Hero of the Year Awards 2010

by George_East on January 2, 2011

So now we come to the First Annual Allthatsleft heroes of the year awards. If I can ask Bobby to pass me the envelope I can reveal the winners. Bobby, Bobby, BOBBY. My apologies ladies and gentlemen Bobby is still sleeping.

Now, opening the envelope myself…

5th equal: Johnny Marr

It is one thing having a posh Tory Prime Minister, it is another thing again to have one who claims to like decent music. David Cameron was first called out by Paul Weller in the election campaing for claiming that Eton Rifles was one of his favourite songs. This drew the fantastic response from the Modfather that ‘it’s about class war. If he hasn’t got the wit to understand a song, how can he hope to run the country?

Then we have the greatest tweet in Twitter’s short history from Johnny Marr in response to David Cameron’s professed love of The Smiths: ‘stop staying that you like The Smiths, no you don’t, I forbid you to like them‘. 16 words of pure contemptuous genius. The greatest wordsmith of his generation, Morrissey, supported his former bandmate’s stance but in a tedious and prolix statement. It was Johnny Marr who put it as simply as it needed to be said.

5th equal: Liu Xiabo

Liu Xiabo deservedly won the Nobel Peace Prize in December. The Nobel Committee presented his prize to an empty chair, as Liu is currently serving an 11 year sentence in a Chinese prison for the crime of co-authoring the Charter 08 manifesto, modelled on Vaclav Havel’s Charter 77, calling for democratic freedoms in China. He has campaigned for such reforms since the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989.

The authoritarian gerontocracy that rules the People’s Republic promptly over-reacted by pressuring other dictatorships and authoitarian regimes including Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Russia from attending – farcically stating that it would be setting up an alternative Confucius Peace Prize, which will presumably be rewarding recipients from the governments of those very same oppressive regimes. By doing so they underlined the nobility and bravery of Liu’s cause. He dedicated his prize to ‘the lost souls of Tianmanen‘. He is a true hero.

4th: Paul Krugman

From one Nobel Prize winner to another. Paul Krugman is a former winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics. He is professor of economics at Princeton, New York Times columnist and blogger. it is in those latter capacities that he has since the financial crisis broke in 2008 been brutally effective in dissecting the idiocy of the policies of the austerians on both sides of the Atlantic.

His predictions have been consistently right, the prediction of the free marketeers consistently wrong. He predicted from the beginning that the US stimulus package was too small, he predicted that the biggest danger was from deflation not inflation, he identified the banking crisis as a solvency crisis and not a liquidity crisis, he showed why the notion that invisible bond vigilantes were about to bring the US (or UK) economy to its knees if austerity measures were not adopted was nonsense, he showed up the insanity of the Coalition’s economic policy for what it is: cutting demand and then crossing fingers and hoping that the confidence fairies magic up a recovery.

His blog is a must daily read. It is only a pity that his influence on policy makers is not greater.

2nd Equal: Ed Balls

A constant complaint on this blog is the lack of a coherent economic policy coming from the Labour benches – an economic policy that takes into account the insights of Keynsian economists like Paul Krugman, David Blanchflower and Brad Delong and recognises that there is a serious risk of a Japenese style lost decade if policy makers adopt savage cuts to public spending before there is a sustained recovery.

Labour’s policy going into the election which Ed Miliband has committed the party to following is politically unwise and intellectually incoherent. It is based on cutting the deficit by an arbritary amount (a half) in an arbritary period (a parliament). Although undoubtedly better that the slash and burn economics of the government, it concedes the basic intellectual argument.

The only leading politician on the centre left in the UK who has properly staked out an alternative economic policy is Ed Balls in his speech during the Labour leadership campaign to Bloomberg in August, in which he set out a Keynsian alternative to the austerians – correctly identifying growth denial to be the real problem facing the economy. He is wasted as Shadow Home Secretary.

2nd Equal: Luis Urzua

In a pretty bleak year, we needed genuinely feel good stories. The rescue of the miners in Chile was an extraordinary one by any standards. 33 miners were trapped for 70 days in a mine deep below the Atacama Desert. For the first 17 days they had no contact with the outside world, not knowing if they were going to be rescued at all.

The shift foreman was Luis Urzua. He organised them, rationed food (before contact half a spoonful of fish per day), set a schedule so that the patterns of day and night would not be lost and implemented democratic decision making.’El Capitan’ was his nick name and there can be little doubt that his leadership was a major factor in all the miners being rescued without harm. He, of course, volunteered to be the last man out.

And the Winner is..Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi was our inaugral weekly hero and wins our first annual award. In making that first annual award I wrote that there was unlikely to be a hero in the same league for some considerable time. There certainly wasn’t in 2010.

This is a woman who has spent 15 of the last 21 years under house arrest, a woman whose husband died of cancer without her being able to visit him or be with him (knowing that if she left Burma she would not be permitted to return by the military junta).

Aung San Suu Kyi is the legitimate elected leader of Burma – her party won 80% of the seats in the elections in 1990, elections that were annulled by one of the planet’s most brutal and corrupt regimes. They have imprisoned her, dreamt up trumped up charges to prevent her and her party from standing in the recent sham elections, and sought to humiliate her and insult her integrity. She has in response been stoic and unwavering in her demand for democratic freedoms for the Burmese people.

Her release was delayed because she, like Nelson Mandela before her, refused to have any conditions placed upon her freedom. There are not many more impressive examples of poltical courage. A true hero for Allthatleft‘s first annual award.

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