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The Spectator Parliamentarian of the Year Awards

21 November 2012

2:51 PM

21 November 2012

2:51 PM

The Spectator’s Parliamentarian of the Year awards are being held this afternoon at the Savoy Hotel. In total 14 awards were presented by Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education, who was invited to be  guest of honour in recognition of his parliamentary achievement.

The award winners were:

1. Newcomer of the Year – Andrea Leadsom MP (Con)

2. Backbencher of the Year – Rt Hon Alistair Darling MP (Lab)

3. Campaigner of the Year – Rt Hon Andy Burnham MP (Lab)

4. Inquisitor of the Year – Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP (Lab)

5. Speech of the Year – Charles Walker MP (Con) & Kevan Jones MP (Lab)

6. Resignation of the Year – Rt Hon Lord Hill of Oareford (Con)

7. Apology of the Year – Rt Hon Nick Clegg MP (Lib Dem)

8. Resurrection of the Year – Rt Hon Sir George Young MP (Con)

9. Minister to Watch – Elizabeth Truss MP (Con)

10. Double Act of the Year – Rt Hon Edward Davey MP (Lib Dem) & John Hayes MP (Con)

11. Peer of the Year – Rt Revd Justin Welby

12. Minister of the Year – Rt Hon Theresa May MP (Con)

13. Parliamentarian of the Year – Jesse Norman MP (Con)

14. Politician of the Year – Boris Johnson (Con)

The winners were announced in a speech from our editor, Fraser Nelson. Here are some quotes we picked out from his speech:

Newcomer of the Year

Our winner is not a career politician, joining parliament in banking in her late 40s. Her expertise as a banker helped her skewer Bob Diamond at the Treasury Select Committee, but she did that just for fun. Her real work came co-founding the Fresh Start Group, giving the government easy-to-read instructions on how to repatriate powers from Europe. Her latest project is helping build a nationwide charity focusing on early-years help for mothers. It’s an incredible array of interest from a woman who is a potent mix of authority, restlessness and fearlessness and we suspect today’s award will be the first of many. Our Newcomer of the Year is Andrea Leadsom.

Backbencher of the Year

Any former Chancellor can waltz into any number of sinecures. Instead our winner went back to his Edinburgh constituency, rolled up his sleeves and started all over again. He became the face of ‘Better Together’ campaign, helped build it up into a cross-party alliance which has applied proper Excalibur-style scrutiny to the SNP Salmond’s momentum has now halted. Our Backbencher of the Year is Alistair Darling.

Inquisitor of the Year

Ronald Reagan once said the most terrifying phrase in the English language is: ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’ In Britain, the most terrifying phrase comes in a letter saying ‘You have been invited to give evidence to the Public Accounts Select Committee.’ Our Inquisitor of the Year is Margaret Hodge.

Campaigner of the Year

The most effective Westminster campaigns transcend party politics, as our winner demonstrates. The way the House came together after the Hillsborough report was one of the most poignant and extraordinary political days of the year. The report had exposed one of the worst cover-ups in police history – and corrected a false narrative that he been repeated by many publications over the decades. Even, I’m afraid to say, my own. Our winner has been campaigning for justice for Hillsborough 96 for years. Three years ago, he was our ‘Minister to Watch’. Today, we honour him as a local MP standing up for his native city and helping set the record straight. Our Campaigner of the Year is Andy Burnham.

Speech of the Year

Last year, we awarded [Speech of the Year to] Charles Walker for a four-word speech: “If not now, when?” This year, he is back for another unforgettable line: “Speaking as a practising fruitcake.” His Labour colleague Kevan Jones admitted later that he had no idea if he’d be ending his own career by making a similar speech. Within hours, they were flooded with emails thanking them for giving a voice to people with the same struggles. And finally mental health issues had some parliamentary champions. The Mental Health Act, removing the last vestiges of discrimination from the system, would soon follow. Our Speech of the Year goes to two men who opened their heart, and in so doing helped change the law of the land: Charles Walker & Kevan Jones.

Apology of the Year

Once, being a politician meant never having to say you were sorry. Now, the apology has become a political art form – and the judges felt it was time to acknowledge this with a new category. The standards are now set pretty high. It needs to be your fault: you can’t apologise an ancient wrongdoing like the Black Death or Cliff Richard’s Millennium Prayer. It needs to hurt: you need to actually expend some political capital. And you need to be visibly uncomfortable while doing it. Voters need to see you squirm. A few MPs have ticked all these boxes. But only one did so in a song that went around the world. Now, Nick Clegg can’t be here today – he sends his apology (it was quite good, had a bit of a Spanish tempo this time, and Miriam on the castanets).

Resignation of the Year

Our award goes to someone whose resignation story was rather different story. He turned up for a meeting with the Prime Minister and then – according to newspaper reports – “found the PM was too distracted to realise his visitor was quitting and instead told him to carry on the good work.” The judges are delighted that our winner went back to his desk – and that he has now given up on giving up. The non-resignation of the year goes to the minister who never can say goodbye: Jonathan Hill.

Resurrection of the Year

Churchill once said there is no comparison between war and politics. In war, he said, you can die only once. In politics: many times. But even in politics, no one has managed a resurrection quite as swiftly as our winner. When David Cameron said goodbye to him last time, it really did look like the end. Within 44 days, the Prime Minister was back, on his knees, begging our winner to be Chief Whip. As Tory leaders from Ted Heath onward have learned, this bicycling baronet is an asset that the Conservative front bench just can’t live without. Our resurrection of the year was performed by Sir George Young.

Minister to Watch

Already she has become known as the ‘human hand grenade’ where she is thrown into a department to remove bureaucratic blockages. Today, we are happy to arm her with an implement that should help her conclusively resolve any further disputes with her officials. Our Minister to Watch is the Department of Education’s very own Miss Dynamite; Liz Truss.

Double Act of the Year

There’s nothing like like a bit of creative tension to get the most out of your staff. This might have been the Prime Minister’s plan when he put our winners together in the last reshuffle. Or it just might have been pure sadism. Our double act of the year is the duo that is making sparks fly, the new Odd Couple of British politics: Ed Davey and John Hayes.

Peer of the Year

He has been in Westminster long enough to know that there’s not much God in politics. There tends to be more of the other guy. But not since Thomas Beckett has such a politically active clergyman been made the leap over the Thames to Lambeth Palace. Our winner is parliament’s very own turbulent priest. Please welcome the Bishop of Durham and the next Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.

Minister of the Year

For years, Labour MPs have been fantasizing about a ‘Hugh Grant/Love Actually moment’ where a gutsy British minister would defy America. It finally happened this year – except this time the role of Hugh Grant was played by a vicar’s daughter in kitten heels. When she decided not to extradite Gary McKinnon to America, it stunned parliament – not least because she made her surprise announcement at the dispatch box, without a word to the press. Or No.10. It was an extraordinary moment, that served to restore the sense of ministerial authority and the Home Office’s standing as a great office of state. Our Minister of the Year is Theresa May.

Parliamentarian of the Year

Two and a half years ago, a group of eight men got together in a room and decided to change the British constitution forever. They wanted to reform the House of Lords and have it elected along proportional representation lines. Their parties held a majority in the House of Commons, so thought they would just whip it through. After all, they were in charge. Our winner thought differently. He was a new member of the House of Commons, he made it his mission to save the House of Lords – even if it meant defeating his party leader and risking spending the rest of his career as the member for Siberia North…We are not the first to honour our winner. The Prime Minister gave his fellow old Etonian what one onlooker described as the “Eton hairdryer treatment” in members’ lobby. His credibility skyrocketed. Today, we are giving him our gong. The Spectator’s 28th Parliamentarian of the Year is Jesse Norman.

Politician of the Year

The judges argued long and hard about many categories, but not this one. Politics is the art of making and winning arguments… but also about winning elections. Not something that many Conservatives have much memory of, but our winner seems to have broken that curse. It’s not just about elections. He was the face of London during the Olympics and danced for Britain during its closing ceremony. His philosophy is a kind of unapologetic Merry England Conservatism where he advocates tax cuts, denounced hair-shirtism and even vegetarianism. His secret is ability to get stuck halfway down an Olympic zip wire, and somehow portray this as a political triumph. And his record is two Tory Mayoral wins, in a city which is firmly Labour.

We at The Spectator have always observed a benign form of Shinto ancestor worship, and it’s good to see the voters of London are somewhat in sympathy. Our winner has proved that he is indeed the candidate who touches parts of the electorate that other Tories don’t. The only question is when he’ll return to be a contender for the Parliamentarian of the Year category. But for now our politician of the year is The Spectator’s fallen angel, the Tories’ brightest star and London’s very own Olympic champion: Boris Johnson.


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