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Wednesday, November 25, 1998 Published at 17:59 GMT

UK Politics

Hague tops Spectator awards

William Hague at the despatch box on Tuesday

The day after he gave what was described as his best Commons performance, William Hague has won The Spectator's Parliamentarian of the Year award.

The prize was presented by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott - the object of the Tory leader's ridicule during the Queen's speech debate.

The right-wing magazine delivered a second dig at Tony Blair's government by naming Rhodri Morgan its Inquisitor of the Year.

[ image: Rhodri Morgan: Awarded for tough questions put to Alastair Campbell]
Rhodri Morgan: Awarded for tough questions put to Alastair Campbell
Mr Morgan is awarded for his performance skewering the prime minister's official spokesman, Alastair Campbell, before a Commons committee.

The MP for Cardiff West has since risen to greater public prominence following the resignation of former Welsh secretary Ron Davies.

Runner-up last time around, Mr Morgan remains the favourite in the race to become the Labour candidate for the job of Welsh first minister, despite Downing Street's disapproval.

Hague 'impressive' in Commons

The Spectator panel - composed of political correspondents, including ITN's Michael Brunson, The Guardian's Michael White and Matthew Parris of The Times - reached the decision to honour Mr Hague unanimously.

The magazine's editor, Frank Johnson, said: "This year's winner on the face of it contradicts the judges' view that, for the time being at least, parliament is not very important.

"At the moment, William Hague's performance in parliament is what he is most admired for and the judges were particularly influenced by a year of watching him during Prime Minister's Questions."

Hague attack on Prescott

The panel also almost certainly witnessed the Tory leader's humorous assault on new legislative after the Queen's speech.

Accusing the government of failing to tackle the "people's priorities" he highlighted the Bills that were missing.

[ image: John Prescott: Presented awards]
John Prescott: Presented awards
"The winners have got a Bill, the losers have got a draft Bill, the real losers have got their proposals 'taken forward', the completely defeated have got a consultation paper," Mr Hague said.

"And for those who've got nothing at all, at least there's the consolation of being deputy prime minister."

Mr Prescott, clearly incensed, leaned forward in his front-bench seat and shouted across the despatch box, although his comments were lost in the commotion.

Mr Hague said he had never meant to annoy Mr Prescott so much "but I'm obviously pleased I did".

He said such clashes were "part of the rough and tumble in the House of Commons".

Mr Hague said he had enjoyed the past year "enormously" and wanted to restore the position of parliament in national life.

"I do think it has been threatened and diminished in recent years.

"And I do very genuinely believe that one day it will be my role and purpose to restore the role and dignity of parliament."

Scotland's 'guerrilla leader'

The Spectator awarded Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond as Tactician of the Year and named Labour MP Kate Hoey Debater of the Year.

One of the judges described Mr Salmond as "a guerrilla leader who, safe in his northern fastness, feels free to cause havoc in the south".

Ms Hoey is praised for being "an unfashionable minority in the Labour Party" and standing up for fox-hunters against overwhelming opposition.

Mr Johnson added: "The government seem to agree with her more than the 400 anti-hunting Labour members since no more will be heard of the anti-hunting bill in this parliament."

The Spectator's own consolation prize went to backbenchers John Bercow MP, the Conservative member for Buckingham, and Lynne Jones, the Labour MP for Birmingham, Selly Oak.

"Despite the judges' belief that, given the state of parliament, there are not many backbenchers worth watching, there are one or two brave souls who have raised the temperature if not always the tone," Mr Johnson said.

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