The 19th annual Parliamentarian of the Year awards, sponsored by The Spectator and by Zurich Financial Services, were presented by Michael Martin, MP, Speaker of the House of Commons, the guest of honour at the awards presentation luncheon held at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, London. The guests were welcomed by Sandy Leitch, chief executive of Zurich Financial Services. The chairman of the judges, Boris Johnson, editor of The Spectator, read out the judges' choices and the reasons for them.
I once got bashed up by the late John Smith. It was at one of those charm-offensive lunches in the City, and he had asked why London's booming financial firms kept all their jobs in the South-east rather than sharing them round the rest of the country. My mistake was to suggest that dispersing jobs like that might damage competitiveness and profitability. Such innocence. A couple of charming karate chops later, I was stretchered off and never asked back.
I have no doubt that Allah moves in mysterious ways. But if He has chosen Recep Tayyip Erdogan as the instrument of His vengeance on the infidel, He must be given credit for startling originality. Erdogan, whose party won a landslide victory in Turkey's recent general election, may be feared in some quarters as a dangerous Islamist, in person he looks no more threatening than a rather blokeish bank manager.
Tony Blair tells us continually that the British armed forces are 'the best in the world'. They are fighting fit, says the government, and straining at the leash to do battle with Saddam Hussein. It is all the more frightening, therefore, that in truth the Prime Minister is about to deploy a British military force as ill equipped for full-scale war as it is to provide the nation with adequate fire cover.
No British prime minister has dominated the landscape so obviously, with so little obvious effort or for so long, as Tony Blair. You can check through the lists fruitlessly as far back as they go to find a comparable example. Maybe Palmerston, who attained power only in ripe old age, enjoyed a comparable period of popularity during the high Victorian epoch, but even that assertion is open to debate.