Blair’s critics among New Year honours winners

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Several of Tony Blair’s harshest critics of 2006 are among those awarded in Saturday’s New Year honours, making the list something of a rollcall of dissenters of the UK prime minister.

Mark Malloch Brown, who steps down Sunday as deputy secretary-general of the United Nations, is given a knighthood.

As number two to Kofi Annan, Sir Mark, as he will be known, caused the prime minister serious embarrassment in August when he told the Financial Times that the prime minister should take a back seat in the Lebanon crisis, thereby highlighting Britain’s diminished influence in the Middle East following the Iraq war.

Victor Bulmer-Thomas, outgoing director of Chatham House, Britain’s most illustrious foreign affairs think-tank, receives a CMG, or diplomatic “gong”, despite his far from diplomatic evisceration this month of Mr Blair’s foreign policy.

Mr Bulmer-Thomas said Mr Blair’s “root failure” was “inability to influence the Bush administration”, despite the evident sacrifices the UK had made.

However, the honours list also awards Mr Blair’s most loyal servants during the build-up to the Iraq war.

John Scarlett, the chief of the Secret Intelligence Service or MI6, becomes a knight. As head of the Joint Intelligence Committee from 2001 to 2003, he was responsible for drawing together all the intelligence on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, used by the UK government to justify the war.

In business, James Dyson, the designer and entrepreneur who created a best-selling bagless vacuum cleaner, is the most prominent figure to receive a knighthood.

Sir James has been celebrated as one of Britain’s dwindling band of home-grown inventors who has proved capable of turning his designs into popular products. His honour was yesterday criticised by unions who were dismayed when he switched production of vacuum cleaners from the UK to Malaysia.

The honours list, an annual and much discussed event in the British political and social calendar, also has a popular touch. George Shearing, the jazz pianist, and Michael Holroyd, the celebrated biographer, are given knighthoods, while Evelyn Glennie, the percussionist, becomes a dame.

Rod Stewart, the rockstar famed for his gritty voice, becomes a Commander of the Order of the British Empire, a rank just below a knighthood, in recognition of his services to music.

Sports personalities honoured include Zara Phillips, a grand-daughter of Queen Elizabeth, who this year became three-day event world champion. She becomes the first senior royal to be honoured, winning an MBE.

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