This time last night we were nearing the end of the 2013 Paddy Power & Total Politics Political Book of the Year Awards. It seemed a long time since the idea first emerged in a brainstorming meeting last summer. It really was the most fantastic evening. Four hundred people packed into the IMAX cinema on the South Bank, a mix of politicians, publishers and assorted celebs. I arrived midway through the afternoon along with my colleagues from Biteback who had done all the legwork for the event. I must admit that as I sat through the rehearsals I was wondering about all the buttons being pressed at the right time. The saying ’It’ll be alright on the night’ was one which sprung to my ever hopeful mind. And it was! The only hitch was that we started 15 minutes late as it proved impossible to corral 400 people into the cinema from the drinks reception. But we finished on time at 9.30, after a very memorable 75 minutes.
Gyles Brandreth proved to be an inspired host, and had the audience in stitches throughout the event. One reason I chose him to compere the evening was that I knew that if there were any technical teething problems he would be able to brush it off so no one noticed. As it turned out, there weren’t any, or if there were, they were so minor that few people noticed. But they, and Gyles, did indeed notice this fabulous pair of pins and the stockings that adorned them. Who did they belong to? Jemima Khan? Fiona Phillips? The answer is at the bottom of this blogpost… Prepare yourself for a shock.
The first award went to Ian McEwan who won political fiction book of the year with Sweet Tooth (Jonathan Cape).
Other winners included Ian Cobain, who picked up £3,000 for debut political book of the year with Cruel Britannia: A Secret History of Torture (Portobello Books). Political biography of the year was won by W Sydney Robinson with Muckraker: The Scandalous Life and Times of WT Stead (Robson Books).
Telegraph cartoonist Matthew Pritchett won the political humour/satire category with The Best of Matt 2012 (Orion), a collection of his cartoons. Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu and James A Robinson (Profile Books) picked up the international affairs award. Journalist Nick Cohen won polemic of the year with You Can’t Read This Book (Fourth Estate), and made the best acceptance speech of the night.
Christopher Duggan won history book of the year with Fascist Voices (Bodley Head). HarperCollins picked up another accolade with Sherard Cowper-Coles’ Ever the Diplomat (HarperPress) winning political process book of the year.
At the end of the evening veteran politician Tony Benn won the lifetime achievement in political literature award, presented by former MP and diarist Chris Mullin. We played a three minute segment of a wonderful video which has been made recently. I am a huge fan of his diaries and have read all nine volumes. He’s signed them all for me. Even someone like me who disagrees with him on most things (apart from Europe and parliamentary democracy) can see what a giant among pygmies he has been.
The main political book of the year award went to Caroline Shenton who wrote ‘The Day Parliament Burned Down’ (OUP). It’s a brilliant book. I’m sad to say that the book was offered to Biteback to publish but we didn’t take it up. The one that got away.
I did have one disappointment though. Unbeknown to me Irish politician Senator David Norris was in the audience, and no one told me. I’m reading his autobiography at the moment, ‘A Kick Against the Pricks’ and it is truly wonderful. I so wish I had got to meet him.
The evening went so well that Paddy Power immediately committed themselves to sponsor the event next year. Lord Ashcroft has done the same, and I also had two more approaches from companies who wish to associate themselves with the event. I really couldn’t ask for more. These events couldn’t exist without sponsorship and I am very grateful to both Lord Ashcroft and Paddy Power.
Bearing in mind my company only has 11 employees, and none of them has organised an awards ceremony before, I think my team were heroes. In particular Suzanne Sangster and Katy Scholes have worked their socks off to make this event a success, and yesterday really pulled it off. Katy is very young but took total charge yesterday and it’s a pleasure to see her blossom.
You can buy any of the shortlisted books HERE
The full list of judges and books nominated are all on the Political Book Awards website
Roll on 2014!
- The legs and stockings belonged to Ann Widdecombe!