Jon Craig: My (slightly offbeat) political awards of 2016

Written by Jon Craig on 20 December 2016 in Opinion
Opinion

Zac Goldsmith is the clear winner of the David Cameron Bad Political Judgement Award.

Zac Goldsmith

As the various political awards of the year are handed out, here's my dozen - one for every month of a tumultuous 2016.

I hope they're a little different from what you'll read elsewhere....


FASHION ICON OF THE YEAR AWARD

No contest, Theresa May. Others have named her politician of the year. And so she is. But I still can't get over the fact that anyone would spend £995 on a pair of trousers, even if they are rather smart leather ones. I assume they must have been a gift from husband Philip. And I predict the Prime Minister's clothes will be talked about in 2017 as much as her policies.

 

IMPROVEMENT OF THE YEAR

Jeremy Corbyn's clothes. At Prime Minister's Questions, at least. In February, David Cameron told the Labour leader: "My mother would say: 'Put on a proper suit, do up your tie and sing the national anthem'." Well, he's done the first two and looks half decent in the Commons now in a dark suit, white shirt and red tie. He even, on occasions, fastens his top button! His performances at PMQs have improved too. That just leaves the national anthem!

 

 

ACT OF PETULANCE OF THE YEAR

David Cameron for THAT honours list, after blundering by calling an EU referendum, fighting an unconvincing campaign and quitting as PM and then as an MP, despite saying he'd stay in the Commons. Cronies were sent to the Lords (one of whom has resigned from the Tories just weeks later) and knighted. I suspect some were embarrassed but felt they couldn't refuse. And any sympathy DC might have had for his demise was lost, probably forever.

 

DID HE REALLY MEAN IT? AWARD

Nigel Farage. On the night of the EU referendum at the leavers' party at Millbank Tower, the UKIP leader said both privately and on camera: "I still think Remain will edge it". He even left the party. Yes, honestly! But when it became clear it was Leave that would "edge it", he returned and gave a bravura performance for the TV cameras. Did the former stockbroker have insider knowledge?

 

COMEBACK OF THE YEAR

It's early days, but could 2016 be ending with signs of a LibDem revival? It started with the Witney by-election, where they slashed David Cameron's 25,000 majority to just 5,700, and then came their triumph in Richmond Park. It's sadly ironic for them, but Brexit has given the most pro-European of all the political parties a boost and a reason to exist once again.

 

 

IMPROBABLE ALIAS AWARD

Keith Vaz tried to hide his real identity from two male escorts by telling them he was a washing machine salesman called Jim. The scandal, which launched "Let's get this party started!" as a national catchphrase that was emblazoned on T shirts, cost Vaz his job chairing the Home Affairs select committee. The moral: too much spin and washing your dirty laundry in public won't wash.

 

SELF IMPORTANCE AWARD

A crowded field! Michael Gove, Andrea Leadsom and Owen Smith for thinking they were party leader material? No, I've gone for Mark Field, whose aide, Julia Dockerill, was photographed in Downing Street carrying Brexit notes including "Have cake & eat it". It later emerged she was his "chief of staff"! Tory grandee Nicholas Soames tweeted: “Doesn't it make you howl that Mark Field apparently has a Chief of Staff? I thought that was a White House job."

 

YOU COULDN’T MAKE IT UP AWARD

No contest, this one. In splendid "Yes Minister" fashion, under the heading "Official: Sensitive", the Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood wrote to civil servants declaring: "Leaking is corrosive and undermines trust and good government." But less that a week after it was written, the whole letter appeared across pages 1, 4 and 5 of The Mail on Sunday. Sir Jeremy then launched a leak inquiry... into the leak of his letter... about leaks!

 

DAVID CAMERON BAD POLITICAL JUDGEMENT AWARD

Easy, this one. Keen poker player Zac Goldsmith wins for a gamble that backfired. As my colleague Adam Boulton wrote in his Sunday Times column: "Beware Old Etonians calling unnecessary elections. David Cameron drove the nation into the European Union referendum and lost his job. Zac Goldsmith bet his seat on Heathrow and will now have to fall back on his inherited millions to keep the wolf from the door."

 

FRANCIS URQUHART AWARD

Gavin Williamson, the numbers man in Theresa May's unexpectedly brief Tory leadership campaign was rewarded with the post of Chief Whip. And he has quickly established an aura of menace by keeping a pet tarantula in his Commons office. The pet, Cronus, is apparently named after a Greek god who came to power by castrating his own father before eating his own children to ensure they wouldn’t oust him!

 

 

CAN THIS BE TRUE? AWARD

Boris Johnson wins - and not just for statements he made in the EU referendum campaign. The Times reported last month: “Theresa May and Boris Johnson have held a discussion about whether the Foreign Secretary should continue to bear the brunt of ministers’ jokes.” Hold on! Who said: “Can Boris Johnson stay on message for a full four days?” and “Boris, the dog was put down, when its master decided it wasn’t needed any more."


SPOUSE OF THE YEAR

A close contest, this one. Yvette Cooper is rebuilding her political career in the serious role of chairing the Home Affairs select committee while constantly being asked about her husband Ed Balls' embarrassing dad dancing on Strictly Come Dancing! But I've gone for the PM's super-discreet consort, Philip May, who rejects comparisons with Denis Thatcher. "I don't have snifters, sharpeners or liveners," he told Tories at the party conference. "And I don't play golf."

--

Well, Philip, you and all my winners - all politicians and weary political journalists, in fact - deserve a few Christmas snifters, sharpeners or liveners after a year like 2016. So, cheers!
Surely, the coming year, 2017, can't be as dramatic as this year, can it?
 

 

 

Jon Craig is chief political correspondent for Sky News.

 

All pictures by Press Association.

 

 

 

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