There is a “trust deficit” in our country. As if financial mismanagement, the parliamentary expenses scandal, the Jimmy Savile affair, the hacking of phones on an industrial scale and lack of confidence in the police following the Hillsborough cover-up were not enough, we have now witnessed the scandalous neglect of NHS patients in Mid-Staffordshire. To add insult to injury, the fact that we cannot even have confidence over what is contained in our frozen lasagne really takes the “beef”. The British public are fed-up.
It is those that never dare to question the status quo who seem to prosper. Where are our whistleblowers, our leaders of principle, our campaigners for freedom of information and human rights? Where do we find our heroes of conscience who demonstrate independence, courage and sacrifice? These people go against the grain and put their head above the parapet. They cannot be silenced or bought-off. They refuse to have an integrity by-pass. It is such individuals that the Contrarian Prize seeks to recognise.
The Prize, which was launched in September 2012, invited nominations from the public. The response has been very positive. Having received scores of submissions, the judging panel has shortlisted five candidates: Giles Fraser, Heather Brooke, Peter Tatchell, Michael Woodford and Nigel Farage. None went to Oxbridge, none is a member of the Westminster parliament, and two were born outside the UK.
This former Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral resigned in protest over the potential forcible removal of the “Occupy London” protestors outside St Paul’s Cathedral in 2011. He stated that he could not face the prospect of, "Dale Farm on the steps of St Paul's". As a result of his stance he felt he had no choice but to resign and is now a parish priest at St Mary's, Newington in Elephant and Castle. Had he not made a sacrifice on principle he might be well be on the path to becoming a bishop.
This freedom of information campaigner, academic and journalist spent five years fighting for MPs to come clean about their expenses under the Freedom of Information Act. She took her case to the information tribunal to appeal for disclosure in the face of opposition from the Commons authorities. She was then forced to go to the High Court to defend her case and won. The judge stated that the Commons expenses system had, “a shortfall both in terms of transparency and accountability”. Was it not for her persistence, the British public might still be in the dark about expenses abuse that had become endemic
Tatchell is a human-rights campaigner who has spearheaded the fight for equal rights, particularly for gay people, for decades. He showed physical courage when he sought to perform a citizen’s arrest on President Mugabe in 1999 and then again in 2001 for alleged human rights abuses against gay people and was beaten by his bodyguards. He still suffers from head-injuries as a result. He opposed the Iraq war and resigned from the Labour Party in 2000, having previously stood as a parliamentary candidate, over its treatment of Ken Livingstone.
This CEO turned whistleblower exposed a $1.7 billion fraud at the heart of Olympus, the world-renowned electronics giant. He acted from the top of an organisation for which he had worked for 30 years, despite intimidation and coercion from the very people that promoted him. He was fired, gave up a seven-figure salary. and spent almost £1 million of his own money defending himself. He put his own life and that of his family in danger because he spoke out. Woodford has said that he was driven by principle and the desire to expose what happened in an effort to “make us all safer”.
As Leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) he has been at the forefront of making the debate of Britain’s relationship with Europe, a mainstream political issue. Having left the Conservative Party in 1992 to found UKIP, he has tirelessly explained how much it would benefit the British people if the UK left the European Union and governed itself fully. Indefatigable and never afraid to advocate his own ideas, he has been central to the increasing popularity of his party which is now polling more than the Liberal Democrats.
Whether one agrees with the views of these individuals or not, there is no doubt that they have taken a stand for what they believe. The winner of the Contrarian Prize 2013 will be announced at the inaugural prize-giving ceremony in London on Monday 18 March.
The writer is a Chartered Accountant and former Conservative parliamentary candidate.