The “Did Somebody Really Budget for This?” Award
It is perhaps inevitable in a country with a government which thinks that the colour of its passport matters that the British Army should have spent money on trying to change its “Be the Best” motto. To what, one wonders? “Be Mediocre”, perhaps or “Best at Being Third-Rate”, maybe. Still, a workforce can only be regarded as sufficiently diverse if a significant proportion is unsuitable for the job.
So, despite the Defence Secretary’s last-minute decision to cancel the change, the Army Marketing Department wins this award for their courageous – if thwarted – attempt to move with the times and turn away from grand foreign concepts such as elitism. I’d say well done but that’s not the spirit at all.
The “Why Classics Matter” Award
This was previously known as The Ken Livingstone Award for Trashing One’s Reputation. Still, rebranding is all these days and university Classics Departments need a boost at a time when education, like much else, is viewed only through the prism of the financial rewards it brings.
Universities should be erecting statues (in place of all the ones being pulled down) in honour of the only possible winner of this one – Mrs Theresa May.
A big hand for the politician who showed us all, in so many ways and in so many locations (from Millom square following Trudy Harrison’s election in February to the lonely drive back to No 10 in June, the sacking of her two loathed advisors and the cough ridden speech at conference in Manchester), the meaning of “hubris” and “nemesis”. And all packed into 9 short months. Who says the Tories don’t understand how to appeal to the younger generation’s desire for instant gratification?
An honourable mention must go to Mariano Rajoy, Spain’s PM, who copied Mrs May’s example to the letter (willy-waving election, speeches before hand-picked audiences in closed venues and humiliating defeat followed by a tenacious hanging onto power). Britain’s influence on its European neighbours is not dead! Hurrah!!
The Chakrabarti Award For Not Understanding Your Own Principles
Only one winner here. Mr Nigel Farage. I know, I know: did he qualify by having any principles? Bear with me: from his remarks on Jewish influence to his interventions on US matters to his cosying up to Germany’s AfD, Nige showed that he utterly failed to understand that the British values he so loudly proclaims mean opposing fascism not imitating it. When Laurence Olivier was given an acting award late in life he acidly thanked the US donors by saying that it would give him great encouragement in his career. This award is given in the opposite spirit: in the hope that the winner will never be heard from or, at least, not taken seriously again.
The Great Escape Award
With one bound he was free! He may not have won the election but Jeremy Corbyn slipped the bonds which had previously held him back (his inability to manage his party, build a shadow Cabinet, inspire respect amongst his colleagues, come up with a consistent policy on the important questions of the day, ask a simple question) as deftly as any Houdini and showed unexpectedly attractive political skills.
A surprise to many (though not the estimable Mr Herdson, who wins the Electrifying Post of The Year Award) nor the poster who wrote this in December 2016 – “Maybe he will turn into the Tortoise of British politics.”
Still, Corbyn has yet to win a race. And his opposite number provides a good example of the perils of taking the result for granted. Less of the “Oh Jeremy Corbyn!” and more “Come On, Jeremy!” if he is to fulfil his promise.
The Empty Vessel Award
Three main contenders here: Donald Trump, David Davis and Boris Johnson. But some late legislative achievements by Trump disqualified him. So our Brexit and Foreign Secretaries jointly win this for their unparalleled ability to open their mouths and talk nonsense, tell untruths, distort the meaning of plain English words and casually insult others. A period of silence from them would be very welcome. Even better would be May copying Attlee’s dismissal of a junior minister by telling them “Afraid you’re not up to it”.
The No Grace under Pressure Award
Responding to questions from journalists is a pretty basic political skill. A smile and “l’ll get back to you” can’t be that hard, surely? So congratulations to Tulip Siddiq who, despite politics being a family business, spectacularly failed to deflect a question, made snarling threats and topped it all with a bitchy remark to a pregnant woman. (Members of the Women and Equalities Select Committee have to really earn their place after all) And all on prime time TV (well, Channel 4, but let’s not be fussy). What a girl! Someone should remove the reference to Ken Livingstone, the master in such matters, from the Labour Party’s Training Manual for new MPs.
Hopeful Development of the Year
IS can still inspire others to kill, sadly, but the loss of its lands in Iraq and Syria was a long time coming and all the more welcome for it. Christian and other minority communities in those benighted lands have long been shamefully ignored by the West (being seen, in Regis Debray’s words, as “Too Christian for the Left and too foreign for the Right”) but are, very slowly, starting to return. Peace may still be far off. But perhaps there will be less unimaginable cruelty. We can but hope.
Hero of the Year
PC Keith Palmer and Tobias Ellwood MP win this. The former showed us what public service can, at its most extreme, mean. The latter demonstrated what real character is. Both men an implicit rebuke to some of their sleazier and less scrupulous colleagues and an example to others. Both were trained by the Army. Maybe aiming for the best is not so pointless?
But that is where I came in. So time to say goodbye to 2017 and wish everyone a happy, prosperous and fulfilling 2018!