Award for Major's 'words of wisdom' give Major MP prize

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The Independent Online

John Major has been named Parliamentarian of the Year for his "wise" speeches to the Commons since leaving Downing Street.

John Major has been named Parliamentarian of the Year for his "wise" speeches to the Commons since leaving Downing Street.

Judges of The Spectator award said he differed from his predecessors by continuing to speak regularly in debates, most notably on Northern Ireland. Boris Johnson, chairman of the judging panel, said he won while "out-selling one former colleague's memoirs by a factor of 140 to one". The selection panel were particularly taken with Mr Major's on-going committment to the debating process at the House of Commons given the demands placed on him in his role as a writer and public speaker.

The Peer of the Year award went to Viscount Cranborne, the Tory Lords leader sacked by William Hague for negotiating the Weatherill amendment behind his back.

Survivor of the Year was Michael Meacher, Environment Minister, who has defended government policy on genetically modified crops. He was accused of hypocrisy after criticising second homes, despite owning three dwellings.

Inquisitor of the Year was Gwyneth Dunwoody, chairwoman of the Commons Transport Select Committee, for her scrutiny of transport policy.

Backbencher of the Year was Tam Dalyell, for pressing the West Lothian Question and forcing a debate on government policy over Kosovo.

The judges said that despite his blossoming literary and public speaking career Mr Major had continued to speak regularly in debates - unlike other ex-prime ministers.

Spectator editor Boris Johnson, chairman of the judging panel, said: "In the unanimous opinion of the judges, this year's winner has distinguished the House of Commons by his mere presence, as well as by the sagacity of his speeches."

In his citation, Mr Johnson said that Mr Major had won his award while "out-selling one former colleague's memoirs by a factor of 140 to one.

He said: "He is in hot demand on the American lecture circuit and at cricketing dinners, and yet he has found time to give the House the benefit of his wisdom, notably over Ireland.

"In this respect, he differs from some of his predecessors who have, following their ejection from office, been notable in their absence."

The Huntingdon MP was "as ever, more popular than the party he led," the editor remarked.

Mr Major was presented with his award, also sponsored by Highland Park whisky, by Foreign Secretary Robin Cook at a lunch at the Savoy Hotel, central London.

Other winners included:

Inquisitor of the Year - Gwyneth Dunwoody, chair of the Commons Transport Select Committee, for her scrutiny of Government transport policy.

Campaigner of the Year - jointly to Lord Rix, for his opposition to the Welfare Reform Bill and Lord Ashley of Stoke, long-term campaigner for the disabled.

Minister to Watch - Paul Murphy, in recognition of his role in the Northern Ireland peace process.

Backbencher of the Year - Tam Dalyell for pressing the West Lothian Question and forcing a debate on Government policy over Kosovo.

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