BRANSON TO GET THE HONOUR HE DESERVES.
Britain's most successful businessmen is likely to be honoured within the next two years, Downing Street revealed.
The news came as Tony Blair moved swiftly to counter claims that he had blocked a bid to knight the Virgin boss.
A Downing Street spokesman said: "Some of the strongest recommendations for honours take about four (honours) lists."
And another highly-placed source said it was "inconceivable" Mr Branson would not get a gong.
The entrepreneur was among five people put forward for honours by Tory leader William Hague.
He nominated him for his charity and business achievements.
But his name was absent from the Queen's Birthday Honours list released on Saturday.
Instead, his bitter rival, British Airways boss Sir Colin Marshall, became a life peer.
Tory MP David Ruffley said: "Tony Blair tried to claim credit for Geoff Hurst's knighthood.
"So why can't he give a straight answer as to whether he supports a knighthood for Britain's most popular businessman?
'Suggestions that Mr Branson may have to wait years for an honour are ridiculous. If the Prime Minister wants someone to get a knighthood, they get one.
"All this talk of the decision being taken only by the honours scrutiny committee is rubbish."
Insiders claim Mr Blair was angry when Mr Branson criticised Labour policy.
The Virgin boss said he felt "let down" by the Government over its U- turn on tobacco sponsorship in Formula One. And he called the Millennium Dome "daft".
But Downing Street broke its usual silence on the honours system to say it was " untrue" that the knighthood had been blocked.
A spokesman said: "The idea that he has been blackballed or prevented from receiving an honour is total and utter rubbish."
Mr Branson has never given his support to just one political party.
He attended Labour's election-night celebrations but is also an admirer of Margaret Thatcher.
Last year, he said he thought he had never received an honour because he refuses to give money to political parties.
"The establishment thing I'm fairly anti-establishment," he said.
In a recent poll, Mr Branson was voted favourite to become mayor of London if he stood for election.
But why was he left off list in favour of this lot?
British Airways chief has led company through commercial battles and crisis with unions. Critic of policy on minimum wages.
Ex-Chancellor whose bungling of the Black Wednesday financial crisis led to Britain pulling out of ERM and sack from John Major.
Former advisor to Mrs Thatcher and ex-Saatchi & Saatchi executive responsible for "Labour Isn't Working" general election campaign.
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|Publication:||The Mirror (London, England)|
|Date:||Jun 15, 1998|
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