It’s a fortnight since we launched our search for the Liberal Voice of the Year with the aim of finding the individual or group which has had the biggest impact on liberalism in the past 12 months. This is LibDemVoice’s sixth such annual award, and as is our tradition, we looked beyond the ranks of the Lib Dems to find the liberal who’s most impressed our readers and is not a member of our party.
We unveiled the shortlist here on New Year’s Day. In total, 755 readers cast a vote in the past two weeks using a preferential voting system. The final (8th) round of voting gave the following result:
52% (390 votes): Sam Bowman
Sam Bowman: policy director at the Adam Smith Institute, who campaigns for free market social justice (‘bleeding heart libertarianism’), including being in favour of immigration, drugs law reform and equal marriage, and against bank bailouts.
28% (211 votes): Malala Yousafzai
Malala Yousafzai: a school student known for her education and women’s rights activism in Pakistan. She was shot in October in an assassination attempt by Taliban gunmen while returning home on a school bus.
20% (154 votes): Alliance Party of Northern Ireland
Alliance Party: “Northern Ireland’s cross-community party: working to build a society free of segregation, sectarianism and prejudice.” Deputy leader Naomi Long MP, who along with colleagues was subject to violent threats in December, is pictured.
So Sam Bowman from the free market think-tank the Adam Smith Institute is this year’s Liberal Voice of the Year: congratulations to him.
Though the short-list was drawn from Lib Dem members, as explained here, the poll was open to anyone to vote. I strongly doubt you’d get the same result if it had been restricted to the Lib Dem membership to vote. Rather like cyclists winning BBC Sports Personality of the Year, free market liberals have a motivated online group willing them to win Liberal Voice, as we saw last year when Mark Littlewood topped the poll. But that’s fine: the purpose of the poll is to show liberalism lives and breathes in many forms beyond the ranks of our party, and to highlight this to both Lib Dems and non-Lib Dems alike. For me, whether the result is ‘manipulated’ is secondary to that. And for the record, though he wasn’t my first preference Sam Bowman was in my top four.
The full breakdown of results was as follows:
Previous winners of the our Liberal Voice of the Year award:
2012: Mark Littlewood, campaigner for de-regulated markets.
2011: Aung San Suu Kyi, campaigner against political abuse in Burma.
2010: Peter Tatchell, international human rights campaigner.
2009: Campaigners on behalf of Jean Charles de Menezes (Justice4Jean.org) and Stockwell Shooting Inquest Jury.
2008: Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty.
* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.