Iain Dale is Presenter of LBC Drive, Managing Director of Biteback Publishing, a columnist and broadcaster and a former Conservative Parliamentary candidate.
Since this will be my last column of 2015, I thought I would look back and hand out a few End of Year Awards…and brickbats.
Anyone who claims that politics is boring needs only to look back at the events of 2015 and look forward to next year. What a fascinating time it is to be commenting on current affairs. We have so much to look forward to in 2016: a probable EU referendum, the London mayoral election, the onward march of the SNP, more fun and frolics in the Labour Party, Conservative leadership hopefuls stepping up the battle, and lots more besides. Anyway, here we go…
- Politician of the Year – Nicola Sturgeon.
- Cabinet Minister of the Year – Amber Rudd.
- Junior Minister of the Year – Tracey Crouch.
- New MP to Watch – Jess Phillips.
- Speech of the Year – Hilary Benn during the Syria debate.
- The ‘Why, Oh Why Did I do That?’ Award – Margaret Beckett, Sadiq Khan and Frank Field for nominating Jeremy Corbyn to be Labour leader.
- Moment of the Year – Seeing the exit poll result flash up on my screen on election night.
- Political Achievement of the Year – Jeremy Corbyn winning the Labour leadership.
- Political Journalist of the Year – James Lyons, Sunday Times.
- Most Unlikely Political Appointment of the Year – John McDonnell as Shadow Chancellor, closely followed by Ken Livingstone to co-chair Labour’s defence policy review.
- Minister Most Unlikely to Go Off-Message – Priti Patel.
- Treacherous Bastard of the Year Award – Malcolm Turnbull, Australia’s Prime Minister.
- The Missing You Already Award – Ed Balls.
- Best Response in a Crisis Award – Francois Hollande after the Paris atrocities.
- Campaigner of the Year – Lynton Crosby.
- The ‘Kick it into the Long Grass Award’ – Patrick McLoughlin for not deciding on a new runway
- Losers of the Year – Pollsters. All of them.
- Scoop of the Year – James Landale’s interview with the Prime Minister in which the latter announced that he’d quit as Prime Minister after two terms.
- Gaffe of the Year – The ‘Ed Stone.
- Political Prat of the Year – Donald Trump.
- Political Book of the Year – Project Fear, by Joe Pike.
- Confrontation of the Year – Jess Phillips telling Diane Abbott to ‘f**k off’.
- Interview of the Year – Natalie Bennett’s ‘brain fade’ with Nick Ferrari.
- The ‘WTF’ Moment of the Year – Michael Ashcroft & Isabel Oakeshott for, well, you know what.
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I don’t envy David Cameron in his task at the EU Summit. I had thought the so-called demands in his letter to Donald Tusk were a put-up job, and that everything had been agreed in advance. The four demands were so weak that I assumed the EU leaders had decided they would allow Cameron to claim a victory.
I was wrong. As I write this column, it looks as if the Prime Minister will return more or less empty-handed, with everything being postponed until February.
Cameron’s problem is that no one can really imagine him delivering on his threat to support a Leave vote in a referendum if he doesn’t get his way on the renegotiation. Most EU negotiations involve games of bluff and double bluff. My fear is that the EU has already called the Prime Minister’s bluff, and his war-gaming has been insufficiently robust. I hope I am wrong.
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So far this year I’ve had five Christmas cards with totally illegible signatures – three of them from MPs. I mean, what’s the point? Yesterday, I received a lovely case containing three bottles of vintage wine. I have no clue who it’s from. No note. So someone out there is going to think me very rude for not thanking them. Christmas, eh?
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Thanks for reading this column during 2015. I’ll be back in 2016 – but, in the meantime, may I wish everyone a very Happy Christmas and New Year.