Page last updated at 17:57 GMT, Thursday, 12 November 2009

Mandelson wins politician of year

By Brian Wheeler
Political reporter, BBC News

Fraser Nelson, Lord Mandelson, Boris Johnson
Lord Mandelson said he wanted to hand the award to Gordon Brown next year

Lord Mandelson was dubbed the "alpha male of the Westminster village" as he was named politician of the year at the Spectator magazine's annual awards.

His Labour colleague, Commons leader Harriet Harman, was named parliamentarian of the year.

Chancellor Alistair Darling was given a survivor of the year award.

Former pensions secretary James Purnell - who quit the cabinet earlier this year calling for Gordon Brown to go - won resignation of the year.

Spectator editor Fraser Nelson said this award had been particularly difficult for the judging panel, which is made up of journalists from across the political spectrum, as there were so many to choose from this year.

But he said Mr Purnell's was "almost the perfect resignation" describing it as "ambitious, courageous, successful and perfectly timed for the 10 O'Clock news".

Mr Purnell, who was given a pat on the back by Lord Mandelson as he walked to the stage to collect the award, joked: "I have always wanted this one when I was growing up... this is the biggie".

Harman 'shocked'

In a successful afternoon for Labour, Transport Secretary Lord Adonis was named minister of the year, with Mr Nelson describing him as an "original thinker" and a "class act".

Things were going absolutely fine until I walked through the doors of Number 11
Alistair Darling

The peer joked that, given there had been 36 transport secretaries since the war, there would be someone else in the role next year whoever wins the election.

He has ruled out serving a Conservative government but did not respond when Fraser Nelson said: "You can always stay in the job. I am sure David Cameron would love you to do so."

Joanna Lumley and the Gurkhas won the campaigner of the year award. Gurkha Justice Peter Carroll accepted the award on behalf of the actress.

Alistair Darling was praised for "keeping not just his job, but his reputation, at a time when all around him were losing theirs".

Accepting his award for survivor of the year, Mr Darling said he had two reasons for being unpopular as he now "owned four banks" and joked: "Things were going absolutely fine until I walked through the doors of Number 11."

Harriet Harman said she was "somewhat shocked" to receive an award from The Spectator, a Tory-supporting magazine which has frequently been critical of her.

Mandelson 'reigned supreme'

And she took the opportunity to get her own back at journalist Rod Liddle, who was sharing a table at the event with James Purnell among others, and who earlier this year wrote a controversial Spectator column about her.

I haven't actually accumulated a new title for some weeks now, so this award is particularly welcome
Lord Mandelson

"Obviously Rod Liddle does have some issues. I am offering him a crash course at my institute of political correctness," joked the Commons leader, who was praised by Fraser Nelson for the way she had "bested" William Hague when she stood in for Gordon Brown at prime minister's questions and had "powerfully advanced" her equality agenda in the Commons.

But it was Lord Mandelson who stole the show at Claridges for the second year running - with Fraser Nelson calling him the "undisputed alpha male of the Westminster village".

"Lord Mandelson has, we hate to admit, reigned supreme this year, appearing to run the entire government single-handedly," said the Spectator editor.

Lord Mandelson joked: "I haven't actually accumulated a new title for some weeks now, so this award is particularly welcome."

He said he looked forward to handing the politician of the year award to Gordon Brown next year "rather than yet another member of the Bullingdon Club" - a reference to the Oxford drinking society which famously counted Boris Johnson, David Cameron and George Osborne among its members.

Mystery 'spook'

Shadow Business Secretary Ken Clarke was "newcomer of the year" - the award won last year by his opposite number in the government, Lord Mandelson.

Shadow community cohesion minister Baroness Warsi won peer of the year, and was praised for her performance on BBC One's Question Time, when the BNP leader Nick Griffin was a guest.

A readers' award went to Conservative MP Douglas Carswell, who started the campaign that led to Michael Martin's resignation as Speaker. He tweeted later that he was "thrilled" to be given the award.

Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan won speech of the year for his European Parliament attack on Gordon Brown, which became a worldwide YouTube hit.

Labour MP Paul Farrelly, who tabled a question which led to a bid by law firm Carter-Ruck to prevent the reporting of Parliamentary proceedings, was named inquisitor of the year.

He said: "The media must stand up and fight to preserve press freedom."

The most intriguing acceptance speech was given by Conservative MP Andrew Tyrie, who won backbencher of the year for his work on the Treasury Select Committee.

The MP said he "was very surprised anyone has noticed anything I do on the Treasury select committee" adding he thought the award was for his campaign against extraordinary rendition.

He said he wanted to share the award with a mysterious figure, a "spook" who would not give his name, who had approached him "through the steam" in the swimming pool changing rooms at the RAC Club, to offer him some advice.

"He said 'are you the MP who has been tabling questions about rendition? I would persist if I were you'," the MP recalled.

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