The Spectator’s 32nd Parliamentarian of the Year awards, sponsored by Benenden, took place at the Savoy Hotel this afternoon. Here are the winners – and a few extracts from my speech. The awards were presented by Alex Salmond. The winners' speeches, and my spiel, are below:
1. Speech of the year – Johnny Mercer
Our winner is a former serviceman – and, briefly, a male model – whose maiden speech was theatrical, magisterial and moving. 'A great stain falls upon our nation,' he said, 'when more soldiers take their own lives than die in action.' Our winner completed three tours of Afghanistan, now serving his first tour of duty for the Tories.
2. Lifetime achievement – Harriet Harman
When the Labour party collapses, as it is prone to do, she has been there to pick up the pieces. Sacked in 1998, she then clawed her way back up to the top, acting as deputy leader of her party for seven tumultuous years. Her Equalities Act set the terms of debate that the Tories still follow.
She helped encourage a generation of young women politicians, on all benches, even though she did end up handing over to someone older and even posher.
3. Backbencher of the year – Natascha Engel
She was the chairman of the Backbench Business Committee, which sets the debates and keeps the Commons lively. She has manfully resisted attempts by the Speaker to influence it. She has recently become a Deputy Speaker, presiding over the House with grace and with her native Prussian efficiency.
4. Insurgent of the year – Ruth Davidson
For the first time in years, voting Tory is something you can actually admit to in polite Scottish company – and that’s due in no small part to our winner. Even she wasn’t a Tory until ten years ago. She is a martial arts enthusiast who has broken almost every bone in her body, and came within 300 votes of leaving the Tories with more Scottish MPs than the Labour Party.
5. Minister to watch – Amber Rudd
She lost no time setting her agenda, telling the Liberal Democrats to take their solar panels and stick them where the sun don’t shine — but that’s exactly what the Lib Dems had already been doing. Our winner turned her marginal seat into a safe seat, and then turned a Lib Dem safe haven into a testing ground of Tory radicalism.
6. Newcomer of the year – Tommy Sheppard
In his maiden speech he explained that the SNP’s tartan army had not come to refight the independence referendum. 'We come not to disrupt, but to be constructive,' he said. And that’s exactly what they’ve done: sitting through even the dullest debates, making thoughtful contributions. And proving perhaps even to Alex Salmond that Westminster is the place for the best Scottish political talent.
7. Peer of the year – Molly Meacher and Patricia Hollis
This was a judging panel of journalists, who loved the drama after these two troublesome members of the House of Lords had stopped the tax credits cuts in their tracks, and caused the government more problems then any of the revolutionaries in the Labour Party. They not only forced the Chancellor to think again on tax credits but started a constitutional battle that will continue for months to come.
8. Guy Fawkes award for guerrilla politics – Michael Gove
He is a scholar of radical thought, who works with a portrait of Lenin behind his desk and is fond of quoting Antonio Gramsci about the need for a Long March through cultural institutions. Our winner despises the politics of managerialism, and has a proud record of turning the established order upside down. It is this record that the judges honour today.
9. Campaigner of the year – Jeremy Corbyn
Not since Usain Bolt has a man in a vest sprinted so quickly to the finish line. The difference being that Bolt is now considering retirement at the age of 29; our winner is just getting started at the age of 66.
He has made some compromises: he actually wears a poppy, now, rather than have it photoshopped on his lapel. He was even seen holding a copy of The Sun —the struggle takes many forms.
10. Parliamentarian of the year – David Cameron
He was the first to pre-announce his resignation while chopping carrots. He declared himself 'pumped up' on the campaign trail. He enlisted star campaigners from other parties — Alex Salmond probably appeared more in Tory election literature than any other politician. And he rejected the advice of almost every pundit, who told him he was sleepwalking to defeat.
Of course, our winner never doubted his own strategy – that’s why he spent election day writing and rehearsing his resignation speech. But he then went on to pull off one of the most extraordinary election victories in modern electoral history, confounding pollsters and pundits, ending the days of coalition stitch-ups and restoring parliamentary authority.