The Threadneedle/Spectator Parliamentarian of the Year Awards
Last Thursday the 24th annual Threadneedle/Spectator Parliamentarian of the Year lunch was held in front of a roomful of the great and good at Claridges, and — this being the first ever live ‘vodcast’ award ceremony — in front of thousands of web-watchers worldwide as well. Matthew d’Ancona, editor of The Spectator, welcomed the Rt Hon John Reid MP to present the awards, saying: ‘As Home Secretary, he showed that the spirit of The Sweeney is not dead, metaphorically hurling substandard officials on to the bonnet of his Cortina, investing the words “not fit for purpose” with new and chilling meaning.’
NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR
Nick Clegg MP
This former journalist, Eurocrat, MEP and cross-party pin-up has achieved ascendancy in his party with prodigious speed. There were those who thought he should have stood for the leadership in the last contest, but Clegg knew there’d be another one along in a minute, and he is now the runaway favourite to succeed Ming Campbell.
INQUISITOR OF THE YEAR
Michael Connarty MP
This year’s winner stormed to prominence with a devastating critique of the EU Reform Treaty. His European Scrutiny Select Committee demonstrated in cool analysis and then heated face-to-face exchanges that the Reform Treaty was substantially the same as the fallen Constitution and that the deal Britain had struck was not quite as marvellous as ministers claimed.
PEER OF THE YEAR
The Rt Hon the Baroness Thatcher
This year’s award went to a peer who is, in fact, without peer. The judges were struck not only by her continued grip on the national imagination but by the enthusiasm with which senior parliamentary figures — not to mention visiting international statesmen — still flock to her side.
SPEECH OF THE YEAR
The Rt Hon William Hague MP
William Hague is living proof that the age of great parliamentary rhetoric is not quite dead. His speech on 20 March, to commemorate the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade, was a tour de force. It laced together a rich understanding of history with a profound sense of the contemporary. The judges were also impressed by his cheek in managing to get a plug for his new book — a biography of Wilberforce — into paragraph two.
RESIGNATION OF THE YEAR
The Rt Hon Tony Blair
As exits go, this one rivaled the final season of The Sopranos. There was just so much of it: from a school playground, to last year’s Labour conference, to the final farewell in the Commons on 27 June. The judges felt that the former PM’s ‘Blairwell’ tour was vindicated by his magnificent final performance. ‘I wish everyone, friend or foe, well and that is that, the end,’ said Blair. And — friend or foe — the Commons gave him a standing ovation.
MINISTER TO WATCH
Liam Byrne MP
As health minister, Byrne earned his ministerial spurs in some tough battles, and proved himself an eloquent speaker, but it is in his current role as minister of state for borders and immigration that the judges felt he had, in mafia terms, made his bones. Some in his party talk of him as a future leader. His current job will make or break that ambition.
MARATHON MAN OF THE YEAR
The Revd and Rt Hon Dr Paisley
John Hume once said to our winner, ‘If the word “no” were to be removed from the English language, you’d be speechless, wouldn’t you?’ To which he replied, ‘No!’ But on 8 May, the Rev Dr Paisley and Martin McGuinness — a self-confessed former member of the IRA — formed a coalition government together and the man who says ‘no’ became the man who at last said ‘yes’.
CAMPAIGNER OF THE YEAR
Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith MP
Iain Duncan Smith has come back with a vengeance, pursuing his career-long interest in the alleviation of poverty. His work for the Conservative policy review process on ‘Breakdown Britain’ has attracted plaudits across the political spectrum. Rehabilitated and more influential than ever, Iain Duncan Smith is a parliamentarian of impeccable integrity and guts, who has changed the terms of political trade.
PARLIAMENTARIAN OF THE YEAR
Alex Salmond MP
The Scottish elections in May, which delivered an SNP executive, were not only a kick in the teeth for Gordon Brown in his own backyard, but represented a moment of history in the annals of the Union: a nationalist party established north of the border campaigning for full independence and budgetary control by 2017. Whatever your view on that question, the judges felt it was right to salute the man whose brilliant tactics laid the foundations for an extraordinary victory.
POLITICIAN OF THE YEAR
The Rt Hon George Osborne MP
Rarely, if ever, has a single policy proposal by an opposition politician changed the political weather so spectacularly and so suddenly as the Tories proposal to cut inheritance tax. This was not in the Labour script, and was not compatible with the Gordon 2007 software that had been loaded into the electoral machine. No matter: the figures were clear. Brown backed down, and the election was cancelled in a single, diffident interview with Andrew Marr.