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9 May 2005

New Statesman Election Campaign Awards

Election: the campaign. In recognition of the glorious achievements and unforgettable moments of the

By Jason Cowley

Best Sport Award (I):
David Blunkett
The former home secretary was discovered campaigning in Worcester by BBC Newsnight‘s Michael Crick, where the following encounter took place with a young man who was carrying a bunch of flowers. “I’ve just bought these for my girlfriend,” he told Blunkett. “What a star,” Blunkett replied. “And if you get on TV with them you get an extra star – so long as you’ve bought some for your mistress as well.”

Best Sport Award (II):
Lucille Nicholson
The Tory candidate for Easington (County Durham), where Labour has a majority of almost 22,000, knew from the beginning that she was in for a difficult campaign. “The first door I knocked on,” she said, “I was told to burn in hell. I felt things could only get better after that.”

Most Desperate Housewife:
Sandra Howard
The bleached-haired, four- times-married wife of Michael Howard was willowy, fragrant, subservient and dogged in her support of her husband, and got “upset” at the nasty things said about him. Was photographed doing the washing-up. The very model of the traditional breed of Tory wife, in other words.

Worst Haircut:
Stanley Johnson
The 64-year-old Tory candidate for Teignbridge in Devon; father of the more famous Boris. His long, grey-blond, New Romantic-style fringe raised disturbing comparisons with early Eighties David Bowie and Simon Le Bon.

Most Unexpected Stars:
The inhabitants of BBC Newsnight‘s student house
The scruffy bunch from Nottingham Trent University may have known very little about politics, but they certainly knew how to have a good time. Never once bothered to wash up or clean the house before the cameras arrived.

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Most Verbally Abused:
A close-run thing between Tony Blair and the repulsively self-satisfied Robert Kilroy-Silk.
The leader of Veritas just shaded the honour here because he was often physically assaulted as well – with eggs, water bombs and whatever else the public had to hand.

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Most Unexpected Question at a Press Conference:
A man from Waitrose magazine
On the eve of the campaign, Tony Blair hosted an informal lunchtime meeting of the British Society of Magazine Editors at No 10. After a lunch of cheap wine and sandwiches from Pret a Manger, Blair took questions from, among others, Conde Nast Traveller, Motorcycle News and Flower Arranger. It was all very benign and good-humoured – until the man from Waitrose Food Illustrated stood up. Did he want to know whether the Prime Minister preferred his avocados to be organic? No. How, he asked, could the Prime Minister defend a member of his cabinet who had abused the dignity of his office and conducted an adulterous affair during office hours? “That’s a nice one to slip in at a meeting like this,” Blair replied, astounded.

Least Convincing Performance at a Press Conference:
Charles Kennedy
Blamed his overall incompetence and apparent ignorance of his party’s tax plans at the early-morning launch of the Liberal Democrats’ manifesto on exhaustion following the birth of his son. “You are talking in the region of £20,000, err . . . yes. If you take a double-income couple, £20,000 each, that’s what you are talking about . . . £40,000,” said the Lib Dem leader, before Matthew Taylor, chairman of the parliamentary party, rescued him by saying that households with two people earning a total of roughly £40,000 and above would pay more tax. “People will look at the Liberal Democrats this morning and see what a shambles they are,” said Liam Fox, the Conservatives’ dead-eyed co-chairman. For once, the Tories were thinking exactly what most other people were thinking.

Most Absurd Pronunciation of Familiar Words (Lifetime Award):
Michael Howard
Did Howard have elocution lessons as a young man? If not, he must have spent an awful lot of time in front of the mirror practising how to speak posh. The result? “Peeepaall” (people), “powles” (polls) and “skools” (schools). Preposterous.

Most Engaging Chuckle:
David Davis
The broken-nosed Tory hard man developed a distinctive delaying tactic: when challenged by an awkward journalist, he simply laughed.

Most Useless Sacrifice:
Brian Sedgemore
The former Labour backbencher defected to the Liberal Democrats complaining of Tony Blair’s “stomach-churning lies” and urging voters to give the PM a “bloody nose”. “Who’s ever heard of Brian Sedgemore?” asked John Prescott, echoing the views of most of the electorate.

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