After eighteen months of Covid, it was with a sense of relief and joy that MPs, peers, bag-carriers and hangers-on descended on London's Rosewood Hotel. After all the twists and turns of the pandemic’s politics, ministers and opposite numbers enjoyed the chance to break bread and hear from some of Parliament's leading figures collecting gongs at tonight's awards. The guest of honour at the shindig was the recently-defenestrated Robert Buckland, liberated from high office and now enjoying his new-found freedom on the back benches. And it was with great delight that he dispensed the awards all evening, with heavyweights and grandees dispensing jokes and jibes alike.
Sajid Javid (Comeback of the Year) wanted to thank those who had helped him become Health Secretary: 'The Prime Minister, my wife... and the CCTV guy at the Department of Health' he said, to roars of laughter, though not from Matt Hancock's corner. Carolyn Harris (Campaigner of the Year) suggested: 'I’ve got more friends here tonight than I would at a Momentum conference' while Chris Bryant (Speech of the Year for his intervention on Owen Paterson) told the audience: 'Some of you shouldn’t really be applauding because you all voted the wrong way'. Nadhim Zahawi (Minister to Watch) meanwhile looked back on his own political journey: 'How did a boy from Iraq end up on these shores without a word of English at the age off and become the Secretary of State for Education? This is the greatest country of the world, my friends.'
Baroness Bertin (Peer of the Year) joked 'I spent the early years of my career trying to crash this party' while Rishi Sunak (Politician of the Year) hailed The Spectator as 'our best weekly current affairs magazine' and thanked us for repaying the furlough money. Just another £399 billion left to go, he said. Jacob Rees-Mogg accepted the Parliamentarian of the Year award on behalf of David Amess. 'Those of us who believe in the intercessions of the saints know that there is a martyr in heaven who will intercede for us, who will stand up not just for the people of Basildon and the people of Southend, but for all of us. And will be doing so in the grace of God.'
But while the awards went to politicians from across the spectrum, it was two women who stole the show tonight. Backbencher of the Year went to former Prime Minister Theresa May, who shimmied up to collect the prize to ABBA's 'Dancing Queen' and danced with Buckland on the stage. 'Thank you to all of my parliamentary colleagues who ensured that I was on the backbenches – some of you are here tonight.' She then told a dirty joke. (Yes, seriously.) Then it was the turn of Liz Truss, recently promoted Foreign Secretary, who told attendees it was good that she did not have to share the award because: 'I look forward to displaying this at Chevening.' Sadly her newly-reshuffled colleague Dominic Raab wasn't in attendance. She mentioned that she had won Minister to Watch three times now, and would quite like to graduate to the higher awards. Watch out Boris.
Here are a selection of photographs from the event, along with the full list of winners:
Parliamentarian of the year
Politician of the year: Rishi Sunak MP
Politician to watch: Liz Truss MP
Minister to watch: Nadhim Zahawi MP
Comeback of the year: Sajid Javid MP
Speech of the year: Chris Bryant MP
Inquisitor of the year: Jackie Baillie MSP
Peer of the year: Baroness Bertin
Backbencher of the year: Theresa May MP
Campaigner of the year: Carolyn Harris MP
Newcomer of the year: Kim Leadbeater MP
Disruptor of the year: Angela Rayner MP