Orwell Prize 2011 winners announced

May 17, 2011

The winners of the Orwell Prize 2011, Britain’s most prestigious prize for political writing, were announced tonight, Tuesday 17th May 2011, from 7pm at a ceremony at Church House, Westminster.

Book Prize

Tom Bingham’s The Rule of Law (Penguin) was the unanimous choice of the Book Prize judges. The book sets out to examine the oft-used but little scrutinised phrase, tracing its historical origins, setting out eight conditions which capture its essence and looking at its relationship with sovereignty and society. According to the preface, it is not addressed to lawyers, but to those ‘who have heard references to the rule of law, who are inclined to think it sounds like a good thing rather than a bad thing, who wonder if it may not be rather important, but who are not quite sure what it is all about and would like to make up their minds.’

Tom Bingham, a former master of the rolls, lord chief justice, and senior law lord, died in September 2010. His award was presented to Lady (Elizabeth) Bingham of Cornhill.

This year’s Book Prize judges were Jim Naughtie (presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Today and Bookclub programmes, former chair of the Man Booker Prize judges), Ursula Owen (founder director of Virago Press, former editor of Index on Censorship, project director of the Free Word Centre) and Will Skidelsky (books editor of The Observer).

The judges said: ‘All the judges felt that The Rule of Law was a book for our times: incisive, wise and clear. It is a book that is needed, and it is thrilling to reward a book about the law that isn’t for lawyers. It addresses the questions of freedom and order that are not only at the heart of our national debate, but touch on the upheavals around the world. And freedom and order are, of course, central to Orwell’s own work.’

Journalism Prize

This year’s Journalism Prize was awarded to Jenni Russell, for columns published by the Sunday Times and The Guardian. Russell’s winning selection included commentary and analysis on centralisation and control, class, Clegg, Brown’s bullying, prostitution and the lonely and disabled, and a call to tax those with free university degrees.

This year’s Journalism Prize judges were Martin Bright (political editor of the Jewish Chronicle, founder and chief executive of New Deal of the Mind, shortlisted for the Journalism Prize 2007) and Michela Wrong (journalist and author, previously shortlisted for the Orwell Prize for all three of her books).

The judges said: ‘Jenni Russell was the stand-out journalist in an outstanding field. Her empathy for the world beyond Westminster gives her writing an extra dimension often lacking in political insiders. There is an overriding humanity to her work, whether she is covering the death-throes of the last Labour government or the birth-pangs of the Coalition.’

Blog Prize

This year’s Blog Prize judges unanimously agreed on Graeme Archer, and his posts for ConservativeHome, as this year’s winner. Archer – ‘a 41 year old, civilly-partnered vegetarian Tory who lives in Hackney & is mildly obsessed with swimming’ – is the first Blog Prize winner writing under his own name, rather than a pseudonym. His winning posts covered everything from the coalition government to the controversy over a gay couple being turned away from a B&B, via competitive sport and open primaries.

This year’s Blog Prize judges were David Allen Green (shortlisted for the Blog Prize 2010 as ‘Jack of Kent’) and Gaby Hinsliff (journalist and blogger, former political editor of The Observer).

The judges said: ‘Graeme Archer is a blogger with wonderful elegance and clarity. Whether he writes on party politics or just about what he sees around him in Hackney, he is sharply observant and invariably thought-provoking.  His posts are engaging or disconcerting in turns, regardless of the political views of the reader.  Graeme Archer is, in the unanimous verdict of the judges, the one blogger who did most last year to make good political blogging into an art.’

The Orwell Prize

The winners came from shortlists of 6 books, 7 journalists and 7 bloggers, which had been whittled down from longlists of 18 books, 15 journalists and 22 bloggers. This followed a record number of entries – 213 books, 87 journalists and 205 bloggers.

The Book Prize, Journalism Prize and Blog Prize winners all receive £3000 prize money. All three winners were also presented with a plaque bearing Orwell’s ambition: ‘what I have most wanted to do… is to make political writing into an art.’

Unlike most literary prizes, the Orwell Prize takes writing and argument to the public throughout the year. Our next event will be at the Buxton Festival on 13th July at 10.30am. Nick Cohen (previously shortlisted for What’s Left?), Linda Grant (Orange Prize-winning novelist) and Matthew Parris (winner of the Orwell Prize for Journalism 2005) will answer the question, ‘is politics corrupted by corrupted language?’, marking the 65th anniversary of Orwell’s ‘Politics and the English Language’.

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. The Orwell Prize is Britain’s most prestigious prize for political writing. Every year, prizes are awarded to the work – for the book, for the journalism and for the blog – which comes closest to George Orwell’s ambition ‘to make political writing into an art’. Each Prize is worth £3000.

2. The Prize was founded by the late Professor Sir Bernard Crick in its present form in 1993, awarding its first prizes in 1994. The Media Standards Trust, Political Quarterly and Orwell Trust are partners in running the Prize, through the Council of the Orwell Prize. Richard Blair (Orwell’s son), A. M. Heath and Thomson Reuters are sponsors.

3. For further information, please contact the Deputy Director, Gavin Freeguard, at gavin.freeguard@mediastandardstrust.org, or on 0207 229 5722.