When we decided to hold a Man, Woman and Villain of the Year poll, following the scrapping of the annual Radio 4 Today programme contest after last year's onslaught of vote-rigging, we did not quite know what to expect. There would be some cranky entries maybe, and possibly some attempted fixing, but we were not quite sure.
What ensued was a fascinating commentary on the year that is finishing. Tony Blair won Man of the Year hands down. Whether he wins again next year, however, remains to be seen.
Certainly our poll contains a warning for the buoyant Labour leader: he shares with Earl Spencer the distinction of being in both the Man of the Year and Villain of the Year lists; old Labour stalwart Ken Livingstone comes a creditable ninth; and Peter Mandelson and Harriet Harman, two staunch Blairites, are in the Villain camp, just ahead of Christine Hamilton.
Sleaze, for all the Prime Minister's promises to stamp it out, still hangs like a cloud over British politics. Martin Bell, the former BBC war correspondent turned Independent MP, was neck and neck with Mr Blair for a time, but then faded in the final stages. And the Villain of the Year ranking is dominated by the disgraced Tories, Jonathan Aitken and Neil Hamilton.
The boxer Mike Tyson bit off part of his boxing opponent's ear and racing driver Michael Schumacher appeared to deliberately turn his racing car into a rival's - yet cash for questions and the propriety of our elected representatives created much bigger villains.
Dead people were excluded from the contest but one person's death was on a lot of minds. If votes could have been cast for Diana, Princess of Wales, as Woman of the Year she surely would have won. As it was, her brother still came third behind Blair and Bell, while The Queen and Prince Charles, implicitly criticised by Spencer at her funeral, also figured.
Among the 3,000 or so votes were both the wacky and the bizarre: God, for Man of the Year, on the basis, wrote his nominator, "even the paparazzi cannot find him"; lots of Teletubbies and Spice Girls; Noel Edmonds for Villain of the Year; "my Big Issue vendor" for Man of the Year; similarly, Arthur Scargill; and, incredibly, Peter Stringfellow for Man of the Year.
Of vote rigging we found only one attempt. A host of entries were received on the same day, all bearing the same handwriting but all purporting to come from different senders and making identical suggestions: Tories David Amess MP for Man of the Year and Ann Widdecombe MP for Woman of the Year. A valiant effort but you were wasting your time, and postage.Reuse content