Political Studies Association honours the great and good of 2016 - the year that proved “voters always have the last word”

  • Grayson Perry celebrated for Contribution to the Arts and Culture
  • Canada’s Michael Ignatieff among academic winners
  • Chair of Hillsborough Family Support Group and Member of the Hillsborough Independent Panel named Campaigners of the Year
  • Baroness Angela Smith, Sadiq Khan, Gordon Brown, Ruth Davidson and the Iraq Inquiry awarded for their contributions to politics.




    At the Political Studies Association’s (PSA) 15th Annual Awards Ceremony held on 29 November in Westminster, it was clear that it was not just politicians that have shaped the political agenda of 2016.

    The PSA recognised campaigners, artists, academics and the media as well as those in power, for their outstanding contributions to the study and conduct of politics in this extraordinary year. 

    Contemporary artist, Grayson Perry, was 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.”

    On receiving the award Perry said: “Art and culture are always delivering political messages over and under the radar. How a dancer dances, how a camera moves, how an artist draws, these things communicate in a language often unavailable to traditional politicians.”

    Margaret Aspinall, founding member and Chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group and Professor Phil Scraton (Queen’s University Belfast) of the Hillsborough Independent Panel, picked up the Campaigners of the Year Award. 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.

    On behalf of all the families of victims of the Hillsborough disaster, Aspinall publically thanked Scraton for standing alongside them and said: “At last we have the truth -  they were all unlawfully killed - and we are now waiting to find out if accountability is to follow.”

    Scraton said: “While the Hillsborough Independent Panel's Report and the inquest verdict placed responsibility at the doors of those responsible and exonerated the fans it is regrettable that it took nearly three decades and the passing of many family members to achieve justice.” 

    Professor Anand Menon, Director at the UK in a Changing Europe Initiative, won the Political Studies Communicator Award for his important contribution to the dissemination of evidence-based information on the UK’s role in Europe and the EU Referendum, which was crucial in helping to inform the public.

    Menon said: “I hope, 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 analysing policy and informing public and political debate.”

    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.”

    Canada’s Professor Michael Ignatieff was presented with the International Recognition Award by Rt Hon John Bercow MP, Speaker of the House of Commons. The judges said: “Not only has Ignatieff been a leading figure in the study and public understanding of politics, democracy, human rights and governance for several decades but he has also ‘stepped into the political arena’ himself as an active politician in the combative world of Canadian politics”. Ignatieff said: “At a time when borders are going up, I’m delighted that the PSA is reaching out and acknowledging international work in human rights and democracy.”

    The BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg (Broadcaster of the Year) and The Times’ Rachel Sylvester (Journalist of the Year) were recognised for their impressive services to political journalism in 2016. Sylvester was presented with her award by Dominic Grieve QC MP and said: "Politics is never boring but this has been an extraordinary year to cover. As thrilling as it was unpredictable, it's been a reminder that politicians and even journalists can make a difference but that voters still always have the last word. I'm honoured to receive this award at the end of such a momentous period."

    On the politician front those in Opposition fared well. Ruth Davidson MSP was awarded Best Use of Social Media for the way she has tackled homophobic abuse on Twitter. The Scottish Conservative leader was unable to attend and so comedian Matt Forde picked up the prize on her behalf. In a video message she warned users “There's a darker side to social media. Whether trolling from lone keyboard warriors, to coordinated mob attacks, to the increasing spread of 'fake news', it can be a nasty, mean, dangerous place. All of us have a responsibility to use these tools wisely. Politicians more so than most.”

    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.”

    Baroness Smith, the fifth consecutive woman to be named Parliamentarian of the Year by the PSA, said: “Being in Opposition is tough. But in the House of Lords, Labour peers have been dedicated in our work scrutinising government legislation and doing what we can to take the sharpest edges off ill-thought out and damaging policies.”

    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.” Looking forward, the judges acknowledged the insights on the importance of rigorous ministerial discussion and collective responsibility in government decision-making. 

    Sadiq Khan and Gordon Brown were also recognised but were unable to attend. Sadiq 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”. Gordon Brown received the Lifetime Achievement in Politics Award for his "significant contribution to British politics, serving as Prime Minister and Chancellor, and now playing an active and influential role outside Parliament, including campaigning in the referendums on Scottish Independence and UK membership of the European Union and doing so passionately and with authority and dignity”

    ENDS //

    The full list of winners:

    Parliamentarian of the Year - Baroness Smith of Basildon

    Politician of the Year - Sadiq Khan

    Broadcaster of the Year - Laura Kuenssberg

    Best Use of Evidence - Politician - Lord Stern of Brentford

    Enlightening the Public - The Iraq Inquiry

    Lifetime Achievement in Politics - Gordon Brown

    Best Use of Social Media - Ruth Davidson

    Campaigners of the Year - Margaret Aspinall and Professor Phil Scraton

    International Recognition Award - Professor Michael Ignatieff

    Journalist of the Year - Rachel Sylvester

    Contribution to the Arts and Culture - Grayson Perry

    Democratic Innovation - Democracy Matters Citizens’ Assembly Project

    Innovation in Teaching Politics - Dr Matthew Wyman

    Political Studies Communicator - Professor Anand Menon

    W. J. M. Mackenzie Book Prize - Professor Christopher Hood and Dr Ruth Dixon

    Sir Isaiah Berlin Prize for Lifetime Contribution to Political Studies - Professor Anne Phillips

    PSA Student Short Video Competition - Christleton High School, Chester

      Notes to editors 

      • The 15th Annual PSA Awards was held at Church House, Westminster, London on 29 November 2016 to celebrate noteworthy academics, journalists, politicians, political campaigners and policy-makers who have made significant contributions to the conduct and study of politics.
      • This year’s Awards Jury included Robert Barrington (Executive Director, Transparency International), Stephen Khan (Editor, The Conversation) Marjorie Wallace (CEO, SANE) and Professor Matthew Flinders (Chair, PSA).
      • The Awards were sponsored by SAGE Publications, Routedge, Elsevier, the Alliance for Useful Evidence and YouGov.
      • Photos from the event will be available from Wednesday 30 November via the PSA Flickr account.
      • The Awards ceremony will be broadcast by BBC Parliament at 22:00 on 3 December and available to view on BBC iPlayer from 1 December.
      • Follow social media coverage of the awards at @PolStudiesAssoc and #PSAAwards.
      • Please contact Stefanie Mair, Communications and Media Relations at the PSA with any other media enquiries: stefanie.mair@psa.ac.uk // 0207 321 2454.
      • The Political Studies Association has been working since 1950 to develop and promote the study of politics. It is the leading UK Association in its field, with an international membership including academics in political science and current affairs, theorists and practitioners, policy-makers, researchers and students.