In the year that proved “voters always have the last word,” the United Kingdom’s Political Studies Association honored noteworthy academics, journalists, politicians, political campaigners and policy-makers who have made significant contributions to the conduct and study of politics.
Among the academics honored at the ceremony held at Westminster on November 29 was Anne Phillips, the Graham Wallas professor of political science and professor of political and gender theory at the London School of Economics, who received the Sir Isaiah Berlin Prize for Lifetime Contribution to Political Studies. The annual awards, now in their 15th year, are sponsored by SAGE Publishing, which publishes the PSA journals and is the parent of Social Science Space.
The J. M. Mackenzie Book Prize went to Christopher Hood and Ruth Dixon for their work, A Government that Worked Better and Cost Less? Hood, now an emeritus fellow of All Souls College at Oxford, was director of the ESRC Research Programme Public Services: Quality, Performance and Delivery from 2004 to 2010. Dixon is a researcher at the Blavatnik School of Government and associate member of the Department of Politics and International Relations at Oxford University.
Kings College London professor Anand Menon, director at the UK in a Changing Europe Initiative, won the Political Studies Communicator award for his contribution to the dissemination of evidence-based information on the UK’s role in Europe and the EU Referendum. “I hope,” he said in accepting the award, “despite the noise we heard about ‘experts’ during the referendum, that our work has shown to MPs, civil servants, journalists, business people, civil society – and indeed to academics themselves – that we have an important role to play in both analyzing policy and informing public and political debate.”
Criminology professor Phil Scraton of Queen’s University Belfast and Margaret Aspinall, founding member and chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, jointly received the Campaigners of the Year award for their work exposing the truth of the what happened during the 1989 football stadium disaster that killed 96.
The PSA judging panel felt the pair typified the resilience of the bereaved families, campaigning with extraordinary courage, determination and dignity to challenge the official view of events amid pressure from the establishment, politicians, the South Yorkshire Police and elements of the media who blamed supporters for the tragedy. “While the Hillsborough Independent Panel’s [which he was part of] report and the inquest verdict placed responsibility at the doors of those responsible and exonerated the fans,” Scaton said, “it is regrettable that it took nearly three decades and the passing of many family members to achieve justice.”
Canada’s Michael Ignatieff, former leader of the nation’s Liberal Party and at Harvard’s Kennedy Center until his September appointment as president and rector of the Central European University in Budapest, was presented with the International Recognition Award by John Bercow, speaker of the House of Commons. “Not only has Ignatieff been a leading figure in the study and public understanding of politics, democracy, human rights and governance for several decades,” the PSA judges wrote, “but he has also ‘stepped into the political arena’ himself as an active politician in the combative world of Canadian politics.”
The appreciation for academic insight was echoed by the Best Use of Evidence award which went to Lord Stern of Brentford for his role in elevating climate change to the top of the political agenda in the mid-to-late 2000s. The judges also acknowledged his “robust approach leading up to, during, and following the Paris Climate Change Conference in late 2015, acknowledged as being an important part of a significant global diplomatic achievement.”
The Innovation in Teaching Politics Award was won by Matthew Wyman of Keele University. Wyman, whose academic interests include contemporary Russian politics and political education, has received a number of other awards in recent years recognizing his achievements in learning and teaching at Keele.
Other awards went to:
Contemporary artist Grayson Perry, awarded the Contribution to the Arts and Culture Award for the “beautiful and eloquent way in which he uses art to help the public better understand and interpret the politics of contemporary modern life in the broadest sense.”
The BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg (Broadcaster of the Year) and The Times’ Rachel Sylvester (Journalist of the Year) were recognized for their services to political journalism in 2016.
Ruth Davidson MSP was awarded Best Use of Social Media for the way she has tackled homophobic abuse on Twitter. Baroness Angela Smith of Basildon, Labour’s leader in the House of Lords, was named Parliamentarian of the Year for “harnessing the second chamber in challenging the government and holding it to account on a number of significant issues, particularly in light of ineffective opposition in the House of Commons.”
Sir John Chilcot was presented with the Enlightening the Public award on behalf of the Iraq Inquiry which “significantly helped public understanding of the UK’s involvement in Iraq from 2001-2009.”
Sadiq Khan and Gordon Brown were also recognized but were unable to attend. Khan was named Politician of the Year for his “firm resolve in rising above divisive opposition tactics during the London mayoral election campaign, the substance of his policies, and for engaging positively with voters and seeking to build bridges across a fractured political landscape.” Former prime minister and chancellor Brown received the Lifetime Achievement in Politics award.
The Democratic Innovation went to Democracy Matters Citizens’ Assembly Project and the PSA Student Short Video Competition was won by Christleton High School in Chester.