In fact, it really has been an extraordinary year for the previously underwhelming to stand up and be counted. My first choice is a man who lost a Presidential Election and seemed to have reached his peak as the Junior Senator from Massachusetts, until Hilary Clinton decided to run for President and created a vacancy at Secretary of State. My Diplomat of the Year is John Kerry, who managed to negotiate a historic nuclear arms deal with Iran and seems to have realised that, if Sunni Muslim ISIS is to be defeated, then Shia Iran must be part of the solution.
My Journalist of the Year is Dan Hodges of the Telegraph. When everyone else was in thrall to the opinion polls predicting a hung parliament, Hodges stuck like a limpet to his belief that Ed Miliband was unelectable and that ‘shy’ Tories would flock to Cameron’s banner when it came to the crunch. With hindsight his predictions in the run-up to the poll seem like common sense, but it takes guts to put your neck out there and swim against the tide.
Political Consultant of the Year is Lynton Crosby, the mastermind behind the Tory election victory. It was Crosby’s strategy for the Tories to devour its young, namely the LibDems, targeting them mercilessly in crunch seats. The fact that we have the first outright Conservative election win since 1992 is testament to his strategic abilities, which many mocked.
2015 is also the first year in my life that I have developed a man crush, when the ‘Supreme Being’ arrived on Merseyside in the form of Jurgen Klopp. His press conferences are hilarious. If you haven’t seen his interview with a nine-year old Liverpool supporter click here. He has not only energised a football club with his touchy feely hugs for the players, he’s energised an entire city, with the term Klopp-mania being added to the English language, in the wake of him being mobbed on Hardman Street when he tried to go out for a drink with his wife.
There is a wider point here, he’s a fantastic communicator. Herr Klopp regards the media not as something to do battle with, like Mourinho and Ferguson, but rather a conduit to his key stakeholder, namely the fans. If anyone is wondering what to get me for Xmas, all I really want is a hug from Jurgen.
I can’t let the year pass without a word about our Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne. At times he’s been lucky (“Give me lucky Generals” as Napoleon said) not least with John McDonnell letting him off over the tax credits u-turn. But, he’s also shown enormous strategic vision, not least with his Northern Powerhouse initiative and his willingness to engage with Labour Council leaders in the North, like Joe Anderson in Liverpool and Howard Bernstein in Manchester, who have been starved of attention from Labour’s metropolitan, in other words London, elite. Clever politics? Yes, but also potentially very good for the country as a whole.
They say that ‘Cometh the hour, cometh the man’ and this year two politicians have stood out and defied expectations. Hilary Benn’s speech to the House of Commons during the Syria debate in early December was a tour-de-force performance, which speared his own party leader’s arguments and set out clearly the case for further UK involvement, namely that there is a United Nations Security Council Resolution (of which we are a permanent member Jeremy Corbyn, in case you hadn’t noticed) and the French, one of our oldest allies, have asked for our help. He might just be the man, given the chance, to save the Labour Party from itself.
However, there is another individual who has shown real leadership this year. His opinion poll ratings have been as low as 20%. He’s been ridiculed for riding around Paris on a moped to visit his mistress. His ex-partner wrote a kiss and tell book about him, which was excruciating. He’s been widely regarded as being unfit to fill the boots of one of the giants of the French political left, Francois Mitterrand.
And yet, his willingness to engage ISIS, even before the Paris attacks, show a depth of understanding about Middle Eastern affairs which others have lacked. More importantly, in the aftermath of the Paris attacks he has been decisive and shown real leadership, whilst never allowing his rhetoric to become inflammatory or divisive. He has acted as a lightning rod for French grief, taking the fears of a nation on shoulders that seemed, only a few short weeks ago, to be unfit for the job at hand.
My Man of the Year is the President of France, Francois Hollande.