Ed Davey calls for an honorary knighthood for President Zelenskyy

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Volodymyr Zelenskyy was given the unprecedented opportunity to address a packed Commons yesterday by video link. You can see his speech here if you missed it.

His speech echoed Churchill’s oratory:

We will fight at sea, we will fight in the air, we will protect our land. We will fight everywhere… and we will not surrender.

He received a standing ovation, which again is very rare in Westminster.

That appearance fully justifies Ed Davey’s call to award him an honorary knighthood. Ed said:

At this dark moment, we must be offering President Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people not just our support but our recognition too.

For decades, many heroes of liberal democracy from across the globe have been rewarded with an honorary knighthood here in the UK. President Zelenskyy should follow in the footsteps of individuals like Nelson Mandela, and be awarded this honour.

I hope the UK Government will get behind the Liberal Democrats’ call to give President Zelenskyy an honorary knighthood. It is the very least we can do, as we step up our offer of support to the people who elected him.

The full text of his letter reads:

Dear Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster,

I am writing regarding the award of honorary knighthoods.

As you will be aware, the UK has the award of an honorary knighthood to recognise the important work of foreign nationals who have excelled in their field or who have championed liberal democracy. The list of those who have been awarded with this honour includes Nelson Mandela, as well as key World War II generals such as Dwight Eisenhower and George Marshall.

At this dark time, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, people all over the world have been inspired by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Despite the unprovoked and flagrant violations of the sovereignty of his country and its democracy, and in the face of attempts on his life, President Zelenskyy has not been cowed. Instead, he has been a beacon of hope for the Ukrainian people, and for all supporters of liberal democracy. His bravery, and the bravery of the Ukrainian people, serves to remind us in the West that our alliances are fragile; that our values are precious; and that we have taken them for granted for far too long.

On the day of President Zelenskyy’s address to the House of Commons – itself a highly unusual occurrence – I believe that it is right that we redouble not just our support to the Ukrainian people, but our recognition too.

I therefore urge you to award President Zelenskyy an honorary knighthood.

I look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible.

Yours sincerely,

Ed Davey

Leader of the Liberal Democrats

* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, where she is still very active with the local party, and is the Hon President of Kingston Lib Dems.

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  • Ed was mocked on social media for this, with some using it as an excuse to claim he was against helping refugees. The latter is unfair, but I can’t say I blame the former. It seems a waste of parliamentary time to ask for something so trite right now. Not least in the wake of the Gavin Williamson award.

  • Completely agree with Fiona…… and sorting out the shamefully hopeless visa process at the Home Office would have more validity and utility.

  • Barry Lofty 9th Mar '22 - 11:08am

    Ed Daveys knighthood demand maybe a bit trite in the present circumstances, but personally the hypocrisy emanating from the mouth of our great leader now he sees a path to salvation opening up before him really gets my goat! And I, by no means, wish to dismiss the severity of the situation in Ukraine or for the rest of the world, but I just wish we had a different person at the head of our government at this precarious moment in time.

  • I’m completely against Ed’s statement..If the award was made it would just give Johnson yet another opportunity to dodge the real needs of the situation and claim, “We’re world leaders at awards!”

  • Nick Collins 9th Mar '22 - 12:01pm

    It’s clear from everything he has said that Volodymyr Zelenskyy is not interested in awards or gestures; he wants practical help.

  • Ian MacFadyen 9th Mar '22 - 12:12pm

    There are many ways to honour Ukraine and President Zelensky, starting with dropping all visa restrictions and bureaucracy on Ukrainian refugees coming and airlifting people here from the overcrowded reception centres on Ukraine’s western border. Why did Ed Davey not call for those actions? Why did he not call for increased arms supplies to Ukraine? Why did he not demand deep and extensive sanctions on Russia to take effect immediately, not in several months time? Calling for a knighthood is not a way to honour President Zelensky and the people of Ukraine. It trivialises and suggests Ed Davey does not value President Zelensky’s brave leadership of the Ukrainian people. Ed Davey should be ashamed. He is an embarrassment. He is not speaking for this Liberal Democrat.

  • Neil Hickman 9th Mar '22 - 3:29pm

    Hmm, an honorary knighthood, like Robert Mugabe and Nicolae Ceausescu…
    Well meaning, no doubt, but really not one of Ed Davey’s better ideas.

  • What he needs right now is weapons, not honours. Sorry SirEd not one of your better ideas.

  • As someone who first joined what I thought (and hoped) was a radical political party nearly sixty years ago, I do so wish the modern Liberal Democrat Party would finally ditch the idea of knighthoods and orders of a long ago disappeared Empire (on which the sun has long set).

  • John Barrett 9th Mar '22 - 5:52pm

    Not only was Ed mocked on social media for this, he was also clearly showing that his own values, which include honours and knighthoods, are a million miles away from what most people consider important. As someone who has friends cowering in a Kyiv basement to shelter from bombs and missiles, while their children risk making the journey to safety in the west, I have had to explain to them that while they have an offer to stay in my home, my Government will not let them into the country. The previous comments say it all.

  • Barry Lofty 9th Mar '22 - 6:49pm

    David Raw: Hear Hear!!

  • @ John Barrett I wish you were still at Westminster for Edinburgh West, John.

  • George Thomas 9th Mar '22 - 10:06pm

    And on the x day of Zelenskyy’s country being destroyed he yet again asked for a no fly zone, but the UK didn’t want to give him this so they gave him:

    1. A round of applause
    2. Help ensuring videos from Ukraine went viral
    3. Banning Russian culture whether it had links to the Kremlin or not
    4. Photos of UK Royals wearing Ukraine-themed badges

    The UK and Wests actions appear to be about making it impossible for Putin to keep Ukraine once he’s taken it. There is a very real argument to say it’s the best we can do but I’m not sure an honoury knighthood means anything to Ukrainian’s dying right now. I’m in awe of Ukrainian’s protesting Russian’s bravery but such the wrong message from Ed Davey.

  • Trevor Andrews 10th Mar '22 - 8:26am

    I think it is a poor show and have tweeted Sir Ed that this is hardly the thing to do, especially when a lot of the electorate think the honours list should be scrapped.

    Why would we think President Zelensky would be bothered by a UK honours award when he is fighting for his life and his country. How arrogant are we to think it is so important.

    I can imagine him turning around and saying “Don’t want your gong, take my people to safety and give me some arms and support to help fight this war”

  • David Howarth 10th Mar '22 - 9:34am

    I’m sure that Zelenskyy would be overjoyed at being made a Knight of the great British Empire in the face of being invaded by an increasing Russian Empire. This is the 21st Century and hankering back to colonialism hardly promotes the self determination of sovereign nations.

  • Pamela Manning 10th Mar '22 - 11:28am

    As a Lib Dem for over 30 years Ed Davey’s suggestion makes me realise how far the current policies are removed from the roots. Firstly on the Lords which Nick Clegg tried to reform and secondly on Human Rights. How can we propose that an honour is given to Zelensky whose support for Human Rights extends only to Israel and Ukraine. He voted against recognition of Palestine at UN and tweeted support for Israel during May bombardment of Gaza as follows:
    “The sky of Israel is strewn with missiles. Some cities are on fire. There are victims. Many wounded. Many human tragedies,” Zelensky tweeted on May 12, completely ignoring Israel’s bombing on Gaza.

    “It is impossible to look at all this without grief and sorrow. It is necessary to stop the escalation immediately for the sake of people’s lives,” Zelensky concluded at the time.

  • Mark Blackburn 10th Mar '22 - 11:38am

    My membership is hanging by a thread, after so much vacuous centrist posturing. This latest is such meaningless gesture politics, referring to an institution that by liberal doctrine shouldn’t even be there. That thread is really thin now.

  • I would like to see both Layla Moran and Jamie Stone as spokespersons for Foreign affairs and defense engaging with the urgent military support being requested by President Zelenskyy. Britain and the US supplied the Soviet Union with great volumes of munitions in WW2 (including tanks and aircraft) via Artic convoys and through Iran.

  • Peter Hirst 10th Mar '22 - 4:50pm

    As well as defending Ukraine, he is also defending democracy. As such he merits awards that speak to that. We need perhaps through the UN an annual award for defending pluralism, a free media and fair and free elections. Without honouring the good, it becomes increasingly challenging for them to continue. Heaping honours on him for this cause gives each country the opportunity to show how much they despise Putin’s actions.

  • Peter Hirst 10th Mar ’22 – 4:50pm:
    As well as defending Ukraine, he is also defending democracy.

    ‘Ukraine’s Accelerating Slide into Authoritarianism’ [May 2021]:

    Washington needs to let go of its long‐​held myth that Ukraine is a blossoming American‐​style democracy. In truth, it bears a much greater resemblance to the pseudo‐​democratic systems of Russia, Hungary, and Turkey.

    We need perhaps through the UN an annual award for defending pluralism, a free media…

    ‘Ukraine: Zelenskiy bans three opposition TV stations’ [February 2021]:

    ‘How Zelensky’s administration moves to dismantle press freedom in Ukraine’ [January 2022]:

  • Pamela Manning 10th Mar ’22 – 11:28am:
    How can we propose that an honour is given to Zelensky whose support for Human Rights extends only to Israel and Ukraine.

    Maybe not even to all of Ukraine…

    ‘New Language Requirement Raises Concerns in Ukraine’ [January 2022]:

    The Venice Commission, the Council of Europe’s top advisory body on constitutional matters, said that several of the law’s articles, including article 25, “failed to strike a fair balance” between promoting the Ukrainian language and safeguarding minorities’ linguistic rights. It stated that “historical oppression of Ukrainian … may lead to the adoption of positive measures aimed at promoting Ukrainian, but this cannot justify depriving the Russian language and its speakers of the protection granted to other languages…”

    ‘“There’s a Narrative in Russia That You Won’t Hear in the U.S. Media”’ [March 2022]:

    … when in 2014 the Ukrainian nationalists canceled the Russian language as an official language there, millions of their population suffered. For example, I know students who were growing up in ‘Russian families’ who didn’t speak Ukrainian, and it was hard for them to pass the exams or get a job.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 11th Mar '22 - 5:21pm

    Unlike some here, I favour a very reduced byt genuine Honours List, including knighthoods, Dbe’s as well. But they should be for those who have done something good or real. Same with Peerages, I favour Cross Bench Peers, independently chosen, appointed, for expertise and experiences needed and valued.

    Sir ed is correct, the award would be good, in future, but now seems trite, as does his, I look forwrd to your reply imediately, stuff!

    Ed needs to get with some real policy that improves the mess that is the current situation.

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