Our invitation to readers to participate in choosing the IoS Most Ludicrous Briton Award unleashed an unprecedented torrent of interactivity, voting, wit, bile, invective and, as you will see if you read on, some of the best writing a newspaper's never had to pay for. More than 4,300 of you voted, and nearly 300 readers sent in submissions online, on paper and by email to tell us who the most absurd Britons are. But the real joy for us was reading your ideas on who ought to have been on our list.
Here is but a selection:
Bernie Ecclestone: "The definition of ludicrous," wrote Adrian Brodkin of London N2, who won champagne as writer of one of the three best submissions, "is a picture of Mr Ecclestone and his now estranged wife."
Ian Hislop: Dennis Muchmore of East Sussex, another champagne winner, wrote: "Strange the editor of Britain's best-known satirical magazine has morphed into the poster boy of the slightly radical(ish) wing of the establishment." He said his documentaries on Baden Powell, railways and the Church had turned him into "a strange approximation... of Boris Johnson's older, more sensible brother." Mr Muchmore went on: "His appearances on 'Have I Got News For You' have become a good reason to switch off... He frequently displays a facial expression suggesting something unpleasant has died and rotted in his vicinity as he scorns guests and the news. His obvious distaste for the present day and its morals and manners makes one wonder why he carries on torturing himself. Satirists should have passion. Playing Lord Snooty isn't good enough."
The Dimblebys: Singled out by John Hall of Telford for the way they interrupt a panellist, "then pose a supplementary question. And pause. The panellist thinks it is now their turn to respond, and will begin. The Dimbleby will allow the first syllable before he resumes, putting the question in different words. And may even repeat the pause and continuation. This is an affectation that can turn viewers' thoughts to murder."
Robert Peston: "Should be the runaway winner," posted "K", "both for being irritating and for arguably harming the economy with ludicrously sensationalist pessimism." "Oblomov" added: "His utterly ridiculous and affected diction causes me to change channels instantly. He is bad enough on Radio 4, but when I have to see his supercilious and sneering expression on TV as well as listen to his strangulated drawl, I can feel myself reaching for the remote and wishing it was something more lethal."
Jeremy Clarkson: Well-supported nominee. "Alex" said it was "for his schtick of pretending to be ludicrously opinionated on everything because he knows that infuriating people sell papers and telly." And WB Thompson added: "Not only is he a twit but he encourages viewers to behave as stupidly on the road as he does himself."
James Nesbitt: "Jonesy" nominated the actor because he "plays every character the same way, with the same accent, regardless of where and who he's supposed to be."
Piers Morgan: "The most ludicrous Briton of them all... an archangel of trivium and artifice," wrote Iain Haywood of Canterbury, who won one of our bottles of champagne. He went on to cite Morgan's "incisive interviewing, probing deep into the psyche of troubled celebs, while maintaining an aura of palpable smugness about his own impunity and power – astounding given the disgraceful circumstances surrounding his own moment of wrist-slapping."
Simon Cowell was a popular nominee, with "Alex" fingering "his dreadful hackery masquerading as talent scouting, coupled with his new twist on exploiting the mentally ill for public ridicule."
Ringo Starr: "The Forrest Gump of the music world... complaining he would no longer be signing autographs – why doesn't he get someone to do it for him, like most of his drumming?", asked Jim Stanton, of Merseyside.
Geoff Boycott: "For his sneeringly humourless badgering of Jonathan Agnew every time they are teamed up on 'Test Match Special'," suggests Graeme Kay.
Gillian McKeith: For "single-handedly championing the recession of our medical knowledge since the Nineties" ("Andy").
Many of you wrote to demand why politicians such as Tony Blair and Gordon Brown weren't included. The reason was that we feared the poll and comments would be taken over by the party faithful, voting and posting along all too predictable lines. Many readers felt cheated by this omission, and so let fly:
Tony Blair: "Dreich" wrote: "Surely the most annoying thing is that a man who has played a very large part in wrecking global security, in destabilising the Middle East and in causing large swaths of the world with justification to hate us, is now Middle East PEACE Envoy."
Gordon Brown: "Brian" wrote: "You seem to have missed off that bumbling fool, Gordon Brown... Anyone who manages to sell half of the UK's gold stock before the price doubles and against the advice of the Bank of England really should be included as a prize chump!"
Peter Mandelson: "I don't know which is more ludicrous: the man or the systems that keep him in power," wrote Robin Petheridge.
David Cameron: was compared, by more than one correspondent, to a "smarmy estate agent".
George Osborne: "Obnoxious Tory toff who has never done a day's work in his life and then presumes to lecture the rest of us." ("Kolya")
There were also nominations for: John Prescott, Harriet Harman, Jacqui Smith, Hazel Blears, Charles Clarke, Alistair Darling and Nick Griffin.
As you can see from the voting figures, it was not just celebrities and notables who attracted criticism. Certain types, such as nannying railway announcers, also got up our collective nose. Readers were far more imaginative in their pet hates. Adrian Brodkin nominated "greedy people bringing their family heirlooms to the 'Antiques Roadshow'"; Patrick Browne of Lincoln went for "smug, self-righteous stand-up comics and their increasing occupation of inane TV quiz shows, self-appreciation shows, self-awarding shows, and, depressingly, Radio 4".
Other targets were: people in the public eye suffering from Kenneth Williams Syndrome – "the condition whereby the harder someone tries to sound intelligent, the more we become aware of just how hopelessly thick they are. Notable sufferers include Prince Charles, Rowan Williams, Ian Botham, Jamie Oliver" (John Peck of Haverfordwest); the audience at the National Lottery draw, who "applaud the machine which selects the winning numbers. Each ball selected causes the applause to rise to a crescendo. You would not expect this to happen even if every member of the audience had selected all of the winning numbers in every draw" (John Pepperdine of Norwich); and lorry drivers, "all of whom delight in overtaking each other at one mile an hour, creating miles of queuing traffic and pent-up fury. There is no case for the defence" (Tim Lewindon of Felixstowe).
Graeme Kay nominated "any journalist who feels it necessary to insert the word 'different' where it is not needed; eg three different countries, three different women"; Andie went for "obsessive, socially dysfunctional bloggers on the 'Guardian' and 'Telegraph' websites" who, he said, were "perpetually foaming at the mouth, single-issue fanatics. And they have ludicrous online names. And both papers permit them to write entire essays in their comment fields, OFTEN IN CAPITAL LETTERS." He had the style to admit his submission was "a little pot-kettle-ish". In a similar vein, Steve Wilds added: "Basically 90 per cent of people who post on that swirling maelstrom of barking headcasery known as the Have Your Say section on the BBC website."
A seasonal nomination of dithering shoppers came from "Ray": "People who queue for 10 minutes at the checkout, watch the till operator scan their goods and then decide they ... have to PAY for their shopping, which involves a five-minute hunt through their handbag (for they are surely women!), before trying to decide which card to use and then taking another 30 seconds to provide an answer when asked if they would like any cash back! Yes. I'm a temporary till operator in a large store for Christmas!!" And, in the same gender vein, "Mark" nominated women who apply make-up on the Tube, to which "Katie" replied: "Mark has obviously never been expected to portray an image which is impossible to maintain without getting up at 5.30am!!!"
Chris Meakin put up "professional footballers' twatty goal celebrations, including hand over ear, finger over lips, thumb in mouth, baby's dummy being produced from jockstrap, formation rocking of an imaginary cradle, an elaborate dance routine or pre-rehearsed animal impersonations on the ground."
There were several nominations that were a little too close to home for us to include in our original list. Chief among these, she will not be surprised to learn, was Janet Street-Porter. Since she always speaks her mind, it seems only fair to allow one of her critics to speak theirs. "Rob P" wrote: "Oh, how I love her page of 'me, me, me' every Sunday, never failing to bring a little glamour into the humdrum lives of us sad, impoverished plebs with proper jobs with her ceaseless namedropping."
Thanks to all those who pointed out that several of the 50 nominees were not Britons. We did say in the introduction to the feature last week that we had included a few foreign chums who play such a prominent part in national life that we had deemed them honorary Brits. A bit of a cheat, perhaps, but there we are.
Finally, there was one post, from "Rob", which somehow captured the spirit of this rather warped exercise. His heartfelt rant read: "Which idiot compiled this list? Half of the people or fictional characters on it just AREN'T annoying in any way at all! Bagpuss? He's just a big dopey cat (is this really annoying?), Orla Guerin – yeah, really annoying, not – she's an extremely talented and daring reporter (is the compiler jealous of her in any way), Dr Ken Boston and Michael Martin – Who the hell... ???, Alan Green (this is getting stupid). How about real twats like Russell Brand, Simon Cowell, the guy who runs Woolies, or people like Peter Andre and Jordan, Alan Sugar, Timmy Mallett and most celebs that appear on 'I'm a Celebrity...', women who carry little dogs in bags, and ones who wear sunglasses in winter (usually the same types), self-righteous Arsenal fans who think only they play attractive football, Robbie Savage, Chris Moyles, people who barge on to trains without letting others off first, Adrian Chiles, Alastair Stewart, anyone over 25 who wears skinny jeans, Bear Grylls, John Lydon, Mandelson..."
We like to feel that if the Most Ludicrous Briton Award helped us all get something off our chests, then it's been worthwhile. This therapeutic feature will return next year.
IoS results: And the winning losers are...
The Independent on Sunday Most Ludicrous Britons for 2009 are the rap-rapping, pose-striking, knife-wielding, gun-toting, homophobic urban yoof, who, with 403 votes, collected nearly one in 10 of all the 4,330 cast by the time our poll closed at 6pm last night. Second was Radio 5 Live football commentator Alan Green (pictured below) with 389, and third was Jonathan Ross with 351. Cherie Blair and the 'Daily Mail' columnist Melanie Phillips completed the top five. Here are the full results:
403 – Rap–rapping, pose–striking, knife–wielding, gun–toting, homophobic urban yoof
389 – Alan Green
351 – Jonathan Ross
270 – Cherie Blair
268 – Melanie Phillips
232 – Amy Winehouse
220 – Boris Johnson
179 – Max Mosley
167 – Ant and Dec
132 – Personal stereo owners who broadcast to the rest of the train
129 – 'EastEnders' characters who scream and shout all the time
116 – Speaker Michael Martin
114 – Whooping audiences
112 – Prince Andrew
91 – John McCririck
85 – Bullingdon Club
77 – Sir Ian Blair
75 – Middle–aged 'Doctor
71 – Ringo Starr
69 – Damien Hirst
66 – Graham Norton
59 – Golf spectators who shout, "Get in the hole!"
56 – Tony Robinson
54 – Head of Service – Inclusion and Participation Strategy and Commissioning
52 – Harry Potter
49 – Rottweiler owners
45 – Me columnists
44 – Jamie-Worrall-Ramsay-Blumenthal
38 – Nigella Lawson
34 – Banksy
33 – Alex Ferguson and Arsène Wenger; John Humphrys
25 – Giles Coren
24 – Chuggers
23 – Nannying railway announcers
22 – Dawn French
18 – Ronnie Wood
17 – Lycra fascists
16 – Orla Guerin
15 – Neil Nunes
11 – Andrew Marr
8 – Gary Lineker
7 – Ian Botham
6 – Huw Edwards; Diarmuid Gavin;
4 – Charles Moore; Bagpuss
3 – Kevin Keegan
2 – Ken Boston