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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 November, 2003, 15:43 GMT
Howard named top Parliamentarian
Michael Howard with his award
Judges say Howard is 'a master at the Despatch Box'
New Tory leader Michael Howard has been named Parliamentarian of the Year by the Spectator magazine and Zurich UK.

The award comes just days after he was crowned unopposed successor to Iain Duncan Smith.

Spectator editor Boris Johnson, also a Tory MP, said the award was decided "before there was the faintest whiff of a coup" in the Conservative Party.

Last year Tony Blair won the accolade because he had "exercised unchallenged dominance of the political landscape".

Commons performer

Mr Howard received the award from Health Secretary John Reid at a special lunch held in Claridge's Hotel, London.

As he posed for pictures with a presentation plate outside, he was asked if he intended to take anything else from the prime minister.

Michael Howard receives this year's most prestigious award for the simple reason that he has proved himself a master at the Despatch Box
Boris Johnson

"That is the object of the exercise," he quipped.

Mr Howard won the award for his House of Commons performances as shadow chancellor.

Mr Johnson, who has been made a party vice-chairman by Mr Howard, said: "The judges wish it to be clearly understood that this award was decided before there was the faintest whiff of a coup in the upper reaches of the Tory party.

"There cannot be the slightest suggestion of greasing, or jobbery, or sucking up.

"Michael Howard receives this year's most prestigious award for the simple reason that he has proved himself a master at the despatch box.

"His most important contribution - it is generally agreed - was his reply to Gordon Brown's Budget."

Awards were also presented to:

  • Speech of the Year: Labour ex-cabinet minister Robin Cook for his resignation speech

  • Peer of the Year: Lord Strathclyde, Tory leader in the House of Lords

  • Backbencher of the Year: Labour MP Ann Clwyd

  • Minister to Watch: Minister for Constitutional Affairs Christopher Leslie

  • Survivor of the Year: Tory MP Crispin Blunt

    The judges were: Simon Hoggart and Michael White from The Guardian; Frank Johnson and George Jones, Daily Telegraph; Trevor Kavanagh, The Sun; Quentin Letts, Daily Mail; Anne McElvoy, Evening Standard; Ben McIntyre, The Times; Peter Oborne, The Spectator and Alan Watkins, The Independent.

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