Parties: By George, he's got it

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The Independent Culture

Although not a parties man, even George Orwell would have enjoyed the awards for political writing held in his name at the Foreign Press Association on the Mall, London. For, with only three gongs to be dished out – best book, best journalism and best blog – guests could relax, safe in the knowledge they could soon get back to chatting and drinking.

Orwell could have discussed the fall of Labour with left-wing grandees such as Ian Katz, executive editor of The Guardian and one of this year's judges, or the historian Timothy Garton Ash. Or joined the smokers on the balcony in the warm spring evening. As a spook, he might have enjoyed helping John Humphrys and new partner Catherine Bennett, who appeared to be hiding from a gossip columnist.

And no doubt he would have approved of the winners – The Independent's Patrick Cockburn, the best journalism winner, for his reports from Iraq; Andrew Brown, best book for Fishing in Utopia; and Jack Night, the anonymous (and therefore absent) policeman whose blog chronicles life within the force.

But what would he have made of the speeches? Full marks to Jean Seaton, the director of the awards, for keeping it brief. Likewise to judge Ferdinand Mount, the writer and politician, who has the benefit of a brilliant mind. Orwell biographer DJ Taylor promised not to do a Nick Cohen, whose somewhat tired and emotional performance at this year's Orwell shortlist debate is now a YouTube hit.

But it was thumbs down to the writer Geoffrey Wheatcroft, who clearly forgot the maxim that brevity is the art of wit. Who could have blamed Orwell if, much like the rest of us, he had slipped out slightly before the end?