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Let’s re-do the Political Studies Association awards

January 7, 2020 - 7:00am

It’s awards season again.

Obviously, it makes sense for the entertainment industry to hold these ceremonies in the earliest part of the year; that way, the whole of the previous year can be considered. That’s one of the ways in which Britain’s Political Studies Association went wrong. By holding their 2019 awards in November they missed out on the most politically important event of the year — the general election on the 12th December.

The PSA is a ‘learned society’, an academic body from which one might expect a degree of objectivity. This was especially important in 2019 — the year that the battle to save/stop Brexit came to a head. However, there wasn’t much even-handedness in their choice of award winners, which overwhelmingly favoured the Remain establishment.

Exactly one month later, the British electorate delivered a very different verdict — one that the experts of the PSA had signally failed to anticipate. So with the benefit of 2020 hindsight, how might one re-award the PSA awards? Here are five changes that I’d make:

🏆Politician of the Year: Boris Johnson🏆

The PSA gave this to David Gauke and in December the voters of South West Hertfordshire gave him the Order of the Boot.

Gauke did do some funny stuff on social media, but on the other hand Boris Johnson won the Tory leadership race, became Prime Minister, re-negotiated the Withdrawal Agreement, secured the largest Tory majority since the 1980s and broke the Brexit deadlock. So, on balance, I’d give him politician of the year instead.

🏆Parliamentarian of the Year: No one🏆

The PSA gave this to Hilary Benn for predictable Brexit-related reasons. I’d have given the award to… no one. 2019 was the year that Parliament disgraced itself — saying no to everything and yes to nothing. Some MPs were less self-servingly awful than others, but that’s the lowest of bars.

🏆Lifetime achievement in politics: Nigel Farage🏆

The PSA gave this to John Bercow. Perhaps they were inspired by the full extent of his impartiality as Speaker. Personally, I’d have given the award to Nigel Farage. It’s not that I particularly care for the man, but in 2019 Farage turned British politics upside-down for the second time (with his second party).

In the process, he destroyed Theresa May’s premiership and cleared the way for Boris Johnson and Brexit. You may not agree with Britain leaving the EU, but there’s no denying the significance of this outcome, nor Farage’s part in achieving it.

🏆Campaigner of the Year: XR/Climate Strike🏆

The PSA got this half right by awarding it to Extinction Rebellion (along with Sir David Attenborough). Again you don’t have to agree with the protesters’ demands or tactics to acknowledge the impact they’ve made.

However, Extinction Rebellion was not the only organisation responsible. So with all due respect to Sir David, I’d have split award with the Climate Strike movement.

🏆International Recognition Award: Hong Kong protesters🏆

The PSA judges gave to Leo Varadkar because of course they did.

Was there really nothing going on in the world that wasn’t of greater significance last year? For instance, I realise that the Hong Kong protesters have had very little to say about Brexit, but recognising their brave struggle for freedom is surely the least that we can do.

Peter Franklin is Associate Editor of UnHerd. He was previously a policy advisor and speechwriter on environmental and social issues.


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