect. And he has the disconcerting habit of moving in very close – almost in your face. This ploy is clearly designed to make you think he is being fully attentive to his listener. Actually, it is just a psychological game designed to dominate the proceedings.

Tone, of course, insisted on drinking a mug of builder’s tea during the proceedings. How very Tony Benn and how false. Another case of artifice over reality.

The true origin of the Order of the Garter is lost in time, but it was a joke. A certain Countess of Salisbury (which one exactly is unclear) lost her garter during a riotous dance – probably to celebrate the capture from the Scots of Wark Castle. Edward III picked it up and put it on his own leg, with the infamous (though certainly invented) quip “evil be to him who evil thinks”. As the countess was probably Edward’s mistress, this was a definite try on.

The actual Order of the Garter refers to a group of Edward’s closest cronies. The openly sexual reference suggests the boys were having a good time as well as invading Scotland and exploiting the local peasants.

Sir Tony is in good company.

The real significance of Blair’s “elevation” by Queen Liz can be seen in the other so-called honours distributed like baubles to various Labour defectors. Former MP Frank Field, aka Baron Field of Birkenhead, has been made a Companion of Honour in the new year list of shame. Field has terminal cancer, which I wish on no-one. But his new gong is a tribute from a grateful establishment for helping to wreck Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party.

Field represented Birkenhead for 40 years. It remains one of the most socially deprived areas of England. The locals must feel chuffed by Frank’s new “honour” as they make their way to the local food bank.

But why is Boris still interested in kicking hapless Labour – or at least reminding everyone of Blair’s perfidy in backing the US invasion of Iraq, thus unleashing two decades of global mayhem. After all, it was Boris who stormed Labour’s northern Red Wall bastions barely 12 months ago. And surely social democracy is a dead duck across Europe?

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Or is it? The electorate in England is beginning to wake up to the fact that the PM is a serial incompetent. In Europe, Angela Merkel’s 16-year reign as conservative Chancellor of Germany has given way to a pink coalition led by the Social Democrats. The SNP are still hegemonic in Scotland after 14 years in power. The latest UK polls give Labour a seven-point lead over the Tories, despite “Sir” Keir Starmer’s lacklustre leadership. Boris is clearly in trouble.

OF course, giving our Tone a garter to wear hardly changes any of these fundamentals. But Blair’s public willingness to accept such a bauble at this particular time says a lot.

First, it reminds the electorate that Labour leaders are just as venal and self-serving as Boris & Co. Second, it helps depress an already demoralised Labour left – the very folk the party relies on to do its campaigning. Third, it serves as a diversion from the woes of this disastrous Tory administration. The left will now devote endless hours to the wholly irrelevant task of trying to stop

T Blair wearing a silly garter.

A better project might be to abolish the whole rotten honours system in the first place. Even then, stopping the UK government of the day handing out peerages and honours to party donors would still leave the monarch free to do the establishment’s dirty work. You can’t get rid of the honours system without getting rid of our unelected monarchy at the same time. The honours system, the House of Lords and the monarchy are all part of the same swamp of patronage that stands as a barrier to creating a modern democracy.

In this context, it is worth reminding ourselves who else wears the garter. There is Lord Sainsbury, presumably because the Queen buys her groceries at his supermarket. Except, of course, that Sainsbury’s is now controlled by the Qatar royal family.

Then there’s a slew of former heads of the military and secret service – a good way of ensuring the deep state and the monarchy remain united in case there is ever the need for … er, a very British coup. Plus the Lords Lieutenants of both Fermanagh and Belfast. You can work those appointments out for yourself.

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And what of Sir Tone’s appointment? Why is the Windsor monarchy so keen on Tony? Remember that it was Blair who “saved” the monarchy at the time of Diana’s untimely death in Paris. It was he (and his media supremo Alastair Campbell) who persuaded Liz and Phil to come back to London to act as a focus for public grief at Diana’s demise. Otherwise, the Queen’s indifference could easily have fuelled republican sentiments – especially given the callous treatment handed out to Diana by the Court.

It is possible to see in Blair’s induction into the exclusive Garter set the grateful thanks of the monarchy for Blair’s timely political intervention in 1997.

What next for Tony Blair, he of the mullet haircut and carefully secreted garter? Probably our Tone has proved too fond of enriching himself to be of much direct use to Starmer – though the Labour leader’s most recent shadow cabinet re-shuffle saw more old Blairites return to the front bench.

However, the day of Blairism has definitely gone. The Blairite coalition has shattered. The English middle class – battered by Brexit and economic crisis – is no longer as confident as in Blair’s heyday. And the Labourist, social democratic left has carried out suicide over Jeremy Corbyn. But does Sir Tony care? Not a bit of it.