Heroes and Villains of 2002

- continued (nominations from Lisa Jewell to Michael Winner)
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The Independent Online


Hero: Ricky Gervais
I successfully managed to avoid the whole of the first series of The Office, but by the time the second series started I'd listened to enough gush from enough people whose opinions I trusted to give it a tentative whirl. And then David Brent spun his cloying, tragic, wretched, claustrophobic, traffic-accident of a web around me and I was hooked. Not since Basil Fawlty has a television comedy creation managed to capture so accurately the painful self-delusion of the underachieving, overly proud British male. Ricky Gervais is a genius.

Villain: Robbie Williams
Oh Robbie. I am so disappointed in you. You were the last great crush of my middle youth. If a porky, self-effacing little guy from the Potteries could do it, then I certainly could. You made me feel like an adolescent girl and an earth mother all at the same time. That incredulous, cherubic face that said: "They love me, I can't believe they really love me." Now that same (life-hardened) face says: "You sad bastards, get a life." And those squalid pictures of you and Rachel getting coital by a Los Angeles swimming pool put me off my breakfast. And they put me off you.

BORIS JOHNSON, Conservative MP and editor of The Spectator

Hero: Black Rod
I'm nominating him for his services to democracy and the truth. He was under immense pressure to corroborate Downing Street's version of events over Blair's interference with the Queen Mother's lying in state. He could easily have laid low and said nothing. But he heroically decided to blow the whistle on Downing Street mendacity.

Villain: Alastair Campbell
It's a cliché to nominate him, but who cares? He deserves it for his pathetic attempt to pull the wool over the public's eyes about the Queen Mother's lying in state. Swine.

ANDY KERSHAW, broadcaster

Hero: Robert Fisk
I've nominated him for the clarity and bravery of his reporting, in contrast to most other journalism about the Israel-Palestine conflict, which can be characterised by its cowardice, its clichés, its laziness and its mendacity. He's been prepared to say that what's going on in the Palestinian territories is as appalling as what went on in apartheid South Africa. It's the first thing that sprang to my mind when I first went to the West Bank, but Fisk is the only person who'll point it out.

Villain: Ariel Sharon
He's a stupid thug ­ and that isn't just a gratuitous insult. He's stupid because the policies he has pursued relentlessly and brutally have proved to be counter-productive, yet still he fails to recognise it. And he's a thug. He's a mass murderer. He's a war criminal. He's a child-killer. He's wrecked the peace process, he's wrecked any hope of a settlement in the near future. What he's trying to do is eliminate what remains of Palestine and he's now even talking about what amounts to ethnic cleansing. He's a terrorist, by any definition.

ANN LESLIE, writer, Daily Mail

Hero: Hashem Aghajari
The Iranian professor who has opposed the hard-line fundamentalist mullahs who run Iran. He's one of a handful of astonishingly brave academics in the Muslim world who believe that if Islam is going to come to terms with, and compete in, the modern world it must have a reformation. Hugely popular, especially among the young who are fed up with the corrupt, dictatorial and vicious rule of the mullahs, Aghajari is currently under sentence of death.

Villain: Neil Kinnock
After a much-persecuted whistle-blower exposed the dodgy accounting practices, endemic corruption and nepotism of the European Commission, virtually the entire Commission was forced to resign. Kinnock, the Vice-president, was charged with cleaning up that rotten joint. And what has he done? Persecuted and maligned yet another whistle-blower for pointing out that the dodgy practices continue unabated.

OLIVER LETWIN, shadow Home Secretary

Hero: Camila Batmanghelidj
In a world where so much appears to be going wrong, the charity Kids Company in Camberwell, south London, is a beacon of hope. She is the driving force behind the charity, which offers therapeutic and practical help to exceptionally vulnerable children. Every week more than 4,000 children receive support through the centre and in-school services. Camila works with these young people to turn them away from the conveyor belt towards crime.

Villain: Osama bin Laden
This is the man who has perverted one of the world's great religions to suit his own ends. Those of us who felt we were moving into a period of peace and stability have been forced to think again because of the actions of a man who uses fear and terror to convert people to his cause. Bin Laden is a man who sends ordinary people to their deaths in his name, but who refuses to stand up for his beliefs himself.

ROD LIDDLE, former editor of Today, Radio 4

Hero: Tam Dalyell
An erudite, independent voice in Parliament and speaking with good grace but without fear or favour on a whole range of issues. He's very good on devolution and the West Lothian question. He's very good on the Gulf War. In other words, he does exactly what an MP is supposed to be doing. If only there were more like him. May he continue to prosper in the new year.

Villain: Anyone who committed murder under the warped belief that it advanced the cause of their religion and endeared them to God. I sincerely hope that when suicide bombers blow themselves up, they end up not in heaven with 72 virgins, but in somewhere like Slough.

DONALD MACINTYRE, Independent columnist

Hero: Barbara Castle
Because she died in 2002, it's the last chance to commemorate her in this way. The Labour Party's La Pasionaria, Castle was at once an idealistic icon of the democratic left and a determined, practical politician who might have made a great prime minister in a more enlightened age. If she had been backed by the first Wilson cabinet she would have tackled "the British disease" of sickly industrial relations long before Margaret Thatcher. Oh, and she saved untold numbers of lives by bringing in the breathalyser.

Villain: Jean-Marie Le Pen
His electoral successes in May, with their menacing overtones of racism, helped to poison not only much of French politics, but inevitably the politics of Europe itself. Thank goodness for the million French citizens who took to the streets in protest at his rise.

BILL MORRIS, leader of the Transport and General Workers' Union

Hero: Jane Tomlinson
She won the BBC's Helen Rollason Award this year. She's had breast cancer for about 12 years and had a mastectomy, and it's now spread to her lungs, I understand. But she's shown immense courage. She's done the London Marathon, the London Triathlon and the Great North Run. She raised £105,000 for breast-cancer relief. Her story is especially poignant for me because I lost a wife to breast cancer. She also had a mastectomy and fought back, going back to work.

Villains: All those company bosses who keep topping up their own pension pots while closing final-salary schemes for their employees. As far as I'm concerned, if you protect your own security in retirement but ensure poverty for the rest, you are a real villain ­ and should be exposed as such.


Hero: It is hard to find one, but I would choose Harry Woolf, the Lord Chief Justice, who stood up to the dreadful David Blunkett and to this awful Government, which has put more people in prison than ever before.

Villain: Ariel Sharon
For disobeying United Nations instructions, for holding weapons of mass destruction, and because the fact that he won't have peace is providing an excuse for a war on terrorism.


Hero: Lucian Freud
For the late self-portrait he finished just before the big show at Tate Britain. It is one of the best late self-portraits I can think of post-Rembrandt.

Villain: the British rail network
For the psychic damage it has inflicted every day of the year on the entire population. I don't want to claim that my experience is worse than any one else's, but I have spent a lot of time on trains up and down the country. When I'm lying on my death-bed I want all the hours back I've spent sitting on stuck or late trains.

JAMES NAUGHTIE, Today presenter, Radio 4

Hero: Simon Rattle
Easy. Can you think of anyone of whom we should feel prouder than the new chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic?

Villain: Brian Aldridge
Who else? Under the BBC Charter, he's the only public figure whom I am allowed to describe as a creep, a charlatan, a cheat, a scumbag, a swaggering poltroon, a walking bile duct and a wally. So he gets it all. Note to Martian readers: he's in The Archers.

JOHN PEEL, broadcaster

Hero: We had a family discussion about this and between us have decided that the hero is any American who questions the need for war against Iraq.

Villain: I nominate the motorcyclist who overtook me on the inside in the one-way system of Great Portland Street station, forcing me to brake sharply and then sat at the next traffic lights looking back at me and shaking his head slowly. It really pissed me off, but I am too peaceful a man to have got out of my car and thumped him.

ROWAN PELLING, editor of The ...rotic Review

Hero: Andrew Marr
The BBC political correspondent has brought intelligence back into fashion as a functioning part of sexual attraction. His TV programme on Darwin was fantastic; he is the absolute antithesis of Big Brother reality shows. The British are so cynical about enthusiasm, but he is a good pin-up for the nation ­ even with sticky-out ears ­ because he is so charming and interested.

Villain: Any person who sells a story about their ex-lover to a tabloid. It is boring, it is mean and it shows no faith in human nature, especially when people claim it is in the public interest. Tabloids are meant to be the gaiety of the nation and it has all gone too far. The golden rule of the erotic world is, "I shall not kiss and tell."

MADSEN PIRIE, head of the Adam Smith Institute

Hero: David Beckham
A positive role model for young people. He is worth every penny as Britain's top football earner. You just have to look at him during the World Cup; his sportsmanship, and the unpretentious way in which he handles celebrity.

Villain: Edwina Currie
She is a bad role model for the young. It seems that the only reason for disclosure of her affair with John Major was to boost sales of the book, which does not seem to have succeeded. That may be a testament to the taste of the book-buying public. In contrast is Mary Archer, who had dignity through the storm that blew around her.


Hero: Ellen MacArthur
The British yachtswoman, because she is so brave. I admire determined people; I can't imagine the physical, emotional and mental resources it must have taken to do what she has done.

Villain: Villains are not so easy to fathom. There are all the obvious ones ­ the terrorists, the suicide bombers ­ but the real villains are the people who wield religious power in order to inspire others to do wicked things, or who seek to cover up evil deeds. So in that bracket I would include the entire Catholic Church (which I hope ruffles a few feathers) and every kind of religious fundamentalist and zealot.

ALICE RAWSTHORN, Design Museum director

Hero: Barbara Castle
She symbolised everything that is admirable about politics. As a politician and a campaigner, she did everything she could to turn Britain into a decent, caring, meritocratic culture. She was also an important role model for me because, as a girl in the 1960s, I saw very few women in positions of power. Castle stood alone as strong, intelligent, glamorous and charismatic ­ exactly what I and my friends longed to be when we grew up.

Villain: George W Bush
He symbolises everything about politics that is contemptible.

CLAIRE RAYNER, agony aunt

Hero: Any nurse or doctor working their butts off in the most appalling casualty department or underfunded unit somewhere in an unpleasant city-centre hospital. There are people in television who have kept some decent programming going ­ such as Jonathan Dimbleby and David Attenborough ­ who are heroes.

Villain: Paul Dacre
The editor of the Daily Mail for consistently twisting and presenting the "news" and events to suit his particular right-wing vision of the world, rather than as it actually is, and therefore doing a great deal of damage.

MARTIN REES, Astronomer Royal

Hero: Archbishop Rowan Williams
These who attempt to elevate public discourse generally remain obscure, but I'm hopeful that he may succeed where others have failed. Someone in my specialist field who received well-deserved accolades this year was Stephen Hawking, on his 60th birthday. When I first met him in the 1960s, I'd have offered astronomical odds against his ever reaching this age at all ­ let alone with such an inspiring crescendo of achievement.

Villains: Those in the media who have trivialised and distorted the political agenda during the past year ­ especially the editors of the Daily Mail and the Mirror.

IQBAL SACRANIE, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain

Hero: Carla del Ponte
The Hague war-crimes tribunal has been one of the great breakthroughs for justice in our time. Not since the Nuremberg tribunals of 1946 has the world witnessed a more important attempt to apply the principle of universal jurisdiction. Carla del Ponte, the chief prosecutor of the tribunal, has played a pivotal role in bringing many of those responsible for genocide and crimes against humanity in the Balkans to justice. Her efforts have set the tone for similar courts in Arusha, Tanzania, which now prosecute those responsible for genocide in Rwanda.

Villain: Ariel Sharon
This year marks the 49th since Ariel Sharon led the special commando unit 101 in an attack against the West Bank village of Qibya, killing 69 Palestinian civilians, and he has been engaged throughout this year doing what he does best: wanton killing of men, women and children and destruction of farms, homes and the service infrastructure in occupied territories. Since 29 March alone his army has killed hundreds of innocent Palestinians and injured thousands. These are no longer crimes against the Palestinians. They are crimes against humanity and the international community has both a moral and legal responsibility to bring them to an immediate end.

ROGER SCRUTON, philosopher

Hero: I have two heroes who, far from desecrating the icon of the monarchy, have quietly and modestly embellished it: John Simpson, the architect, and Alexander Stoddart, the sculptor ­ the creators of the new gallery at Buckingham Palace.

Villain: They are all villains out there! But my real villain is Mr Burrell, the butler, for his self-flaunting disloyalty, and the tabloid editors and television iconoclasts who made this disloyalty profitable.

WILL SELF, writer

Hero: Warren Zevon
Cool, polished, beautifully erudite singer/songwriter ­ mortally ill with terminal cancer. He remains an inspiration for all werewolves of London.

Villain: Dick Cheney
The Vice-president of the United States of America is sort of the avatar of negative American economics and supreme master of war ­ unless a friendly cardiac arrest takes him from us shortly. He could be the death of thousands of young Iraqi men and the disease carrier for thousands of young British and American servicemen.

JOAN SMITH, writer

Heroes: Paul Burrell, Harold Brown and the Queen
They have done so much to bring the Royal Family ridicule, and hasten the day when this country becomes a republic.

Villains: Daily Mail and The Mail on Sunday, for making it hard for the rest of us to admit to being journalists.


Hero: Aung San Suu Kyi
Despite relentless intimidation and government-imposed restrictions, she has sustained a remarkable, courageous campaign for democracy and human rights in Burma.

Villain: President Mugabe
His regime is now using food as an instrument of political and ethnic cleansing. Food aid is being withheld from drought-stricken villages that voted for the opposition MDC (Movement for Democratic Change). Millions face starvation and death. It is a calculated plan to exterminate political opponents.

GEORGE WALDEN, former Tory MP and education minister

Hero: John Gray
For daring to write Straw Dogs, the sort of book of ideas the British mind is (supposedly) programmed to reject.

Villains: Al-Qa'ida
Who else? Unless our rage of impotence vis-à-vis America has reached self-immolation. What price a liberal Britain, where the presence of a small-time conman is described as "not conducive to the public interest", but where it is thought illiberal to wonder whether Muslim nihilists threatening mass death should enjoy absolute right to remain?

NASTASHA WALTER, writer and Independent columnist

Hero: Zahmina Nyamati
I met Zahmina Nyamati in the summer in Kabul. She is a widow who was ­ still is, no doubt ­ living in one room in a slum with her five children, one of whom was disabled. For years she had been supporting them by working for a pittance day and night. One thing that struck me was that she was an educated woman with a university degree; she could have been me or anyone I know, before wars and the madness of fundamentalist Islam tore her life apart. Her nobility in the face of absolute oppression was astounding.

Villain: It's harder to judge. I don't know that I'm not one myself, for looking at such nobility and despair and then walking away.

MICHAEL WINNER, film director/restaurant critic

Hero: Cherie Blair
I love to see people admitting fallibility. I think it's a big thing to do, even if you're forced to do it. Cherie has really taken such a hammering for very little. There are moments when the press go mad and tear flesh. She is a very nice person, and has handled it very well.

Villain: Peter Foster
I've chosen him for not levelling with everyone, including his own girlfriend, about his past. These people pop out of the sewers from time to time like bugs covered in slime, and infect those around them.

Interviews by Clare Rudebeck, Charlotte Cripps and Clare Dwyer Hogg