BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: UK: Politics  
News Front Page
Middle East
South Asia
N Ireland
Talking Point
Country Profiles
In Depth
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
Thursday, 21 November, 2002, 15:20 GMT
Spectator picks Blair for top award
Prime Minister Tony Blair

Tony Blair has been named Parliamentarian of the Year by the Spectator magazine. Yes, Tony Blair.

In a decision that has surprised many in the Commons, the panel of independent judges decided that he has "exercised unchallenged dominance of the political landscape".

Spectator editor Boris Johnson
Johnson is mischievous MP
But the prime minister is regularly criticised for being the man who has done more than any other to sideline the House of Commons and parliament.

And the panel of journalists awarding the honour admitted he led a government that was "not universally thought to have been good for parliamentary democracy".

The first reaction by many was that the magazine editor and Tory MP, the mop-haired funster Boris Johnson, was taking the mickey with the award.

Hint of mischief

But no. The decision was taken by a panel of senior political journalists.

Speaking at the award ceremony, Mr Johnson declared: "It is hard to think of another party leader who, for eight years, has exercised such unchallenged dominance of the political landscape.

"Time after time the Labour benches threaten to rebel, and he quells them as Zeus quells sea-nymphs. This was a politician who opposed the Falklands war but who has now sent British forces overseas twice on successful engagements."

Just a hint of mischief in that comment, perhaps.

And, as Mr Johnson continued to read out the praised heaped on Mr Blair by the judges - including the claim he was: "the coolest cat in town" - he added: "Much as it embarrasses me to report it."

Minister to watch

The prime minister, who is attending the Nato summit in Prague, was unable to receive the award. It was collected on his behalf by last year's winner, Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble.

Prime Minister Tony Blair
Blair accused of sidelining Commons
Other awards given by the magazine in partnership with Zurich financial services went to Lord Norman Tebbit, Peer of the year; Labour's Graham Allen, backbencher of the year; Yvette Cooper, minister to watch; Labour's Gerald Kaufman, survivor of the year and Caroline Spelman, shadow minister to watch.

Lord Tebbit won for his "unfailing ability to say, pungently, what many are thinking."

It was also, correctly, pointed out that the Chingford Skinhead, or semi-housetrained polecat, was in real life "a model of courtliness and constraint."

Mr Allen won for forcing the recall of parliament during the summer to debate Iraq.

And veteran Labour MP and former frontbencher Gerald Kaufman for being "recklessly disregarded by the new regime."

The cynics in Westminster, once they had picked themselves up after hearing the news, had a simple explanation.

They claim that, with Iain Duncan Smith less than dazzling in parliament, and the rest of the MPs marginalised, the prime minister has won in much the same way Stalin always won elections in the Soviet Union - because there was no opposition.

Judges for the award were: Andrew Marr, BBC; Ben Macintyre, the Times; Elinor Goodman, Channel 4; Simon Hoggart, the Guardian; Frank Johnson, Daily Telegraph; George Jones, Daily Telegraph; Trevor Kavanagh, the Sun; Peter Oborne, the Spectator; Alan Watkins, the Independent and Michael White, the Guardian.

See also:

08 Nov 01 | Politics
24 Apr 02 | Politics
26 Nov 98 | Politics
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

E-mail this story to a friend

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |