Former Liberal leader, Lord Steel of Aikwood, was honoured this week at the Political Studies Association’s Annual Awards ceremony, writes Mark Entwistle.
The annual awards dinner honours the contribution made by politicians, academics, journalists and campaigners to the political landscape during the past year.
Now in their eighth year, the awards attracted a high-profile audience of ministers, backbench MPs, peers, civil servants, journalists, academics, commentators and authors.
Before becoming a member of the House of Lords in 1997, Lord Steel was a Borders MP from 1965 to 1997 and was the first Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament.
Lord Steel was presented with the prestigious Lifetime Achievement in Politics title, an award which pays tribute to his commitment to politics.
Competition judges summarised their reasoning as follows: “Since his election to the House of Commons in 1965, David Steel has played a leading role in British politics.
“Indeed, it is difficult to comprehend the scale and extent of this contribution due to the manner in which it has taken so many forms.
“From his Private Members Bill that led to the Abortion Act of 1967 right through to his role within the Scottish Parliament and more recently within the House of Lords, David Steel’s life and politics deserves to be recognised.
“He is an excellent candidate for a Lifetime Achievement in Politics award.
“After a lifetime of political achievements, Steel still remains a prominent voice in politics. He has recently raised concerns over plans to pursue an 80 per cent elected House of Lords and Nadine Dorries’ attempt to amend the Health Bill.
“Of this latter legislation he argued: ‘Under the Abortion Act, the Department of Health has complete power over licensing and delicensing clinics. If there were any evidence of failure to carry out proper counselling of patients, they can close clinics. More positively, there is nothing to stop them issuing guidelines on counselling if they think that necessary. There is no need to amend the Health Bill’.”
This year’s competition was fierce.
Politician of the Year, Alex Salmond, against all odds, won a parliamentary majority in Scotland.
Jon Snow of Channel 4 News hosted the awards dinner, which was held in the heart of Westminster at Church House.
Other winners last night included:
Parliamentarian of the Year – Ed Balls.
Backbencher of the Year – Stephen Dorrell, Tom Watson.
Lifetime Achievement in Politics – Lord (Michael) Heseltine
Engaging the Public – Women’s Hour, BBC Radio 4
Political Journalist – Danny Finkelstein
Broadcast Journalist – Evan Davis