Fraser Nelson

Why Harman won

Why Harman won
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Harriet Harman as the Spectator/Threadneedle parliamentarian of the year? When the judging panel started our deliberations, we had no idea we’d end up giving the top laurels to Harperson and Mandelson. Well, Mandelson as politician of the year was a no-brainer: you don’t need an explanation. He just is. He took over a government single-handedly. But Harman? I bow to no one (except Rod Liddle) in my hostility to her equalities agenda. But her critics must admit that a) she actually has an agenda, unlike so many of her colleagues b) she advances her agenda powerfully, as she did every day with her displays of political pyrotechnics when she stood in for Gordon Brown and c) she has moulded her agenda into legislation in the form of the Equalities Bill. It’s the last part which really clinched it for her.

Darling was awarded “survivor of the year” because recessions normally destroy Chancellors – but his reputation has, weirdly, grown. He has kept his job and reputation when all around him were losing theirs. He seemed quite pleased, and said the only award he’d won before was “most boring man of the year”.

The rest of the awards were also great fun. Purnell’s resignation was the best one since Robin Cook’s, which itself was the best one since Carrington. Peter Oborne argued that it fitted the great tradition of principled resignations, and has been vindicated day after day. He made a great wee speech, too, that a lot of people remarked upon. He also said his career started going downhill when I started to back him. Ken Clarke was the “newcomer of the year” - great irony, given that he served in the Heath government. Andrew Tyrie, one of the great unsung heroes of Westminster, was backbencher of the year. Tyrie has perhaps the best economic brain in the Tory party but chooses to use it on issues like the reaction to climate change and extraordinary rendition. You have the feeling that parliament would be a far better check on the executive if there were more people like him around.

Some other awards (and reasons)

Paul Farrelly, who is doing amazing work into the threat of no-win-no-fee lawsuits on freedom of the press. He started a committee inquiry into it, that’s due to report in a few weeks.

Sayeeda Warsi – for showing up Jack Straw, as well as Nick Griffin, on Question Time. She said at the awards that Boris and I spoke posh. Boris said he didn’t speak posh, and it was only me. I have given up trying to explain that I don’t speak posh: it’s irritable vowel syndrome. Sufferers like me are never given the sympathy we deserve.

Dan Hannan for speech of the year. No-brainer. His speech was pitched, I suspect, to a cyberspace audience – but with 2.5m hits it blew other contenders out of the water.

• Minister to Watch – Lord Adonis. Why? He has said he won’t defect but he is a reformer, and people copy his ideas (school liberalisation, high speed rail etc). What he says today, other parties will be proposing tomorrow. I’ve long believed that the real dividing line in politics is not drawn between Labour or Tory but between reformers and resisters. Adonis is on the side of the angels.

• Campaigner of the Year – Joanna Lumley and the Gurkhas (for reducing Phil Woolas to a quivering wreck)

• Readers Representative Award: Douglas Carswell. Y’all voted for him. Y’all know why. Anyway, a good time was had by all. There was a strange absence of senior Shadow Cabinet members amongst the winners, and we the judges asked if we’d been subliminally biased against them. But if you were to give Osborne or Cameron and award, what would it be for? Their victories don’t really fit into the categories we have. It’s been a strange year, with Labour providing the action: beating itself up, Fight Club style and even getting some things right. Our awards reflected that.

Written byFraser Nelson

Fraser Nelson is the editor of The Spectator. He is also a columnist with The Daily Telegraph, a member of the advisory board of the Centre for Social Justice and the Centre for Policy Studies.

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