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Thursday, 8 November, 2001, 17:18 GMT
Potential is dangerous - Blunkett
George Galloway
Mr Galloway was one of the winners
By BBC News Online's Ben Davies

People branded failures have nothing to fear, whereas those deemed to have potential are liable to be targets of unbridled envy, spite and fear.

Those were the words of Home Secretary David Blunkett at an annual political award ceremony at a central London hotel.

Award winners
Parliamentarian of the year: David Trimble
Minister to Watch: Ruth Kelly
Backbencher of the Year: Andrew Mackinlay
Inquisitor of the Year: Norman Baker
Debater of the Year: George Galloway
Special Award: Elizabeth Filkin
Of course Mr Blunkett was not referring to David Trimble who scooped the title of Parliamentarian of Year but rather to those who won awards indicating that they were "ones to watch" - such recognition could be a "poison chalice", he joked.

At the ceremony, sponsored by the Spectator magazine and financial services group Zurich, Mr Blunkett also warned that politicians often found themselves speaking a foreign language which found little understanding elsewhere.

'Pain-in-the-neck'

He pointed to the example of former US vice president Dan Quayle who following a visit to Latin America said he had enjoyed himself but indicated that he would have had an even better time had he spoken Latin.

Mr Blunkett then took his place stage left and allowed Spectator editor and sometimes MP for Henley, Boris Johnson, to introduce each of the winners.

David Trimble
Mr Trimble is parliamentarian of the year
Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker, whose zealous use of the parliamentary written question claimed the scalp of former Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson, was given the prize of Inquisitor of the Year.

He said he relished his reputation among certain ministers as a "general pain in the neck" and pledged to keep on asking tough questions.

Conservative home affairs spokesman Oliver Letwin also claimed a prize for being the shadow minister to watch.

Afficionados of the general election campaign will remember Mr Letwin chiefly for his suggestion that the Tories could achieve up to 20bn in tax cuts.

He then disappeared, not into a spending gap, but to his constituency in Dorset where he was hunted by the press for several days.

Literary moment

As Mr Johnson put it "this man from Hardy country rivalled Jude in his obscurity".

Minister to watch went to Ruth Kelly who said that she had never taken the Spectator before but now she was due to get free copies she pledged she would become an avid reader.

Labour MP George Galloway, who takes a particular interest in Middle Eastern affairs, won the title of Debater of the Year.

Elizabeth Filkin
Ms Filkin is waiting to find out if she has a job
He told the audience that people got the parliament they deserved and if MPs behaved like poodles they could "hardly complain if the top dogs treated them like the proverbial lamp post" - all this between the starter and the main course.

The award panel, consisting of political journalists including BBC Political Editor Andrew Marr, also decided this year to honour Elizabeth Filkin for her role as parliamentary watchdog.

Ms Filkin's future is currently hanging in the balance as she has been required to reapply for her own job.

She had thanks for many people in parliament who for the past three years have provided her with plenty to do.

Not least her gratitude went to those who had inspired the creation of the post she held until recently - the MPs who set up the "successful small business selling questions for cash".

See also:

07 Nov 01 | Northern Ireland
Governments welcome Trimble election
25 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Cook defends Filkin job decision
21 Sep 01 | Liberal Democrats
The man who got Mandy
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