Had a lovely time last night in the domed wood-panelled hall of Church House in Westminster for the Orwell Prize winners announcement.
Bunged up with bronchitis as I was, there was no way I was going to miss this event. Lots of mates turned up in support (thank you, guys 'n' gals) and I hung around with fellow shortlisters Laurie (Penny Red) and David (Jack of Kent) but missed Hopi Sen and Tim Marshall.
I was convinced that either David or Laurie would win. Laurie because she is a rising young woman writer of the left and talented youth is what we majorly need. Or David because he has had some spectacular wins in the last month or so, taking his vorpal Sword of Truth to the antedeluvian libel laws on behalf of Simon Singh and Dave Osler. Plus they are both clear and passionate writers (Laurie is rilly passionate) and clarity is a quality Orwell considered vital to good political writing.
Blog prize judge Richard Horton, last year's winner, said that it's no coincidence that as Labour has gone into opposition there's been a growth of organic voices from the left, reflected in the shortlist. He said of Madam Miaow:
"Every post is entertaining and informative. From the impact of the X-Factor on Chinese diplomacy to the inner voice of Tony Blair as he looks in the shaving mirror every morning, and what must that be like. This is a blog that doesn't do the obvious. It doesn't do big news or big issues. It follows the writer's own agenda, it goes outside the commentariat, and we thought it was all the better for that."
Which, of course, softened the blow when Winston Smith got it (hey, the name alone clinches it). He couldn't be present in person due to his activity behind enemy lines so his publisher accepted the prize on his behalf. Well done, Winston, whoever you are. And even though you refer to those at the bottom of society as the "underclass".
Peter Hitchens won the prize for journalism. I sort of expected this. I disagree with his politics, obviously, but he is utterly sincere about his beliefs and betrays no cynicism.
Andrea Gillies won the book prize with Keeper. I know nothing about this but it looks like a fascinating investigation into what makes us human, and how much of our soul is tied up with our memories.
The shortlisters were whisked off to dinner all the way across the hall where we dined on quail's egg salad, roast lamb with potatoes au gratin, and strawberry shortcake confection with clotted cream. Jack Of Kent's lovely friend, Sally, donated David's dessert to me while he was table-hopping. Ya see? Priorities. No wonder my networking skills are a Big Fail.
More at Harpy Marx