Where to start? Well, 2012 will probably go down as a bad year for journalism, but some individual stars have shone brightly. Nick Davies in The Guardian has played the key role in uncovering the phone hacking scandal, whilst the great Robert Fisk in the Independent has continued to shine a fascinating light upon the Middle East. Simon Jenkins in the Guardian has taken it upon himself to bang the drum for an economic demand stimulus with a series of brilliant articles.
However, my Journalist of the Year is Peter Oborne who this year taken his profession to new heights with a series of comment pieces that have been brave (taking on various Daily Telegraph sacred cows) and full of insight. Whilst others were flailing around looking for the causes of the summer’s riots, Oborne nailed it with a coruscating denunciation of City Fat Cats, MPs and a number of our business leaders. “How can we”, he asked, “expect good behaviour from the populace when our leaders can’t behave themselves?” At the last count nearly 5,000 people had left comments on the Daily Telegraph website in support of his position.
There have been many great sporting stories this year, not least Rory McIlroy winning the US Open by making the golf course at Congressional look like Harborne Municipal! However, when Darren Clarke won the Open Golf Championship at Royal St Georges in July he rescued a career that had seemed in permanent decline following the death of his wife Heather from breast cancer. His victory proved that good things happen to good people.
For me, 2011 has been the year of the common man. The dignity, spirit and extraordinary bravery shown by the Japanese people after the tsunami in February made complaints about austerity measures at home seem like small beer. Equally, the Arab Spring has brought a welcome blast of democracy to the Middle East which even the Saudis have taken heed of. Finally, the Occupy Protesters around the globe have shown that in the era of social media the ‘Silent Majority’ can quickly spread the word and remain mute no more.
Back at home the Speaker of the House, John Bercow, deserves special mention for putting the House of Commons back at the centre of political debate with a series of brave decisions which have flown in the face of what the Government wanted. From phone hacking, through to the Hillsborough debate and on to the Eurozone crisis he has played a key role in giving the legislature its pride back.
John Vickers, he of the Independent Banking Commission, deserves special mention. Despite extreme pressure from banking’s vested interests, he has put forward a series of balanced and pragmatic proposals for the future shape of our banking system. Now it is up to the politicians to implement them.
The big story this year has been phone hacking and it has thrown up all manner of heroes. Hugh Grant has found the role of his life turning the tables on ex-News of the World hack Paul McMullen with a brilliant expose in the New Statesman. He has been ably supported by Steve Coogan who delivered one of the best lines at the Leveson Inquiry, “they’re like the Mafia, it’s just business.”
However, there is one individual deserving of special mention. He has been threatened by Rebekah Brooks, who allegedly called the Prime Minister in an attempt to get him to stop his investigations; his own phone has been hacked and he has had private investigators snooping around him and his family. News International has done its worst, but he has continued on his quest. Most importantly, his forensic examination of Rupert Murdoch in the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee provided one of the TV highlights of the year and pointed the way forward for MPs. If our Select Committees are to become more like Senate Investigating Committees, more MPs are going to have to learn his cross-examination skills.
My Man of the Year is the Labour MP for West Bromwich, Tom Watson.
If I may, I’d like to take it upon myself to thank everyone who has read this blog in 2011. I hope you have found them informative and entertaining. I will return in the New Year.