I am honoured to be invited to present these awards. Thank you very much for taking me out of my unemployment. When I read the Spectator front cover on the eve of the referendum, I thought it was advice on how to vote: ‘Out - and into the world’. But it turned out to be career advice to me. And of course, normally these annual awards are presented by last year’s winner of ‘Politician of the year’, David Cameron. And it’s another example of where he’s disappeared and left me holding the baby. I wanted to support the Spectator magazine - a brilliant weekly compendium on the arts, on politics, on society. Yours for only £4.25 - or $4 because of the policies of the Spectator.
Fraser, you are a forceful editor, doughty defender of press freedom. Andrew, you are an expert chair, a formidable journalist in your own right. Indeed, I always made it a rule in the six years that I was Chancellor of the Exchequer, never to be interviewed by Andrew Neil because he was too good. And I relaxed this rule once, just once, in those six years, and within two weeks I had lost a national referendum, divided the Conservative party, split my friends, lost my job and I end up standing here grinning about to present awards to all my bezzies.
So it has been an extraordinary year, as Fraser says, for connoisseurs of politics. And later, when I give out the awards, there won’t be much time for chit chat - a bit like when Theresa and I last spoke. So I thought I would use the opportunity I now have to hand out some awards of my own: the real Parliamentary awards. So first, let's start with the 'Sam Allardyce campaign manager of the year' award. And the undisputed winner this year is my good friend, brilliant former minister, Michael Gove. Now Michael made up with the quantity of his leadership campaigns what they lacked in quality. And indeed Michael and I remain good friends because fortunately he never offered me his support. Now unfortunately Michael can’t be here tonight to pick up his award, because you see he’s got an 11-year-old son so he can’t just leave him.
The second award tonight is the 'Huma Abedin email of the year' award. Now I actually won this award back in 2008 when we accidentally emailed our entire conference plan, including our secret announcement on inheritance tax, to the Lib Dem MP Michael Hancock, rather than Matthew Hancock. Fortunately, Mike Hancock and his researchers had other ways of spending their afternoons than reading their emails. This year’s winner of the email of the year award is, of course, Sarah Vine. A wonderful must-read columnist and, with a single email of only a few sentences, Sarah succeeded in switching the support of the Daily Mail, losing the support of Rupert Murdoch, destroying the leadership campaign of Boris Johnson, preparing the way for Theresa May to become the Prime Minister, beginning the leadership campaign of Michael Gove and ending the leadership campaign of Michael Gove. And that is the new technology we’re all wrestling with in politics.
I know you’re thinking: all these awards and honours, they’re all going so far to the chums of George Osborne. Indeed, Sir Craig Oliver was complaining to me about this just before we started. So let’s move on to some other awards. We have the 'Quentin Davies award for animal welfare'. This year it goes to Michael Heseltine. So he is hoping, late in life, that by claiming to kill a dog he can become eligible to become leader of the liberal party.
There's then the Max Mosley award for getting to the bottom of things. Now this year that goes to the respected - sorry, formerly respected civil rights campaigner - Shami Chakrabarti. Now she fearlessly spent minutes on her detailed, one-page report into anti-semitism in the Labour party and uncovered nothing, all in exchange for no reward whatsoever except for a peerage. Now Shami again can’t be with us here tonight to pick up this award, which is a shame because you know, big room, nice food - it’s right up her street.
Now my penultimate award is the President Erdogan prize for the attempted coup which males the leader stronger. This year the prize goes collectively to the Parliamentary Labour party and I am delighted that Hilary Benn and Angela Eagle are here to accept on their behalf. The Labour leadership is something to behold. For the first time in 20 years, I am playing no part in preparing for PMQs. Indeed, I am watching from the backbenches and indeed can I say how thrilling it is at the moment. When I did prepare for PMQs, my job was always trying to guess what the other person might say. And with Jeremy Corbyn, that is simply impossible. Sometimes you can’t work out the subject he’s going on even after he has asked his questions. So when a Conservative MP resigns his seat in protest at government policy, not a word from Jeremy. When my good friend IDS resigns from the cabinet in protest at the budget, it turns out that Jeremy Corbyn and I are the only two people in the country who don’t want to talk about it. When evidence emerges of Theresa May’s ardent support for the European Union, he doesn’t mention it. Mind you, nor did she. So it is a sight to behold.
My final award is the 'Boris Johnson zipwire award' for turning disaster into triumph. And, once again, it is awarded to Boris Johnson. With his charisma and humour, he is always the star of his own show - a show in which this year, our hero manages to accidentally lead the country out of the EU, helps bolster the government of a decisive prime minister who is ready at last to build the third runway at Heathrow, and finally puts paid to all those people who wanted Turkey to join the EU - the most prominent of whom was him. And yet he still ends up as one of the leading stars of the government, as our excellent new Foreign Secretary. Nothing gets past Boris. It’s a bit like the Embankment after that cycle lane.
The real Spectator Parliamentary awards celebrate the work that is done, day-in day-out to further our democracy. From changing government policy on Syrian refugees, to holding Philip Green to account, to shaping our new relationship with Europe, Parliament is a place where you can make a difference, Parliament is a place where the decisions are going to be taken, and that’s why it’s my plan to stay in Parliament alongside the worthy winners of these awards tonight.