The IoS smug list 2010
It's the perfect antidote to all that yuletide harmony – the IoS index of the year's insufferably self-satisfied
Sunday 26 December 2010
Now is the season of goodwill and seeing the best in our fellow man and woman. You can't move for all that bonhomie, wishy-kissy revellers, and chortling Santa-hat wearers around every corner. Why, even office sourpusses seem mellowed.
And so, in spirit of balance and fair play, we thought it only right to strike a note of spite and envy – or reality, as we like to call it – with the IoS Smug List, our annual compilation of the people in British public life who have done most to irritate, who are most undeservedly ubiquitous, and whose faces are most eminently slappable.
There are some significant movers. In come Richard Dawkins, Mumsnet, Anish Kapoor, Prince Charles, and other unwelcome characters. Out, for the reasons given, are Lord Mandelson of Foy and Several Other Places You've Never Heard Of (has-been), Tracey Emin (kept her head down), Piers Morgan (exiled), and Jonathan Ross (giving us all a break). Mindful of our colleague DJ Taylor's heroes and villains selections, we have left out some who might otherwise have featured.
To those horrified that such an uncharitable listing should appear, least of all in this paper, we refer you to the other 51 issues of the year, every one of which overflowed with the milk of human kindness and liberal concern. And – health warning – we're not being entirely serious. Let us know if you think our legendary even-handedness has deserted us, or if you have alternative suggestions.
In any event, the compilers wish the following Smuggies a more humble and self-effacing New Year...
1. Bonused-up, blackmailing bankers
This year, British bankers will receive £7bn in bonuses – the same amount as the cut in benefits for the entire nation. Is there any sign they regard this as immoral? Or absurd? That they acknowledge some responsibility for why welfare cuts have to be made? No. They are too big to fail, they point out. And, if we insist on windfall-taxing their bloated bonuses, they will take their banks overseas. They are part of a self-perpetuating, self-appointing, self-rewarding cartel. And supremely smug with it. To paraphrase their spiritual ancestor, Ebenezer Scrooge, they should, this festive time, be boiled with their own puddings with a sprig of holly through their hearts.
2. Julian Assange
Leaker and condom-phobe
WikiLeaks founder, scourge of US military and diplomatic corps, passionate believer in openness – if not HIV tests. Some women find this pale, former hacker interesting, but not nearly so fascinating as he finds himself. Needs to lighten up, or his arrogance will undermine all he claims to stand for.
3. Ricky Gervais
He's made a fortune out of being himself – a slightly annoying, giggling schoolboy who mocks everything and everyone. Hollywood has taken him to its A-List heart and he revels in his celebrity pals. Even lacklustre film projects – such as Cemetery Junction – failed to dent his sense of superiority.
4. Jeremy Clarkson
As arrogant ex-public schoolboys go, he is pretty funny, if overbearing – the Flashman to Richard Hammond's Tom Brown. But his once-witty show risks collapsing under the weight of elaborate stunts and phonied-up moments of alleged spontaneity. And still he chunters on. Can nemesis be far away?
5. World dominationists
Sinister Big Brothers
In the Bond movie that is modern life, this is the baddie: the ostensibly right-on organisation which is, in reality, bent on databasing our every move. What started as a good service is now – witness Street View's collective of private data – arrogant and furtive. Take revenge, block all cookies.
6. Alan Yentob
Says he can't work unless he flies Business Class, will retire with a £2.5m pension pot. Ultimate BBC lifer, Armani-clad veteran of a million meeja parties. When not claiming champers on exes, finds time to make Imagine – arts strand mainly starring himself (or chums). Blessed with diligent researchers.
7. Early retirees on final-salary pension
There they are, peacock-chested at the golf club on Tuesday, or the garden centre Thursday, ever-anxious to converse about pension arrangements. Life is all cruises, hotel stays, and tracking shares. Just one thing, guys: how come they wanted you out of the bank/council/company at 54?
8. Damien Hirst
Not-so-Young Brit Artist
Reinvented the term "cash cow" with a formaldehyde-soaked heifer. Britain's richest "artist" (worth around £215m). Epitomised Cool Britannia, today prefers renovating stately pad in Glos. Emperor finally unclothed with a show of paintings this year: smug, nihilistic, bad were among the kinder verdicts.
9. Stephen Fry
Even when he's wrong, he's right – as he demonstrated when he blamed the public for believing that he could ever be so stupid as to mean that thing he said about women and sex. As of November, Fry had more than two million Twitter followers, has officially reached saturation point on all media.
10. Adam Crozier
It's hard not to be just a little smug if you earn a basic £775,000-a-year and your past misjudgements never catch up with you. Crozier will earn that at ITV, which he joined as CEO. His record is questionable: hiring Sven Goran Eriksson at the Football Association and slashing jobs at the Royal Mail.
11. Personal trainers
Only three types of people can legally inflict physical pain and mental torture on innocent people for a living: PE teachers, cartoon sergeant majors, and personal trainers. Only these last are paid to do it by intelligent grown-ups, and look irritatingly buff into the bargain. Is this a real job?
12. Richard Dawkins
Atheist, humanist, and articulate critic of religious faith, but there's a point where the certainties of his own position shade into self-righteousness. This year, he led calls for Pope Benedict XVI to be arrested for "crimes against humanity". Has become godless equivalent of a fatwa-declaring imam.
13. Bob Geldof
Off-key, but beatified
The single-handed inventor of that nauseating species – the concerned celebrity. Many and considerable are his achievements, but does he always have to look like a first-year drama student being asked to assume a look of anguished compassion? Lighten up, Sir Bob.
14. Senders of e-cards
They're helping to save the planet, aren't they? No. Instead, they are saving themselves money, and the time and trouble needed to write cards and research addresses – and all the while exuding an aura of self-satisfaction. What they send is no more than festive spam.
15. Alexander Armstrong
Amusing in Armstrong & Miller, he was absolutely hilarious in BBC genealogy show Who Do You Think You Are? The look of satisfaction crossing his face as he learnt he was descended from the Marquess of Worcester, Edward II, and William the Conquerer was one of the year's comedy high spots.
16. Cath Kidston
Designer of flowery stuff
You hate yourself for liking it, but you still buy it: that twee, flowery fabric that covers everything from clothes and ironing boards to Glastonbury tents. This titan of kitsch started in 1993 in Holland Park, west London (natch). Headed for flowery world domination. Rose-patterned tanks can't be far off.
Social networking torture chamber
Began in 2000 as a forum for parents to compare the charms of their little Ralphs and Matildas. It has snowballed into an election-swinging juggernaut. Politicians used to woo trade unionists and business leaders, now they prostrate themselves before these anonymous Stepford Wives. Cosy but lethal.
18. Tony and Cherie Blair
Recriminations over Iraq and the surrender of power failed to fatally humiliate the Blairs, who serenely get richer, aided by a ludicrously self-justifying memoir. The depiction of "devouring" Cherie's love ("an animal following my instinct") proves Tony is too self-satisfied to care what we think.
19. The Prince of Wales
The prince who talks to flowers crowned himself "The defender of nature" this year, saying it was what the rest of his life would be concerned with. As they say to the people in the line-ups: "Have you come far, Sir?". The answer's "no", isn't it? You are merely what you were born.
20. Gary Lineker
It's not the puns, or "throw-away lines" (supposed to be spontaneous, but obviously laboured over for hours before the broadcast). It isn't even the relentless lack of controversy in what he says. It's the grin – the rictus of a man too successful and good-looking for his own (or anyone else's) good.
21. Nick Clegg
Global cock-up denier
Turned looking into a camera lens into a fine art in the TV election debates, forcing opponents to insist "I agree with Nick." No more. Protesters forced dog faeces through his letterbox as the smell of his burning effigy wafted through Whitehall. With tuition-fee rises passed, he insists all will be OK.
22. Rachel Johnson
Sister of Boris
Putting the Y into The Lady, Boris-in-drag first set about sacking most of its staff and hiring posher ones, and then wrote a book on how she – not they – had transformed the magazine's fortunes. Apart from authoring the smug manuals Notting Hell and Shire Hell, nobody's quite sure what she's for.
23. Kindle users
With its revolutionary new e-ink that reads just like, err, ink, the Amazon Kindle is a brilliant way of reading your favourite books, for only £149 plus the cost of the books. You can also use it to download novels while on the beach, which would be the pinnacle of smugness, if it ever happened.
24. Alan Rusbridger
Worth every penny of his £411,000 salary, and who could question The Guardian's undoubted achievements under his editorship? But why must he, and his paper, be so sanctimonious. They combine a conviction that no one else really does proper journalism with a continuously snide coverage of rivals.
25. Anish Kapoor
You can't blame him for exploiting the gullible's taste for mega-budget "art" installations. You can, however, draw the line at investing a hall of mirrors and basic shapes covered in poster-paint powder with pseudo-intellectual meaning, so going from harmless entrepreneurship to taking liberties.
26. Toby Young
How smug must you be to earn money from writing about yourself and your putative Dotheboys Hall to the exclusion of all else. Each week, The Spectator shows how his relentless networking can insinuate him, there he is, squirming with self-fascination. The screens, nurse. Time for his medication.
27. John Bercow
Former Tory MP clearly doesn't think leaving party politics means an end to verbosity. Interrupts boisterous Prime Minister's Questions to demand silence, claiming, implausibly: "The public doesn't like it". Labour activist wife and Twitterer, Sally, is a sometime political pundit. What would Betty Boothroyd say?
28. Jamie and Jools Oliver
The Sainsbury's ads started brand Jamie and Jools, who played the perfect couple to a Toploader track asserting that they "get it on most every night". As if to prove it, they've spawned four kids. The latest, Buddy Bear Maurice, joins Poppy Honey, Daisy Boo and Petal Blossom Rainbow.
29. Social-networking addicts
Facebook, Bebo, LinkedIn, and Twitter; Flickr, MySpace, Miso, and blogs. They're on them all, writing and posting all about themselves, their doings, pictures, problems, and little triumphs. All me, me, me. Look at me! Listen to me! Join me! Tweet me! Poke me! Feed me! Follow me! Watch me!
30. Jay Hunt
Sexist, ageist, and "hates women", said evidence at a tribunal last month. The Oz-born 43-year-old denies the charges, and awaits a verdict as she heads to C4. Meteoric BBC career, briefly interrupted by a spell at Five, where she lured Natasha Kaplinsky away from the Beeb. Ferocious.
31. Bike shop assistants
Wearers of Lycra
A bit like the shop "assistants" in PC World, apart from that these guys actually do have a clue; they just don't want to tell you what it is. Basically, they are cycling gods and you're a pathetic fair-weather cyclist loser with weedy thighs and helmet hair. Stop wasting their time.
32. George Osborne
As posh as David Cameron but without his common touch, he is happiest when sneering malevolently at inferiors from the Government frontbench. This multimillionaire is cutting with gusto while assuring us, with bored impatience, that "we're all in this together" – but only he fails to see the irony.
33. Gloucester Cathedral
Its jobsworths wrongly insisted that the flower arrangers – many of them ladies of a certain age – have Criminal Records Bureau checks. When their leader, a grandmother, declined and went public, the cathedral got rid of her. The congregation will now rise and sing "Deck The Halls With Boughs of Paperwork".
34. Michael Portillo
He was the future once; but electoral defeat, revelations about his private life, rejection by the Tories, and Michael Portillo was history. Hard to explain his priestly demeanour on the BBC's This Week, pontificating sombrely on the performances of colleagues who, after all, are more successful than he was.
35. James Corden
When he first came to our screens in Gavin and Stacey he was at least funny. Then he started meeting celebrities. The self-indulgent Horne and Corden show and the flop film Lesbian Vampire Killers suggest he's now more interested in dining with Posh'n'Becks than making people laugh.
As if being one of Ireland's most famous tax-phobics isn't enough, the pint-sized singer keeps going with his quest to make the world a better place. Despite having world leaders' ears, three Nobel Peace Prize nominations, and a knighthood (2007), Bono's fight against war, poverty and hunger just won't stop.
37. Alexa Chung
The high priestess of the Grazia-reading set, the 27-year-old model-presenter-whatever remains unparalleled in her ability to make a little talent go a long way – while nailing every photo opportunity with just the right look of doe-eyed superiority.
38. Matthew Wright
His fixed grin is the embodiment of excessive self-satisfaction. But he has a lot to be smug about. Just look at his website. Not only is he "one of Britain's most engaging TV journalists", but his time as a Mirror showbiz columnist saw "his larger than life personality stamp itself all over the paper." Allegedly.
39. Sir Paul Stephenson
Known as "Rusty" due to his orange perma-glow. Excelled as Ian Blair's smooth-but-steely sidekick at the Met. Segued into the top job on Blair's retirement after Stockwell shooting. Questions linger over his role. Had planned to be a shoe salesman; jury out on whether that was a better path.
40. Duke of Westminster
Gerald Grosvenor, or His Grace the Duke of Westminster to you and me, was born with a whole canteen of silver cutlery in his mouth. He's Britain's biggest landowner and holds great swathes of Mayfair and Belgravia. Slipped from third richest man in Britain with fortune at a mere £7bn.
41. Graham Norton
Over exposed, over-rated, over the top, we're so over Golden Graham. The Dublin-born comic replaced Jonathan Ross in the BBC1 Friday night slot, and assumed mantle of most slap-able face on telly. Doles out advice in The Daily Telegraph and hosts Eurovision. He's only 47. When will he calm down?
42. Gyles Brandreth
Ex-Tory MP, teddy bear collector, after-dinner speaker. Considers himself quite the learn'd funny man on BBC1's The One Show, though most of its viewers know him for the jumpers and droning voice. Forbears include Jeremy Brandreth, the last man in England beheaded for treason. If only...
43. Those who 'don't need' child benefit
Happy to confess to doing-nicely-but-with-a-social-conscience. Usually she has the decency to lay low, occasionally confiding obnoxious sanctimoniousness at dinner parties. Now, due to the cuts, she's in every paper and on every channel. Married to "I donate my winter fuel allowance to Unicef".
44. David Starkey
Just when you think Starkey can't be that bad, he sets a new standard for TV rudeness, not least to women. The expert on the monarchy (and everything else) sees no point in letting manners get in the way of a good row. Doesn't do diffidence. Has acute sense of history, especially his place in it.
45. Alan Hansen
Noted for numbingly dour assessments of footballers' frailties but still on our screens because the alternative – Alan Shearer – is even more boring. Often talks sense, but does so in a voice so marinated in certainty that the effect is not to enlighten, but annoy. You yearn for someone to verbally nutmeg him.
The emperor's new clothes-horses
Though the caricaturist Gillray was spearing "Following the Fashion" as far back as 1794, still the emperor hasn't noticed that he's wearing no clothes. It's hard work being so hip – witness Kate Moss and her dictum, "nothing tastes as good as skinny feels". Maybe she hasn't tasted chips and curry sauce.
47. Christopher Meyer
It takes a certain self-regard to wear bright red socks, as Our (former) Man in Washington proves. He presided over our entry into Iraq, wrote a book explaining how it wasn't his fault, then spent six years as the £150,000-a-year boss of the Press Complaints Commission. Brilliant mind – but to what effect?
48. Zadie Smith
Woman of letters
Having moved to New York because London was so intellectually disappointing, the author of White Teeth et al has been disappointed by America, too. A recent New York Review of Books article concerned dead squirrels, her "idea of personhood", and how disappointed she is in Facebook.
49. Nick Robinson
BBC political editor
It's not the Gucci glasses and theatrical pauses that we can't swallow, but the unshakeable self-assurance, plus the suspicion that the Oxford-educated ex-Tory is too cosy with his sources. Hard-working and professional, the trouble is he knows it. Chink in armour seen when he lost it with a protester.
50. Sam Taylor-Wood
Daughter of a "yoga teacher and astrologer", artist and film director Taylor-Wood so hated her commune name growing up that she gave her own new daughter the perfectly quotidian name Wylda Rae. Oh, and did she mention that her partner, the actor Aaron Johnson, is 23 years her junior?
Written by: Matthew Bell; Brian Brady; Matt Chorley; Emily Dugan; Katy Guest; James Hanning; Andrew Johnson; Nina Lakhani; Jonathan Owen; David Randall; John Rentoul
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