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5 December 2018

From the King Across the Water to the best Self-Own, roll up for our 2018 political awards

David Miliband spent another year persistently refusing to move back to Britain and found a new centrist party. 

By Helen Lewis

Roll up to roast your fair-trade chestnuts over a sustainably sourced open wood fire, it’s time for the New Statesman 2018 political awards.

The How in God’s Name Are You Still in the Cabinet? Award goes this year, as every year since 2012, to Chris Grayling.

The Dear Lord Why Did I Just Click That Headline? Award…“Tory MP Michael Fabricant strips off for naked cycle ride”. Still, it was all for charity, and the footage shows that he wiped down the seat afterwards.

The That’ll Save on Cab Fares Home Award goes to the newly minted Baroness Osamor, Martha, who was raised to the peerage by Jeremy Corbyn for her work in race relations. (She also signed a letter in 2016 saying that the suspension of Ken Livingstone and others showed that claims of anti-Semitism in the party were being used to “silence criticisms of Israel… and undermine Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn”.) She will share a workplace with her daughter Kate, the 50-year-old Labour MP who resigned as shadow DfID secretary on 1 December after telling a reporter she ought to “smash his face in”, and Kate’s 29-year-old son Ishmael, who continues to work in her parliamentary office despite pleading guilty to having £2,500 of drugs at a music festival.

The Improbable Jewellery Item of the Year Award… Theresa May’s Frida Kahlo bracelet got another outing in November as she held a press conference in Downing Street after the resignations of Dominic Raab and Esther McVey over her Brexit deal. It’s still not clear what affinity the Ottolenghi-loving, wheat-bothering vicar’s daughter Theresa May feels for the great Mexican communist painter who had an affair with Leon Trotsky. Perhaps 2019 will clear up the mystery.

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The Poison Chalice Award goes to Amber Rudd, who was so keen to get back into the cabinet that she took McVey’s job at Work and Pensions. (Just the brief for someone who had to resign from the Home Office because they weren’t on top of the details.) Remember: this is a job so cursed that Rudd is the sixth holder since 2010, and Justine Greening chose to go to the back benches rather than be moved there from education.

The What’s That Skippy, He’s Trapped Down a Well? Award goes to Jeremy Corbyn, who appears to have treated 2018 as an extended sabbatical on the basis that everyone is talking about Brexit, and that’s very much not his bag.

On a related note, the I Hope You’re Getting Time Off in Lieu Award goes to John McDonnell, who is racking up a hell of a lot of (presumably unpaid) overtime doing the Sunday shows and broadcast rounds. He should talk to his union rep.

The King Across the Water Award goes to David Miliband, who spent another year persistently refusing to move back to Britain and found a new centrist party. Runner up: Chuka Umunna, who said that claims he was planning a new party were “complete and utter bollocks”. Third place, after a photo finish: Tony Blair, who would clearly love to found a new centrist party but still has the political instincts to know that he has the electoral appeal of compulsory hot-pants for the over-sixties.

Talking of which, the Best New Centrist Party Award goes to United for Change, backed by LoveFilm millionaire Simon Franks, which split up before its formal launch. Its chief executive Adam Knight left in August to… found another party. Well, a group called Twelve Together, named after the number of UK regions.

The Self-Own Award goes to No 10, which greeted with disdain the suggestion that its Brexit grid – detailing how it planned to sell Theresa May’s deal – had been leaked. “The narrative is going to be measured success, that this is good for everyone, but won’t be all champagne corks popping,” said the document, hopefully. But No 10 said it did not recognise the grid: “The misspelling and childish language in this document should be enough to make clear it doesn’t represent the government’s thinking.” It was therefore entertaining to see several parts of the suspicious document come to pass, including warm words for the deal from Japanese PM Shinzo Abe.

The I Was Just Holding it for a Friend Award is a tie between Ishmael Osamor and Jeremy Corbyn, star of this year’s most interminable scandal, “Wreathgate”.

The Keep This Up and You Could Be the New Milibands Award. Brexiteer Boris Johnson resigned in the summer over Theresa May’s proposed deal, later calling it “not pragmatic… dangerous”. His Remainer brother Jo resigned in November over Theresa May’s (slightly updated) proposed deal. “Brexit has divided the country. It has divided political parties. And it has divided families too,” he wrote. Now we just need them both to run for the Conservative leadership against each other. (Please note: the connoisseur’s Johnson is Lib Dem Remainer Rachel, who wrote last year: “In London, you’re never more than a few feet away from at least two Johnsons.” The hipster’s Johnson is Leo, who accused Boris of indulging “bigotry” in his column on the burqa. There are also two Johnson half-siblings, Max and Julia, who are due to come on-stream any day now, ensuring Johnson stocks remain high right through to the 2050s.)

Finally, an update on the David-to-Women Ratio in the Conservative Party. In 2005, David Cameron (remember him) brought the number of women in the shadow cabinet up to four, compared with five Davids. Theresa May, thankfully, has brought an end to this disgraceful pro-David bias. Following the departure of David Davis, there are now just three in the cabinet (Mundell, Lidington and Gauke) compared with a mighty five women (Amber Rudd, Penny Mordaunt, Karen Bradley, leader of the Lords Baroness Evans, plus May herself). Who says progress has stalled?

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This article appears in the 08 Dec 2020 issue of the New Statesman, Christmas special