by MONITOR
THE annual awards for parliamentary performance made jointly by the House magazine and the BBC were announced on Friday in London. And very odd they were. The Minister of the Year was judged to have been Estelle Morris who resigned as Education Secretary last autumn because she felt she wasn't doing a very good job. Perhaps the award recognised her honesty which, after all, is a rare commodity in the House of Commons. Anyway, she is now a minister again, having been give the Arts portfolio in Tony Blair's recent re–shuffle. The Guardian's political editor Michael White was named as best print journalist for the “lightness of touch and wisdom” shown in his writing. Few people would quarrel with that judgement, but there is a sub–text of some interest; ten years or so ago, when they were both in different jobs, he and Alastair Campbell had a punch–up over some point of principle. Is the award a belated thank–you to Mr White? The most coveted of these House/BBC parliamentary awards is, of course, for Best Speech of the Year. This went to the Prime Minister for his Commons speech on March 18 when he rallied a sufficient number of Labour backbenchers behind his policy on Iraq to quash the amendment against it which some of them had tabled. This must be a controversial award; no one doubts the effectiveness of the speech as oratory but there are now plenty of Labour MPs who were won over by its persuasiveness who wonder whether they were misled about the imminence of the Iraqi threat and the existence of weapons of mass destruction.