The Spectator’s 27th Parliamentarian of the Year awards, sponsored by Mastercard, took place at the Savoy Hotel this afternoon. Here are the winners – and a few extracts from my speech. The awards were presented by Theresa May, and here was my spiel
1. Backbencher of the Year: Sarah Wollaston
She plotted a career way that redefines what it means to be an MP. She had never attended a political meeting before being selected for her party, in an open primary where any constituent could vote. Her election to the chair of the Health Select Committee this year underlines her status as an MP who is respected by her peers as much as she is cursed by whips and spin doctors.
2. Campaigner of the Year: Jim Murphy
‘He was not only demoted but exiled — sent on a one-man tour of the Outer Hebrides with only an Irn-Bru crate for company. Yet somehow he became a sensation, his speeches so potent that nationalists chased him all around Scotland His refusal to back down made a media sensation – drawing attention to more ugly elements of the referendum campaign. He had eggs thrown at him, and was called a terrorist and worst — but what his hecklers didn’t realise was that this was nothing compared to being a Blairite in Ed Miliband’s Labour Party.’
When he accepted the award, he said ‘thanks – you bastard’, mindful that an award from a right-wing magazine would hardly help him win the Scottish Labour leadership.
3. Peer of the Year: Charlie Falconer
‘He has grasped the sharpest thorn in politics – an Assisted Dying Bill, which has provided the most compelling parliamentary debate of the year, with even George Carey declaring himself a supporter. It was a reminder of what the House of Lords does best: handles issues that are too hot for the Commons.’
He wasn’t there, but Andrew Adonis accepted for him.
4. Speech of the Year: Penny Mordaunt
‘She delivered the best Loyal Address in years, a kind of post-feminist masterpiece constructed from a series of innuendos – and no one thought she could keep it up for more than five minutes, but she did. She had the House in stitches – and the speech launched her own ministerial career.’
In her acceptance speech, she revealed how – as a ‘fine’ from her colleagues in the Navy – she agreed to say the word ‘cock’ several times in a parliamentary speech. Ah the games, the games
5. Minister of the Year: Steve Webb
‘He has many admirers in Westminster, but his party leader isn’t one of them. Back in the days where the Lib Dems polled in double digits, Nick Clegg was overheard saying the following of our winner: ‘He’s a problem. We need someone with good ideas – and his just don’t add up.’
‘As it turns out, his ideas did add up: flat-rate State Pension, the triple-lock, auto-enrolment. All complex and far-reaching pensions reforms. As a result, Brits have more options than ever when they’re 64. The Chancellor may have stolen the credit for all this but today, we’re stealing it back.’
He defended Clegg in his acceptance…
6. Lifetime Achievement Award: William Hague
‘When the Tory Party were on the brink of collapse in 1997, he held the party together. When his party was on the brink of power he gave up his lucrative News of the World column and came back to the front bench. After rewiring Britain’s network of embassies, he went for that rare thing – a dignified exit, made on his own terms. When he was a teenager he famously told the Tory Party conference that it was all right for them, because they would not be here in 30 years time. Little did they know that he wouldn’t be either.
‘We tried – boy, did we try – to get his friend Angelina Jolie to present this award. But with Ed Miliband pointing at things and taxing them even this Tomb Raider thought that Britain was too dangerous for a self-made millionaire.’
7. Politician of the Year: Alex Salmond
It wasn’t an event that summed up this year in politics, it was a feeling – and history books won’t record feeling. It was the feeling of going to bed on the 18th of September and not knowing if the Union would still be intact when you woke up. This was the night that Britain held its breath, a moment of incredible drama created by the audacity and tenacity of our winner Almost twenty years ago, John Major’s government made a peace offering to Scotland, by returning the Stone of Destiny to Edinburgh. So it would surely be appropriate that Edinburgh now returns something just as weighty to Westminster.
‘So we now request, nay demand, that the Edinburgh establishment sends our winner back to his rightful place in the House of Commons.’
8. Insurgent of the Year: Douglas Carswell
‘We have seen MPs switch sides before – Shaun Woodward, Paul Marsden, then Quentin Davies, the only rat to have joined a sinking ship. But very rarely do defecting MPs have the courage to seek a fresh mandate from their constituents. He showed that a party once denounced as band of fruitcakes and loons had somehow become a force so formidable that the Conservatives conceded defeat at the first whiff of an opinion poll.
His party is winning support all the time – even the Pope now agrees with them on Europe. The people’s army is not only on the move but judging from today, they have occupied the Savoy dining room. We’d like to welcome back to the warm arms of the Establishment our insurgent of the year.’
9. Parliamentarian of the Year: Robert Rogers
‘Our winner knows more about the Commons and its history than any other living soul – he has, quite literally, written the book on parliament.
‘After the expenses scandal and the demise of Speaker Martin, it was our winner who plotted the restoration of parliamentary grittiness which has been wonderfully evident in the past few years.
‘He did so with impeccable impartiality. He did so with humour, scholarship, charm, a flinty adherence to democracy and the most splendid mutton chop whiskers in Westminster.’
The Judges Andrew Rawnsley (Observer), Ann Treneman (Times), Carolyn Quinn (BBC), Rachel Sylvester (The Times), Trevor Kavanagh (The Sun), James Chapman (Daily Mail), Quentin Letts (Daily Mail), Fraser Nelson, Isabel Hardman (both Spectator/Daily Telegraph), James Forsyth (Spectator/MoS) and Andrew Neil.