How to list Britain's powers the slow way

The Power List Channel 4

How does one choose the 300 most powerful people in Britain? Such lists are themselves problematic, and prone to glaring omissions and eccentric inclusions, as we have seen from lists like The Best Books of The Century, the 100 Best Albums Ever or even the Turner short list. One imagines that any jury impanelled to select the 300 most powerful people might quickly realise the absurd enormity of the task, before agreeing to pull a few hundred names out of a hat.

The opening programme of The Power List seemed very keen to show us that its selection committee, the eight-member "Power Panel", took its task very seriously, employed no shortcuts, and thoroughly argued and justified even its most obvious choices. Even the running time of one hour and 15 minutes had an unconstrained earnestness about it: to hell with time slots - we'll finish when we finish.

The Power Panel was convened last summer at Leeds Castle, and included Lord Hattersley, Will Hutton, Peter York and former Smash Hits editor Kate Thornton. The programme decided to begin at the beginning, with a mysteriously over-long segment showing the panel checking into their rooms. By the time they all sat down together I feared the extra fifteen minutes wouldn't be enough. Each had brought along a little film they'd knocked up in their spare time about a potential candidate. This seemed like a slow way to start, especially when panelist Sara Morrison kicked things off with a film about why The Duke of Westminster shouldn't be on the list.

The question of how to define power looked to be a real stumbling point, but in the end the panel glossed over the issue. They simply decided to go with something that somebody had typed out earlier: "the ability to define the quality of people's daily lives". This definition is, like any other you might care to come up with, severely flawed, and makes selection more subjective, rather than less: is Bill Gates defining the quality of your life?

Anything like an accurate measure of influence would require a very strange formula and the sort of research and number crunching in which no one is interested, probably with good reason. The panel approached the whole exercise with sufficient cynicism that you knew anyone who said "Hey! What about Tony Blair?" would be written off as grossly naive.

The pervading idea was that many of the most powerful people are behind the scenes, and largely unknown. They even came up with a few examples, but not surprisingly, their names didn't ring any bells. Peter York made a good, if characteristically smug, case for Sir David Frost's unparalleled toadying power, but in general the inclusion of media figures got a little out of hand. Kate Thornton had no trouble convincing her colleagues that Alan Magee, head of Creation records and the hand that rocks Oasis, was on the verge of ruling the world. Suddenly Noel Gallagher himself was being talked up. I began to think that Denise Van Outen might be in with a chance. I felt like shouting "Hey! What about Tony Blair?"

Blair and his cabinet got only the briefest mention late in the programme, perhaps because originally Roy Hattersley was meant to present a little film about Frank Field, who has since been shuffled out of his job as Minister for Welfare Reform. The fact that the film and all subsequent references to Mr Field had to be excised from the programme may explain its occasional choppiness and the extended shots of everyone arriving. When they did get round to Blair, the panel only wanted to talk about Alastair Campbell and Peter Mandelson. The power behind the throne is much more interesting, even when it is less powerful.

In the end not one contender was assigned a firm place on the winner's board. The actual Power List is being saved for next week's two concluding programmes, and there was no hint last night of who might be on it. In an hour and 15 minutes they didn't quite managed to commit to six people. Perhaps they're afraid that some more of them will be sacked before next week. I may not be able to do any better, but I could do it a lot faster. Is the Duke of Westminster one of the 300 most powerful people in Britain? No. Is Alan Magee? No. David Frost? No. Roger Penrose? No. And who is the most powerful person in Britain? Tony Blair. See? Easy.

Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

    The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

    How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
    Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

    Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

    Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
    Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

    Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

    The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor