Heroes and Villains of 2002

Who made an outstanding contribution to world peace? And who committed crimes against good taste? The Independent asked the year's movers, shakers and troublemakers for their nominations
Click to follow
The Independent Online

TARIQ ALI, writer

Hero: Noam Chomsky
Heroes are few, but the American refusenik Noam Chomsky deserves the appellation. His integrity and steadfastness in the face of imperial depredations is in polar contrast to all the hand-wringing of pundits, politicians and the belligerati in the face of a naked attempt by Washington to dominate the world.

Villain: Ariel Sharon
This unpunished war criminal regards the Palestinians as Untermenschen (subhumans), orders the killings of the leaders and the led, and is busy destroying both the social and political infrastructure of the Palestinian nation. This is an attempt to erase the political identity of a people who became the indirect victims of the European Judeocide.

YASMIN ALIBHAI-BROWN, Independent columnist

Hero: The Chief Rabbi Dr Jonathan Sacks
Professor Sacks spoke about many of the deep anxieties that noble and honourable Jewish people around the world are feeling today about the way that the Israeli government is behaving towards other human beings with whom they share their land. It was a very brave thing to speak out, especially for a man in his position, and he is already paying far too big a price for it.

Villain: Colin Powell
Colin Powell is probably the first prominent black American to forget completely the connection between African- Americans and the oppressed of the world. In that sense, he has joined the arrogance of the new imperialist United States of America, and he has failed the remarkable tradition started up by James Baldwin, WEB Du Bois, Martin Luther King, Maya Angelou and others. In warmongering against Iraq, he fails his people.

BRUCE ANDERSON, Independent columnist

Hero: George W Bush
Throughout the year, the President has grown in stature, confidence and authority. His powers of leadership were acknowledged by American voters, enabling him to win the mid-term elections despite the US's economic difficulties. He is now about to put those powers to the ultimate test: leadership in war. Those continental European politicians who refuse to recognise President Bush's ability merely reveal their own political decadence.

Villains:
The policemen who misled Prince Charles over the evidence in the Paul Burrell case. The outcome was damaging to the Royal Family, which was unjust. This fiasco of incompetence and mendacious policing should have led to a rigorous scrutiny of police practices and levels of efficiency.

NORMAN BAKER, Liberal Democrat MP and home affairs spokesman

Hero: the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams
Unlike many in the church, Williams actually appears connected to ordinary people, ready to accept that we live in the 21st century. He has attacked the Disney empire. He has broken into a US base to sing psalms on the runway. He slams the likely war on Iraq as "immoral and illegal". Whether one agrees or not with him, isn't it great to have a church leader who is grounded, courageous and honest and who doesn't simply talk to himself?

Villain: George Dubya Bush
In the name of oil, he shoots up the environment like a Coke can on a wall, whether it's undermining Kyoto or ripping up the last of the US's ancient forests. Meanwhile, he bullies his way around the world, declaring that the US can rip up treaties, do what it likes, but woe betide others if they don't stick rigidly to United Nations resolutions.

J G BALLARD, writer

Hero: Andy Gilchrist
For daring to suggest that in Blair's Britain, his members deserve a decent wage. He may become a tragic hero, but I think he deserves our support.

Villain: Cherie Blair
For daring to suggest in Blair's Britain that the Prime Minister's family deserves to be rich. They seem like a provincial couple on the make ­ a bit like the Clintons. She's diminished New Labour, and that's sad.

STEPHEN BAYLEY, design consultant

Hero: John Kay
For his refusal to accept the wringing wet nostrums of current correctitude. I adored his virulent and brilliantly argued attack on the flatulent, lazy conservatism of Oxford. Equally, I admire the original approach of his study of how resources are allocated. For Kay, economics is not about numbers, but ideas and interpretation. He writes about desire more than GDP.

Villain: Ken Livingstone
Not since the plague has a single melancholy organism had so damaging an effect on the health and demeanour of London. Civilisation depends on the free movement of goods and people, but the capital's smarmy and spiteful mayor has deliberately put impediments in the path of efficient transport, as any visitor to Shoreditch or Vauxhall knows.The state of London ­ slovenly, dangerous and squalid ­ would bring the Third World into disrepute. Livingstone is an expensive local embarrassment and a national disgrace.

TERENCE BLACKER, Independent columnist

Hero: the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams
On the evidence of his first few weeks as Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams will be a very considerable national figure, and a thorn in the flesh of spin-happy, market-crazed New Labour. At last, a churchman with a forensic brain and a fierce moral sense.

Villain: John Major
By contrast, John Major's response to Edwina Currie's rather affecting kiss-and- tell was true moral cowardice ­ blaming her and slithering around in a pathetic, doomed attempt to shift the blame from himself. A disgrace to adulterers everywhere.

LAUREN BOOTH, writer

Hero: Enron
For revealing the consumer capitalism behind the Bush regime, and making the whole house of cards collapse in front of the world at an embarrassing time. I think they do deserve some applause for being so greedy ­ as does the CEO of the US, Bush himself.

Villain: Angus Deayton
By getting himself sacked, he has ruined one of my favourite shows, Have I Got News for You. When I saw Anne Robinson present it, I was tempted never to turn it on again. Deayton shouldn't have got himself caught. Would I lead calls to reinstate him? Well, I would if the show moved to a sleazier channel, but I understand the BBC's position on this. The fact that most of their presenters are secretly drug-crazed sex criminals hasn't been proved, yet.

JULIE BURCHILL, writer

Hero: Andy Gilchrist
For drawing a line in the sand on behalf of the overworked, underpaid public- sector workers, at last.

Villain: Tony Blair
For being a creep.

RICHARD BURGE, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance

Hero: the Bishop of
Hereford, John Oliver
A great church leader and a man who has done more than anyone else to defend the rural dispossessed and to promote social justice both publicly and privately.

Villains: Chancellor Schröder and
President Chirac
For their blatant attempt to derail real rural development and sustainable land use at the EU enlargement summit. The Government must fight to ensure that agricultural policy reform is not postponed, if there is to be a future for agriculture and rural communities. Also James Johnsen for marrying my PA, Alice, and stealing her away to a life of bucolic poverty in Dorset.

JOHN CAREY, former Merton Professor of English Literature at Oxford University

Hero: Commander Richard Farringdon
Because he made no excuses, but simply accepted the blame when he wrecked his ship, the HMS Nottingham.

Villain: Nicholas van Hoogstraten
The multimillionaire slum landlord who was notorious for referring to tenants as "filth", and to ramblers who claimed right of way across his estate as "riff-raff". Like many of history's real stinkers, van Hoogstraten is an art lover. He was building himself a £40m Renaissance-style palace in Sussex, and his sumptuous picture collection, which was to occupy two floors of it, includes a Holbein. Currently, he is serving 10 years for the manslaughter of a business associate.

MARGARET COOK, writer

Hero: Biljana Plavsic
Some may condemn me for this, but, by acknowledging her previous crimes of ethnic cleansing, the one-time leader of the Bosnian Serbs has faced the consequences of her manifold atrocities. How much courage it takes to do that is immeasurable.

Villain: Julie Patterson
The yachtswoman Julie Patterson, the "Cocaine Queen of the Caribbean", recently jailed for 24 years for smuggling on a mega-scale. I wonder if she has ever seen the end result of her way of life. Is she totally indifferent to young men and women, out of their minds with mental agony, trembling and sick, confused, hallucinating, terrified? A living hell for the have-nots and their carers, while she swanned to and fro in luxury across the Atlantic.

NORMAN DAVIES, historian

Hero: The man who jogged the Queen's memory into recalling her conversation with Paul Burrell. This person, whoever they were, thereby provided many insights into the state of the British monarchy.

Villain: Donald Rumsfeld
I'm nominating the US Secretary of Defense for his crass remarks about Churchill wanting a pre-emptive war, thereby using bad history to support bad policy.

RICHARD DAWKINS, scientist

Hero: Robert Fisk
He is not afraid to tell the truth, however unpleasant. His serious sincerity redeems the profession of journalist from the dishonour inflicted by the tabloids.

Villain: George Bush
This illiterate buffoon cheated his way into the White House with the help of his well-connected family and friends. Having dismally failed to anticipate or prevent the atrocity of September 11, he spent the rest of the day zigzagging around the country like a jet-propelled chicken. His personal cowardice was mirrored in the country at large, and he fanned it to his advantage in the mid-term elections, and now, to foment an unprovoked war that has nothing to do with terrorism and everything to do with oil. His record on the environment is as appalling as you would expect. Bush is rightly despised throughout the world, and it is humiliating that Britain is seen as his only ally.

MARY DEJEVSKY, Independent columnist

Hero: Mary Archer
Her husband may have continued his rakish progress through the criminal justice system, but Mary has maintained her unflappable dignity throughout. Unlike certain other women with prominent partners, Mary has never lost her cool, never strayed beyond the bounds of propriety, never complained about her lot. She has remained loyal and discreet to a fault. What class! Jeffrey does not deserve her.

Villain: President Robert Mugabe
Over the past year, he has shown the most calculating cynicism towards his critics, and the most flagrant disregard for his people. He won an election in which he had crippled his opponents with the basest of tactics, from intimidation, through imprisonment to murder. His human-rights record is execrable, and his support for the brutal eviction of white farmers has not only harmed what remains of black-white harmony, but contributed to the famine that now stalks one of the richest agricultural lands in Africa.

FRANK DOBSON, Labour MP

Hero: Sir Richard Doll
He's the man who first proved the link between smoking and cancer. He's therefore saved millions of lives and continues to do so.

Villain: All the Premier League referees who disallowed perfectly legitimate goals scored by West Ham United players this year.

MARGARET DRABBLE, writer

Hero: Christopher Fry
This benign, humane, and much-loved writer, who celebrated his 95th birthday earlier this month, has had a good year, with the engaging Chichester performance of his timeless comedy, The Lady's Not For Burning. A Happy New Year to him.

Villain: Whoever is responsible for failing to resolve the ambiguous status of those prisoners held without charge in Guantanamo Bay. Are they terrorists, prisoners of war, or casualties caught up in a war not of their own making, and how can we find out? How many years are they going to stay there, in this 21st-century Bastille, with our own Government's acquiescence? These people should not be forgotten. George Bush is ultimately responsible for their fate, but it's hard to blame him personally.

GAVIN ESLER, writer and broadcaster

Hero: my father
Well, heroes are in short supply, and so I have plumped for my father who has turned 80, plays golf at least twice a week and rarely grumbles about anything, except his putting. He's an antidote to the Victor Meldrew tendency that seems to afflict the British more than any other nation.

Villains: charity collectors
In a world full of villains ­ Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, the person who put TV screens and noisy music in petrol stations ­ my villains of the year are those charity fund-collectors who leap on passers-by in the high street with demands that we sign away money to them for the foreseeable future. They are behaving like timeshare conmen and put me off giving to their charities forever. Only a real villain could make so many good causes seem so dodgy.*

FRANK FIELD, Labour MP

Hero: John Profumo
He has devoted his life to giving opportunities to people at the bottom of the pile. He's done that with a low-key public presence, even though he is wheeled out every time the media get sanctimonious about some politician's wrong-doings. I believe he's achieved more good in the world than if he'd remained a cabinet minister.

Villain: Lenin
His adoption of coercion to force his beliefs down the throats of Russians has led finally to the collapse of the belief in the possibility of an ideal society organised on the basis of need not greed. This year, we've settled down to the hard fact that there's no real political alternative to status-quo capitalism. It's the first time in modern times when people haven't had an ideal political society to aim for.

MARK FRITH, editor of Heat magazine

Heroes: Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant, Karl Pilkington
For the best radio show ever ­ Saturdays 1-3pm on XFM, 104.9FM [in London, or Sky Digital, or www.xfm.co.uk].

Villain: Steve Bing
I'm still following the Mirror's advice on phoning him in his office on a daily basis to complain about his behaviour. Cad. Liz Hurley has dealt with him brilliantly.

TIMOTHY GARTON ASH, historian

Hero: Hashem Aghajari
The Iranian historian sentenced to death for calling for a reformation of Islam. His speech was entitled "Islamic Protestantism". Thousands of students have come out in protest in Tehran, some chanting "death to despotism". This kind of pressure for change in the Islamic world, from within and from below, is the best hope for us all.

Villain: Enron
The Sauron of corporate capitalism. I sometimes think that Marx will finally be proved right, and we shall one day experience a general crisis of global capitalism. If we do, it will probably be precipitated by such boardroom gangsters.

ANDY GILCHRIST, leader of the Fire Brigades Union

Hero: Gwyneth Dunwoody
She is the doughty champion of rail users. Historically perceived to be on the right of the Labour Party, she is now a critic of many of New Labour's policies. She recently told a comrade of mine: "I haven't moved, but the party has."

Villain: David Seaman
I'm nominating him for letting in Ronaldinho's goal during the Brazil-England game during the World Cup.

PHILIP HENSHER, novelist and Independent columnist

Hero: Hamid Karzai
He had the task, against all conceivable odds, of establishing a democratic government in Afghanistan. It is far too early to say whether he will succeed, and the historical precedents are not encouraging, but Karzai has energetically exceeded all expectations so far, and unlike most Afghan politicians, deserves trust and, most importantly, investment.

Villain: Mireille Breitwieser
The woman who, on discovering that her museum-robbing son had amassed a collection of great art, set about destroying it. I've tried, but I can't imagine the sheer evil inhumanity of a person who can take a Watteau drawing and feed it into the kitchen waste-disposal unit. It makes the blood run cold.

LORD HOWE, former Deputy Prime Minister

Hero: the Queen
She is my heroine for withstanding so many slings and arrows of outrageous fortune with such integrity and courage. She has endured swirling public opinion this year ­ starting at a low base, peaking around the jubilee and then descending into a storm of criticism over the Paul Burrell case. I'm not talking about everyone at the palace, but I think she dealt very well with the Burrell furore.

Villain: Ken Livingstone
It was a struggle between him and Osama bin Laden, but Livingstone is my villain of the year. It is not because he favours congestion charging. I wrote an article in favour of it many years ago, and it works very well in places such as Singapore and Hong Kong. But I believe the way he is handling the issue will set back the cause of road-pricing for a long time, and that is a tragedy.

ALEX JAMES, bass player of the band Blur

Hero: Professor Colin Pillinger
He has managed to privately finance and design a British lander for Mars, which, as we speak, is being built by men in funny white coats in Milton Keynes. I went to look at it the other day and met Colin, the chief scientist. It's this tiny spacecraft, but the engineering on it reduced me to a gibber because everything had to be done from scratch and this thing is just an incredibly complicated machine that stands a reasonable chance of finding life on Mars. And for that reason he is my hero. Are we alone in the universe? He's just trying to find out.

Villain: I've got trouble thinking of a villain because I've just fallen in love; everything's Jim Dandy. Some people have let us down and there has been some bad behaviour recently, but I'm feeling quite magnaminous and forgiving, so I won't mention any names. It's all gravy as far as I'm concerned.

Next 25 nominations

Comments