2010's winners and losers

The winner takes it all
The winner takes it all

Welcome to politics.co.uk's rundown of this year's big political winners and losers.

By Peter Wozniak

It's been a long year, which started with Gordon Brown besieged in No 10 after the latest in a succession of attempted 'mini-coups'. Since then we've seen political titans emerge and fade away in a rollercoaster of events, centred around the May general election. How has coalition changed the profiles of previously unknown Lib Dems? Are we seeing the emergence of a new political generation? Where, oh where on Earth does one put Nick Clegg? Find out below.


5: Iain Duncan Smith - The work and pensions secretary has forged a new career for himself as the standard bearer for massive welfare reform.

Cast into the political wilderness after his disastrous leadership of the Tories, he has emerged like a man reborn.

Now a true heavyweight in the Cabinet, he has scrapped his corner well in the spending review to push through his cherished 'universal credit' plans.

In doing so, IDS has achieved what many ageing politicians dream of but rarely achieve - a return from the political dead.

4: Nick Clegg - The year can almost be boiled down entirely to the rise and fall of the leader of the Liberal Democrats - so much so that the party's leader appears in both of these lists. In January, one could honestly say that I had as much chance of achieving high office as he did, for the very simple reason that no-one knew who the devil this man was.

Even at the Lib Dem spring conference, journalists were still doing the usual trick of going round the streets with a picture of Clegg, collecting bemused expressions and hilarious misguesses. We had grown used to the unearthly groan from all sides of the Commons when he rose to ask his two allotted questions of Gordon Brown, who treated the Lib Dem leader with undisguised contempt and patronage.

And then, one fateful day in April, the nation tuned into ITV's first televised leaders' debate and a star was born. Cleggmania may not have done the Lib Dems much good electorally in the end, but the prominence of the man himself breached the stratosphere in spectacular fashion.

You might argue it's incorrect to put Mr Clegg in the winners' column given the stupendous revulsion in which he is currently held by many in the wider public - thus why he appears so far down. But, as someone presumably famous once said, it is far better to be hated than ignored. The man has gone from a political non-entity in March to deputy prime minister in May. If this is a test of how far a politician's eminence has grown, one need only look at the contrasting path of Mr Brown to know that Nick Clegg has, like it or no, become a permanent fixture in British politics.

3: Danny Alexander - In 2005 Danny Alexander worked as a press officer for the Cairngorms national park. Now he is chief secretary to the Treasury. That rather says it all.

But perhaps we should elaborate. Alexander has embedded himself so deeply into the fabric of the coalition that he represents this 'seismic shift' in British politics better than anything except the bond between David Cameron and Nick Clegg. It is he who has a hand on the real reins of policy in this unusual government - the so-called quad of Cameron, Clegg, Osborne and himself. Gone are the days of Blair's sofa government, and Brown's bludgeoning tactics. This country is now run by committee. And Danny Alexander sits on it.

2: Ed Miliband - The younger Miliband has pulled off a meteoric rise to the top of the political scene - not so much for his achievements since ascending to the Labour leadership, but for the Machiavellian drama that unfolded before.

Labour's new figurehead has not had an especially easy time of it in his new duties. First he had to fight off the tag of 'Red Ed' from the tabloids, then deal with huge numbers of disgruntled Blairites. Finally he was lambasted for not coming up with fully-formed policies to combat the coalition radical reform of the state.

Why does he belong in this list, therefore? Firstly, because managing a party getting used to the other side of the Commons for the first time in 13 years is no mean feat.

Secondly, no-one had heard of him at the beginning of the year and no-one gave him much of a chance even during that impossibly long leadership contest. And yet, Ed Miliband has clawed his way to the top in the most dramatic fashion possible - at the expense of his own brother.

1: David Cameron - Things may change for David Cameron fairly soon, but he ends 2010 having grown in stature and substance tenfold since January.

The entire Labour campaign centred around Cameron and his presentation as a slick but insubstantial politician. A vacuum of values, a mere façade so wonderfully parodied on the now infamous "We can't go on like this" posters.

It's rather telling that those sorts of attacks have barely been levelled at the man since the election. True, some of the mud flung at him for his allegedly patrician tendencies has stuck.

But something seems to have happened to the man - and literally as soon as he walked through the door of No 10.

Suddenly the wet PR man was replaced by the principled and decisive leader - the man you want in Downing Street during a crisis. Maybe he simply benefits by comparison after the long, long demise of his predecessor, but he seems to have gained a level of respect as prime minister that no-one expected of him as leader of the opposition.

True, he did not lead the Conservatives to a majority, but that has actually strengthened, rather than weakened, his hold on government.

Rather than wrestling with his eurosceptic backbenches, his marriage with Clegg has given him free reign to continue his long, slow reform of the Tory party into something politically acceptable.

So, a year of ups and ups for our new prime minister. Time will tell whether the warm blanket of his new reputation lasts by the time we write this feature next year.


5: Michael Gove It's been a terrible year for the new education secretary. The former Times columnist won huge praise early on for his burgeoning intellect and radical ideas. His 'free schools' programme was supposed to be a flagship of Conservative thinking. Much of the endorsement the party derived from the right-wing press revolved around this policy.

Nothing has been so injurious to Mr Gove's reputation as being in government. His school reforms are progressing in a stop-start, haphazard fashion, ridiculed by many of the people he's supposed to be bringing on board.

Watching him being torn apart at the despatch box by Ed Balls was a thoroughly unpleasant sight for the government.

Instead of the respected intellectual, Gove has come across as very much the steward of the ivory tower, possessed of a chilly grandeur that makes even David Cameron seem slightly common.

4: David Miliband - The heir apparent to the Labour crown has been cast in the most Shakespearian fashion into the political netherworld. at least for the time being.

Had you asked any political punters who to put their money on at the beginning of the Labour leadership campaign, this is the Miliband they would have had a flutter with. Many of them did.

Being utterly subsumed by his own brother has clearly not sat well with the former foreign secretary, who had seemed pre-destined to win the contest. To be fair to him, he handled it fairly well, holding off from the announcement that he would not serve in Ed's shadow Cabinet so as not to distract media attention from his brother's first conference speech.

Since September we have seen and heard virtually nothing from David Miliband. His political year began when Gordon Brown left Downing Street. It ended in that room in Manchester.

3: Nick Clegg - Him again. How the mighty are fallen. The deputy prime minister's stratospheric status has taken such a beating in the last few months that he deserves a place in both of these lists.

Clegg may now be the most loathed man in British politics. His figure has been burnt in effigy in Parliament Square and the screams of "betrayal" and "Tory scum" seem to gather with each passing week.

The Lib Dem leader has effectively thrown himself to the lions for the sake of the government's stability. The E-coli bacteria has a less tarnished reputation. The tuition fees saga may yet break the man entirely, but through it all Clegg himself has been serenely unperturbed, even bullishly confident, prompting several of us here at politics.co.uk towers to wonder what on earth the man puts in his breakfast.

He may yet emerge with some faint respect later in the life of this government for his unpopular stand, but he ends 2010 more reviled than any British politician since. well, since Gordon Brown.

2: Vince Cable - The business secretary now constantly looks as though someone has just shot his dog. And then ran it over for good measure.

It is not without reason. He ends the year suffering after a humiliation following a sting operation by the Telegraph - forcing Cameron and Clegg to strip him of the responsibility for the crucial BSkyB deal.

Revered in January for his sage-like snippets of economic wisdom, he has now learnt the bitter realities of government the hard way. He also hasn't benefited from being utterly superseded as the most well-known Lib Dem by Nick Clegg.

Unlike his party leader, Cable has had a difficult adjustment to life in coalition. The odium he held for now-chancellor George Osborne was so badly concealed in those heady days in May that he might as well have been wearing a billboard.

Only Nick Clegg has endured more of a hammering on the issue of tuition fees. While it's true that Cable hasn't, as many predicted, left the government and consigned himself to political oblivion, he is not a happy chappy. Not by a long way.

1: Gordon Brown - Poor Gordon Brown. It is a sign of how far his star has fallen that he is regarded now not so much with anger but with pity.

Although he had had a torrid time as prime minister even before 2010 began, it was only to get worse for the man who had waited so long to achieve his life's ambition - only to realise he wasn't nearly as good at it as he thought he was.

Worse was to come during the election campaign. Awkward chats with the public, a frankly weird party rally attended by an Elvis impersonator, an unsurprisingly mediocre performance in the TV debates - everything paled to insignificance to the now infamous encounter with Gillian Duffy in Rochdale.

Watching Brown having the recording of his off-camera comments about that "bigoted woman" replayed to him in a radio station booth, as his head sunk improbably deeper and deeper into his hands, one actually felt some empathy for him - a sure sign his political career was over.

The demise of Gordon Brown represents the passing of a political era. There is no longer room for the clunking fist, it seems.

Since his departure, Brown has been notable by his absence. Even his book on the financial crisis isn't doing particularly well. Brown the politician may have died. Even so, Brown the man himself appears positively relieved. After the year he's had, we can't bring ourselves to begrudge him a quiet Christmas and new year in Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath.


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