Archive for the Person of the Year Category

My Women of the Year

Posted in Person of the Year with tags , , , on December 21, 2012 by Tom Leatherbarrow

doreen_lawrenceI can delay no longer. The years’ least sought after award, which appears on no CVs and is roundly ignored by those in power, is now upon us.

Double Act of the Year has undoubtedly been Lord Justice Leveson and Robert Jay QC. Whilst his Lordship has scowled over proceedings at his inquiry, Robert Jay has been engaged in singlehandedly rescuing the English language. His verbal barrage, which included “nugatory”, “condign”, “propinquity” and “occlude”, left many of us, including witnesses, wondering what the hell he was going on about, but my word it sounded good.

The onward march of social media has continued this year, leaving in its wake the mainstream which too often seems outdated and sluggish. My Blog of the Year is Alastair Campbell’s, which combines sharp political analysis with piercing wit. Like him or loathe him, PR has not had a performer of his stature since he left government ten years ago.

A very personal choice for New Media Source of the Year is the Anfield Wrap (“If you’re Red get on it!”), a podcast which involves half a dozen Scousers sitting around talking about football, in the process providing a welcome antidote to the lynch-mob mentality of the average 606 caller. How I long to be in the studio with them.

Whilst history might not repeat itself, it certainly echoes. The imprisoning of Pussy Riot in Russia brought to mind the White Rose students in Nazi Germany without, hopefully, the same horrific denouement. That four young women were able to bring such a heavy-handed response from Putin’s government demonstrates that it is often the fire of youth which politicians must fear the most.

My Communicator of the Year is actually a former client of mine. Siemens’ Juergen Maier, in his many appearances on Channel 4 News, has been succinctly doing the Treasury’s job for it, namely talking up the economy, putting over the case for manufacturing and extolling the virtues of state intervention via a National Investment Bank. One senses he is destined for bigger things, bigger even than Siemens.

Norbert Walter-Borjans, finance minister of North Rhine Westphalia, also deserves a quick mention. He has led the way on tax evasion by buying bootleg CDs full of the names of German evaders, simultaneously bringing Swiss German relations to historic lows. Keep up the good work Norbert.

My film director of the year is Danny Boyle. I didn’t (and couldn’t) sit through all of the Olympic opening ceremony, but his homage to the National Health Service, at a time when it is under siege from our leaders, discomforted the Government and provided a cultural highlight.

Whilst this is an individual award, a number of organisations deserve special mention this year. The Hillsborough Independent Panel overturned 23 years of injustice with a forensic analysis of events which led to the deaths of 96 football fans, whilst USADA, the US anti-doping agency, deserves great credit for uncovering the wrong-doing of a whole generation of elite cyclists.

On the subject of Hillsborough, outside of the families and campaigners, two individuals deserve special praise. It’s been a bad year for BBC Newsnight but Kirsty Wark’s interview with the Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police on the day the report was released was a tour-de-force performance, which simultaneously combined barely concealed rage with direct and at times blunt questioning.

The Prime Minister also deserves praise. The word is that he was genuinely shocked by the contents of the Independent Panel’s report, in particular the alcohol testing of the dead bodies of children. His response in the House of Commons, along with his apology for the murder of Irish solicitor Pat Finucane, demonstrated that when he does not allow the “red mists” to come down or play too hard to the cameras, he can come across as a sincere man of great integrity.

Two women have stood out this year for their dignity in the face of unimaginable traumas inflicted upon their families. Both lost sons and then had to endure years of foot dragging, mendacity and falsehoods on the part of the police and other authorities. Both have continued to believe that justice was possible and this year achieved their long held goals.

My Women of the Year are Doreen Lawrence, mother of Stephen Lawrence and Anne Williams, mother of Kevin Williams, one of the 96 who died at Hillsborough.

It falls to me wish all readers of this blog a happy Christmas, this blog will return in the New Year.

My Villain of the Year

Posted in Person of the Year with tags , , , , , , on December 19, 2012 by Tom Leatherbarrow

lance-armstrong1It’s that time of year again when this country’s least anticipated awards are given out and promptly forgotten.  We will, as ever, start with the villains before finishing on a high note when I unveil my Man (or Woman) of the year on Friday.

It has been an extraordinary year for British sport, when dedication, planning and modern sports science have been harnessed to provide a glittering array of trophies, medals and awards.  However, one man has stood in the way of progress, displaying a General Haig-like inability to move with the times.  The performance of the England football team under Roy Hodgson at the European Championships brought to mind Haig’s tactical vision during the Great War when he believed that, “one good cavalry charge will win it”.  When will the English (and more importantly the Football Association) learn that modern football tactics amount to more than “up and at ‘em lads”?

There is another ex-footballer who deserves special mention.   Mark Lawrenson has this year brought football punditry to all-time lows.  During one match at the European Championships involving the Ukraine he admitted, live on air, that he didn’t know any of the players.  Is it too much to ask that, as part of his extortionate salary, he watches a few videos by way of preparation?

There has been a strong sense all year that the public has lost it tolerance for tax evasion in the Age of Austerity.  Starbucks, Google and Amazon have all been hauled before the public accounts committee, but I would like to see this widened to include celebrities and businessmen, such as Philip Green and Gary Barlow, who spirit away their profits to Jersey and Lichtenstein with the help of high-priced accountants.  In particular, I’d like to see Margaret Hodge interrogating my Tax Evader of the Year, Jimmy Carr.

Although this is an individual award, a number of organisations deserve a mention.  Both the G20 and the European Union now appear happy to let the Eurozone crisis bump along, like a bunch of Nero’s fiddling while Rome burns.   In the United States, the National Rifle Association appears unmoved by the slaughter of young children in Newtown, Connecticut.  Apparently, the tragedy could have been avoided “if teachers had been armed.”

The Church of England also deserves special mention.  The decision to vote against the ordination of women at the recent General Synod was a PR disaster even worse than the Church’s response to the Occupy Protesters outside St Paul’s.  If those in charge want to get to the bottom of why the ranks of the religious have declined, according to the most recent census, could I suggest that better PR might be one way forward.

However, one public organisation has proved itself totally unfit to serve the public this year.  From Hillsborough through to Stephen Lawrence, Ian Tomlinson and phone hacking, the police have demonstrated that their first instincts are not to uncover the truth but to hush it up.  As I type, the Met are involved in another scandal as Pleb-gate is revealed to be an attempt to force the resignation of a Cabinet Minister.  Never before has the last great unreformed public service looked more in need of radical reform.

One policeman however deserves special mention.  After the Hillsborough Independent Panel Report Sir Norman Bettison was unable to bring himself to stop the years of lying, obfuscation, evidence-tampering and witness intimidation which characterised the police’s response to what should now be known as the Hillsborough Scandal.  He has, mercifully, now been removed from public life.

However, only one man this year has been proven to have pulled the wool over the eyes of a generation of sports lovers, in the process amassing millions of dollars, it now seems, illegitimately.  There is plenty to shock in the US Anti-Doping Agency report into his actions, but one of the most moving was the story of his treatment of a young French cyclist, Christophe Bassons, who refused to take drugs.  When Bassons spoke out against drug taking he was bullied and shunned by the Peloton, which eventually led to the young man leaving the 1998 Tour De France and retiring from cycling.

My villain of the year is Lance Armstrong.

My Villain of the Year

Posted in Person of the Year with tags , , , , , , on December 21, 2011 by Tom Leatherbarrow

It’s that time of year again when we award the achievers of 2011, in other words we honour the good, the bad and the downright evil! And what a year it has been, to use a phrase beloved of Louis Walsh on X-Factor, “This could be the most competitive year ever, I just can’t call it!”

I will announce the Villain of the Year today and tomorrow our Man or Woman of the Year so that we can finish on a high note before Christmas.

Without further ado then, my first nomination is a man who has turned the headquarters of world football into an episode of The Sopranos. Sepp Blatter was re-elected this year as President of FIFA in an election so rigged and ridiculous it would have shamed North Korea. That he continues to bestride the world game and make absurd public statements amply explains why international football is dying on its feet.

Monumental PR cock-up of the year goes to the Church of England. That it failed to find parallels in the scriptures with the Occupy Movement’s entirely peaceful protest outside St Paul’s is remarkable. That it continues to stand side-by-side with the moneylenders beggars belief.

The big media story this year has been phone hacking and it has thrown up a cast of characters who have lied, obfuscated and stabbed each other in the back. James Murdoch has amply illustrated why he is unfit to run a public company, whilst Rebekah Brooks has mercifully departed public life. The Big Daddy of them all, Rupert, remains in place, but his appearance in front of the Select Committee suggests his time is drawing to a close.

There is one other individual involved in this story who deserves special mention. When he appeared in front of the Leveson Inquiry Paul Dacre, editor of the Daily Mail, completely misjudged the tone of the proceedings and was exceptionally rude, arrogant and aggressive towards the judge and his inquiry. One suspects he will get his comeuppance when Leveson reports next year.

2012 is a big year in American politics, it’s just that the Grand Ol’ Party hasn’t realised yet. The cast of non-entities declared in the Republican race range from the barking mad, Michelle Bachmann, through to yesterday’s man, Newt Gingrich, and the transparently not up to the job, Rick Perry. The one half-decent candidate, Mitt Romney, is not acceptable to the Republican base because he is a Mormon. What has happened to the party of Abraham Lincoln?

On the subject of politics, Europe’s political leaders have this year covered themselves in failure. I’ve lost count of the number of EU Summits which have cost millions but made not one iota of difference to the European sovereign debt crisis. Chief protagonists are Nicholas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel who are putting the livelihoods of millions at stake in order to carve out positions for themselves in upcoming national elections.

Colonel Gaddafi would have been a prime candidate for Villain of the Year, but I am opposed to posthumous awards and must therefore highlight the role of another Middle Eastern despot. He has steadfastly refused to read the writing on the wall and has set the army on his own people, to date killing more than 5,000. Of equal concern is his impact on the Middle Eastern peace process. Henry Kissinger once said that, “you can’t make war in the Middle East without Egypt and you can’t make peace without Syria.” We all know how this one is going to end, it’s just a question of when and how much bloodshed it will take.

My Villain of the Year is President Bashar al-Assad of Syria.

My (Wo)Man of the Year

Posted in Person of the Year with tags , , , , , on December 22, 2010 by Tom Leatherbarrow

Finally, and with no fanfare whatsoever, I can unveil my nominations for Man of the Year, unquestionably the least distinguished accolade anybody in public life is ever likely to get.

I’d like to start with a personal choice. Rafael Benitez was a brilliant manager of Liverpool Football Club but the manner of his departure was the real measure of the man. A day after his “mutual’ dismissal he made a visit to the offices of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, which does invaluable work with the relatives of those who lost their lives in the Hillsborough Disaster, and made a donation of £96,000 for the 96 supporters who lost their lives that day. At a time when he was suffering acute personal disappointment and facing the prospect of uprooting his family from their home on the Wirral, this was an extraordinary gesture.

Another great injustice was also righted this year. Lord Saville’s report on Bloody Sunday, the darkest day in the history of Northern Ireland’s troubles, finally gave some measure of justice to the people of Londonderry. Will it result in prosecutions? Probably not, but that isn’t the point.

It’s been a dire year for English football, both on and off the pitch, but there is some hope that we might finally be forced to put our house in order. That the main instigator of reform is a Frenchman will unquestionably stick in the craw of many English football fans, but the new UEFA financial regulations, masterminded by Michel Platini, the President of UEFA, will hopefully force English clubs to plan for a more sustainable financial model, rather than depend on debt and wealthy foreign backers.

One man has managed to laugh at American politics this year while the rest of us have just been appalled. John Stewart, host of the Daily Show on More 4, has combined humour with biting criticism of the tone of political debate in the US which gets ever more hysterical. His Rally to Restore Sanity at the Lincoln Memorial attracted 215,000 people carrying banners like “I don’t agree with you, but I’m pretty sure you’re not Hitler” and “I’m a little annoyed but I’ll get over it.”

The Back from the Death Award this year has to go to British manufacturing. God only knows we’ve tried to kill it off enough times, but mercifully it is still there and, by all accounts, performing well. If we are to continue to pull ourselves out of the recession we need it more than ever.

The British Electorate also deserves a mention this year after sending a clear message to our politicians that the era of two-party politics has been dying for some time, they just haven’t noticed. The General Election result demonstrates that what the public wants is consensus politics, not wild swings from left to right and back again. I only hope we all remember this when it comes to the referendum vote on Electoral Reform in May.

However, my winner this year managed to pass historic healthcare reform through the American House of Representatives, where LBJ and Bill Clinton had previously failed, then followed it up with the one-two punch by reforming those that caused the financial meltdown with the Wall Street Reform Act and finally giving US citizens some much needed protection with the American Consumer Protection Act. That she then lost her job as Speaker of the House of Representatives only goes to show that the best politicians are often operating out on a limb, leading their electorate not following.

My Woman of the Year is Nancy Pelosi.

Finally, I’ll take it upon myself to thank all readers of this blog this year, we start again on January 4th 2011! Happy Christmas.

My Villain of the Year

Posted in Person of the Year with tags , , , , on December 21, 2010 by Tom Leatherbarrow

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor darkness (isn’t that the US Postal Service motto?) can stop the blogs. It’s that time of year again when I unveil my Villain of the Year and Man of the Year nominations. I intend to start with the villains so that we can end on a positive note by celebrating the achievers tomorrow.

Whilst Sepp Blatter, President of FIFA, has sat atop a corrupt organisation which he has stubbornly refused to reform, my nomination for Sporting Villain[s] of the Year goes to three Premier League footballers, namely John Terry, Ashley Cole and Wayne Rooney. Their antics, whilst being paid extraordinary amounts of money and failing dismally at international level, has contributed to many football fans falling out of love with the game they grew up with. Never has the people’s game seemed so far away from errr . . . the people.

Scapegoat of the Year is undoubtedly Tony Hayward of BP who found himself at the centre of a media storm when Deepwater Horizon exploded. However, I can’t help but feel that Hayward was a lightning rod for criticism rather than an instigator of the BP meltdown. For me, the real culprit is his predecessor Lord Browne whose cost-cutting directly led hundreds of safety violations. Browne was forced out of BP before the big one could hit only to resurface with the Browne Report on Higher Education funding which promises to saddle future generations with enormous debts. What a legacy!

Glenn Beck also deserves a mention. For those who don’t know, he is a right-wing TV presenter in the US who likes to use Nazi analogies to describe current US politics. That his antics appear on FOX News, owned by News Corporation, not some backwoods radio station, should act as a warning to those who see no harm in Murdoch’s war against the BBC and attempts to take sole control of BSkyB.

Politicians are never far away from my list of villains and this year we have had to put up with the American Tea Party Movement and Silvio Berlusconi whose contempt for the Italian Constitution, the Courts and most importantly the electorate is shaming. However, this year a British politician has gone from hero to zero in record time. Nick Clegg, if he’s not careful, is about to finish the job that David Lloyd George started nearly a century ago and be responsible for the death of liberalism in British politics.

However, only one politician this year has engaged in piracy on the high seas and has publicly humiliated the Vice President of the United States. By publicly announcing the resumption of settlement building on the West Bank at exactly the same moment as Joe Biden’s plane touched down in Tel Aviv, our nominee alienated Israel’s most important ally. He then topped this by ordering Israeli troops to board an aid ship trying to run the Gaza blockade, in the process killing eleven passengers. It is actions like these that make a Middle Eastern Peace Agreement seem as far away as ever.

My Villain of the Year is Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu.

My Villain of the Year

Posted in Person of the Year on December 18, 2009 by Tom Leatherbarrow

What a year it has been, the real challenge is getting all the nominations down into one 300 word blog.

My first nomination goes to the Phoenix Four who memorably brought MG Rover to its knees. The full DTI report has to be one of the best reads of the year with tales of dodgy Chinese consultants, pilfering escrow accounts, hunting estates in South West France, lying, bullying, cheating and greed. Never have the failings of four individuals been so ruthlessly exposed.

If this was a free vote, I am sure Mahmood Ahmadinejad, President of Iran, would garner the support of many, but I prefer to give special mention to the individual who helped rig an election, denying millions of people their democratic rights and, I suspect, pulls the real strings from behind the scenes (as Joe Klein in Time magazine pointed out). Step forward Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Whilst Fred Goodwin deserves a mention, for me he’s more of a 2008 villain despite his pension arrangements (he’s so yesterday). For me the title of ‘Banking Villain of the Year’ must go to Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs, who memorably declared in an interview with the Sunday Times that he is “doing God’s work”. I admit my knowledge of the scriptures is poor, but didn’t Our Lord throw the money lenders out of the temple?

Tiger Woods has shown this year that hubris can still lead to nemesis. His extraordinarily arrogant behavior, particularly on the golf course (some spectacular club throwing at the Australian Masters can be viewed HERE) has only been matched by his whining public statements and willingness to use the British legal system to attempt to cover up his multiple transgressions with a dizzying number of Vegas cocktail waitresses.

However, whilst Mr Woods’ fall from grace has been spectacular, he poses no threat to world peace. Neither for that matter does my nomination for Villain of the Year (at the moment) but watch this space. This was the year when a politician compared herself to a dead fish (“only dead fish go with the flow”) whilst resigning from the Governorship of Alaska after only 18 months. Not for her the ‘drudgery’ of actually serving her electorate or compiling a political record before attempting a bid for the Republican nomination. No, far better, to charge tens of thousands of dollars for public appearances and write a self-serving book.

We can only hope that the people of Iowa will not fall for any of this when the Republican caucus takes place in January 2012.

My Villain of the Year is Sarah Palin.

My Man of the Year

Posted in Person of the Year on December 16, 2009 by Tom Leatherbarrow

It’s that time of year again when Time Magazine unveils its ‘Person of the Year’ (I personally preferred the title ‘Man of the Year’ even if it was awarded to the fairer sex, but even Time has gone all PC) which inevitably got me thinking about who my choice would be.

For me, there are a number of contenders. Nancy Pelosi, first female speaker of the House of Representatives, has ruled over the chamber with a steely determination (you certainly wouldn’t cross her) reminiscent of the great speakers of the past, such as Sam Rayburn and Tip O’Neill. In Christine Lagarde, France has found a Finance Minister able to operate and, crucially, communicate on the world stage.

I also think a word of praise for Vice President Joe Biden is necessary. Expected by some to be a gaffe-prone embarrassment he is emerging as a major voice in the Obama Administration, particularly on Afghanistan, and has been charged with implementing the massive public spending programme designed to re-float the US economy. He is rapidly putting the lie to Lyndon Johnson’s old line that the job “is not worth a bucket of warm spit.”

Back at home (and this will be a controversial one) Peter Mandelson has shown what the Labour Party has been missing. His assured handling of the DTI (car scrappage, the MG Rover Investigation, GM sale of Opel to Magna) was only bettered by his superb handling and thwarting of the attempted coup d’etat on Gordon Brown in June.

There is only one contender for Heroic Act of the Year. When Captain Chesley Sullenberger ditched his plane in the Hudson River after a bird-strike had knocked out both his engines he saved dozens of lives and showed the sort of calm in a crisis situation which the rest of us can only hope we never have to face. There is another reason I love this story. As Sullenberger calmly checked the fuselage of the ditched plane to ensure that everyone had got out he was described as “looking like David Niven in an airplane uniform”. Fantastic!

But, surprisingly perhaps, for those who know me, my choice is not a politician or an economist. There is one person who this year defied his age to almost achieve one of the greatest wins in sport. At the age of 59 you are pretty much past it as a contender in any game, but this man came within a whisker of winning the Open Golf Championship 26 years after his previous victory. His failure, at the very final hurdle, was a heartbreaking moment, but his humility in defeat, ready acceptance of the bad luck which contributed to his loss and refusal to feel sorry for himself were lessons that many of today’s superstars, across golf and other sports, would do well to learn.

My Man of the Year is the golfer Tom Watson.