Alan Watkins once said, with his usual modesty, that there was nothing special about his talent: some people can write; that was all there was to it. Well, he can write like a dream, and his special talent was celebrated last week by his winning the 'What the Papers Say' Award for Lifetime Achievement. We are proud that the judges have recognised what our readers have known for 14 years: that Watkins is a journalist without compare. He has been writing about politics since his appointment as acting political correspondent for the 'Sunday Express' in 1963.
By virtue of their perception and wit, his columns in this newspaper command a large personal fan base from across the political spectrum. He is perhaps the only columnist writing today whose copy could readily be identified if the byline were lost through a production error: his tone is so utterly distinctive and consistent (read this week's column on page 33). Having outlasted the neophilia of the Blairite era, he continues to bring unrivalled historical depth to the political coverage of 'The Independent on Sunday'.
James Lawton, chief sports writer for 'The Independent', was also honoured, being named Sports Writer of the Year.