With Christmas fast approaching, it’s high time we announced the winner of our annual Lady Thatcher’s Wink Ebenezer Scrooge award – though perhaps ‘annual’ is pushing it a bit, as it’s the very first, and who knows where we’ll all be this time next year.
In a dreadful 2016 it might be thought that we’re spoilt for choice, but we need to rule out the most despicable players on the world stage. To describe an Assad or a Putin as a Scrooge would be to play down the horrors they’ve unleashed on the world, and the same applies to other, all too numerous, practitioners of inhumane cruelty.
It is, in any case, a domestic, UK award – and we’re certainly not minded to give it to people whose politics we simply dislike or even despise, including those less-than-one-hundred-per-cent-truthful Brexit champions.
No, there has to be something mean and nasty in order for anyone to qualify, and we narrowed the contestants down to a hit-list of six.
First, those members of the British government who have consistently rejected calls to show humanity to Syrian and other child refugees, holed up in their Calais camp until the charming French authorities broke up their shelters, hosed them down and dispersed them. We learned this week that the government has rejected the claims of hundreds of them, and the withholding of our Scrooge award for this callousness is simply the result of no one individual being to blame. Had we a list, they would all share it.
Secondly, the odious Ian Duncan Smith. He narrowly escapes by not currently being in post, but there are surely few characters in our political life who have been as sneeringly smug while inflicting pain on the poor, the vulnerable and the disabled.
Thirdly and fourthly, (Sir) Philip Green, late of BHS, and Mike Ashley of Sports Direct – two monsters of our free-for-all business culture. Their treatment of poorly-paid staff is so legendary that they miss the prize for sheer obviousness.
Fifthly – and here’s an unpleasant surprise – that cuddly restaurateur Michel Roux Jr, who, it turns out this week, has not only been paying his workers below the minimum wage but has pocketed for his Le Gavroche business all the cash that satisfied customers have left in tips for the staff. His excuse, almost unbelievably, is that practically everyone else in his trade is doing the same. This despicable behaviour earns the less than rueful M. Roux our runners-up prize.
And the winner? It can be no other than the egregious Tory MP for Shipley, Philip Davies, who deserves to be better known, and vilified, than he is. Just as Ebenezer Scrooge rejoiced in being a repeat offender, so Davies has time and again used the filibustering technique in parliament to ‘talk out’ private members’ bills he hasn’t liked. He wins, not for his otherwise commendable energy, but for his incessant mean-spirited attacks on what those of a liberal persuasion would regard as good causes.
He clinched the award this week by speaking for more than an hour in an attempt to derail a bill to protect women against violence. An anti-feminist who, preposterously, was recently elected to parliament’s equalities committee, Davies said he regarded it as sexist to say the focus should be solely on violence against women. By good fortune he failed in his attempt this time, but it was a rare setback. Here are some of the bills he’s successfully opposed:
• Creating free hospital car parking for carers
• Requiring landlords to make homes ‘fit for human habitation’
• Establishing first aid training for children in schools
• Banning the use of wild animals in circuses
• Reversing the privatisation process in the NHS
Here, in short, is one nasty, selfish individual who has continually championed the worst causes with unflagging pride. Philip Davies is the outright winner of our Lady Thatcher’s Wink Ebenezer Scrooge prize for 2016.