And the winner of our Liberal Voice of the Year award is… Mark Littlewood

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 fifth 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, 903 readers cast a vote in the past two weeks. Here are the results in full:

32% (288 votes): Mark Littlewood

Mark Littlewood, a former head of media for the Lib Dems, campaigns for market reforms in his non-partisan role as Director General of the Institute of Economic Affairs.

13% (117 votes): The Occupy Movement

The Occupy Movement, an international protest group primarily directed against economic and social inequality, currently lists 2,562 Occupy communities worldwide.

13% (115 votes): Kenneth Clarke

Ken Clarke, Justice Minister in the Coalition Government, is a Tory MP frequently referred to as the sixth Lib Dem cabinet minister for his committed belief to prison rehabilitation and due legal process.

Other nominees:

That’s a decisive victory for Mark Littlewood, a controversial figure among party members — he was the party’s head of media until he resigned in March 2007, and since then has become a doughty champion of free markets, most recently in his role as director general of the Institute of Economic Affairs. Somewhat ironically, the closest runner-up is The Occupy Movement.

Previous winners of the LDV Liberal Voice of the Year award:

2010: Aung San Suu Kyi, campaigner against political abuse in Burma.

2009: Peter Tatchell, international human rights campaigner.

2008: Campaigners on behalf of Jean Charles de Menezes (Justice4Jean.org) and Stockwell Shooting Inquest Jury.

2007: 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.

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67 Comments

  • Sadie Smith 15th Jan '12 - 4:43pm

    A pretty dire list. There was no one I could vote for. There was too much illiberal from everyone:(

  • Look at the stature of the previous winners, and then please tell me that you are be bloody joking.

  • At least he’s not a member of the party any more.

  • “Look at the stature of the previous winners, and then please tell me that you are be bloody joking.”

    Ah well, look on the bright side. More than two thirds voted against him.

  • patrick murray 15th Jan '12 - 5:26pm

    no disrespect to mark, but that is a complete joke.

  • An utter joke, and an insult to those who risk their lives for freedom

    Clearly Littlewood and his mates flooded the vote for their own ends

  • Congratulations Mark, well deserved recognition for the way you’ve broadened the appeal of the IEA and restored the organisation as a liberal voice.

  • Malcolm Todd 15th Jan '12 - 6:30pm

    Well said, Joshua.

  • mike cobley 15th Jan '12 - 6:40pm

    115 votes for ….. Ken Clarke?? What in the name of all that is sane is wrong with you people?

  • Tony Dawson 15th Jan '12 - 6:48pm

    This sort of pathetic little poll of ‘readers’ does this site no good whatsoever. The outcome this year is no more than is deserved by the nature of the exercise. That there were more sensible outcomes in previous years does not make the exercise any more worthy – it’s just a random outcome pattern. I wonder how many serious liberals would have even considered voting in this ‘poll’.

  • “Peter Tatchell has probably risked physical injury on more than one occasion”. I suggest you read the interview with him in yesterday’s Guardian Weekend magazine Mark – I’m sure you didn’t mean to come across as being dismissive of a very courageous man.

  • Leslie K. Clark 15th Jan '12 - 7:21pm

    Well done Mark!

    #Joshua – Amen, Brother!

    # Geoffrey – That may very well be the case. Wouldn’t stop 117 of the hard-left voting for Occupy on the internet either.

  • Mark Littlewood 15th Jan '12 - 7:53pm

    @ Tony. I wasn’t trying to be dismissive of Peter Tatchell at all. I was thinking particularly of his attempted citizen’s arrest of Mugabe – where he certainly risked injury, although probably not death. I shall look up the Guardian piece as you suggest.

  • So, radical free market fundamentalists scoured the planet and found 288 people to register votes for Mark Littlewood. Irratating, but hardly a reason for centre-left liberals to panic. Unless, of course, David Icke is right when he says that a few people controlling the world is a “piece of cake” and a “doddle”.

  • BTW, I didn’t vote.

  • I would like to extend my most sincere apologies to Aung San Suu Kyi, Peter Tatchell, Shami Chakrabarti, the Stockwell Shooting Inquest Jury and Jean Charles de Menezes. This award has now been made meaningless.

    Mark Littlewood should not have even been shortlisted. He is not a liberal – people like David Laws are economic liberals, Mark Littlewood is just a conservative. Admittedly he’s hardly alone on the list in not being a liberal but at least everyone else on the list has actually done something in the last year. What has Mark Littlewood actually done? As far as I can tell been on Question Time once and that’s about it.

    Anyway, truly embarrassing for the Lib Dem party. Completely and utterly, hideously embarrassing.

  • Congratulations to Mark.

    It was a bit of an odd list to pick from.

    A bit more composure in the comments would be nice. Liberal comes in many flavours. Mark’s pretty far to my right, but I’d rather hear his reasoned argument than the apoplexy of those rushing to denounce him. (Good call, Joshua).

    I went for Ai Weiwei.

  • Foregone Conclusion 15th Jan '12 - 9:26pm

    What an odd choice. Who in their heart of hearts can say that the director of an obscure think tank was the ‘liberal voice of the year’?

    Then again, the runners up are similarly strange. (I nominated and voted for Mohamed Bouazizi.)

  • In spite of all the democracy, and of speeches BY liberals, it doesn’t seem to have been a great year for “liberalism”.

  • Tony Greaves 15th Jan '12 - 10:10pm

    Oh dear oh dear. But apart from Andy Mayer did any members of the Liberal Democrats vote for him?

    I suppose it just shows how silly polls like this can be when pressure groups that bother can easily rig them. Though a ridiculous result like this only encourages people lilke me to take part next time (for the first time ever).

    Tony Greaves

  • I didn’t vote because I couldn’t identify any real liberals on the list. I applaud Occupy, but they aren’t liberals.

    Maybe it’s true that there are now 288 far-right libertarians who have piled into this party since the Clegg coup, and voted accordingly, without deliberately going out to rig the results. Or maybe I’m naive about that. Either way, a pretty sad day for anyone who wants to see this party survive and thrive.

  • Stephen Donnelly 16th Jan '12 - 1:14am

    What a pity so many people resorted to juvenile comments or abuse, some of which are coming close to bullying. All political movements need to encompass a broad range of views from both inside and outside their party. The Labour Party have the Trade Union movement, the Conservative can draw up various sections of the establishment, but we have very little. The IEA is an important liberal voice with which we should have links. Those who disagree with their policies should be prepared to explain why, rather than resort to petty insults.

  • Simon McGrath 16th Jan '12 - 5:51am

    what is really shocking is that 31 people voted for ‘Guantanamo’ Obama or for a Tory Cabinet Minister who is trying to bring in secret trials.

  • A C McGregor 16th Jan '12 - 7:41am

    I didn’t vote, both because the entire list of candidates was rather uninspiring, and because it was a single winner election fought by FPTP.

    Nonetheless, the level of noise an open internet poll has generated isn’t really worth the effort, IMO

  • Timothy Cox 16th Jan '12 - 8:00am

    Firstly, many congratulations to Mark. Well deserved.

    Secondly, I think it’s rather telling that some of the more critical commenters on here are fixated on the ‘legitimacy’ of the vote. Is that because they really believe there were structural issues with the way this website conducted it’s poll or because they just don’t like the outcome and they feel they know better than those who voted in Mark’s favour? If, as I rather suspect, it’s the latter, it goes a long way to explaining many of the more illiberal aspects of Liberal Democrat politics in 2011.

  • Robin McGhee 16th Jan '12 - 8:58am

    This result is bad not because Littlewood is a libertarian Tory rather than a liberal. (He’s campaigned for the Pro-EU Conservative Party, guys.)

    The result is bad because the President of the United States, a campaigner who took on the CPC without being brutally killed, an investigative journalist who brought the Murdoch empire to its knees and A MAN WHO SET HIMSELF ON FIRE can’t beat some randomer who runs a thinktank. It is genuinely quite morally worrying that people would think it acceptable to vote for Littlewood (or Ken Clarke. Ken ruddy Clarke.) when you have the option to vote for Mohamed Bouazizi and Ai Weiwei. Seriously, get a life.

  • John Stevens 16th Jan '12 - 11:41am

    Congratlations Mark. You were easily the most pro-Euro candidate, as well as the most entertaining. (I trust this will not be moderated/censored)..

  • Like Mark Valladares I don’t like vitriolic comment, so I apologise for my intemperent response to this news, and to Mark Littlewood for my lack of courtesy.

  • Leslie K. Clark 16th Jan '12 - 12:15pm

    #Tony Greaves: ‘Oh dear oh dear. But apart from Andy Mayer did any members of the Liberal Democrats vote for him?’

    I’m a Lib Dem activist and I voted for Mark.

    #Robin McGhee: ‘This result is bad not because Littlewood is a libertarian Tory rather than a liberal. (He’s campaigned for the Pro-EU Conservative Party, guys.)’.

    Since you raised the issue of previous affiliation in a rather snide way, does that mean that Shirley Williams, Chris Huhne, Vince Cable aren’t proper liberals because they were once members of the Labour Party? Ashdown supported Labour when he was in the marines and Gladstone was a Tory before switching to the Liberals. I don’t hold that against them.

  • Paul McKeown 16th Jan '12 - 2:50pm

    A Liberal Vision coup on LDV… hmmm. Whilst I often find LDV “dull but worthy” (“stuffy” might be even more accurate), LV I find simply bonkers most of the time. Sad that there wasn’t a rather livelier, more engaging vehicle on the web for LD viewpoints.

  • Congratulations Mark.

    I voted for Mohamed Bouazizi, but am pleased someone with such articulate liberal convictions won.

    Frightening that the Occupy movement got so many votes, but each to their own.

  • I also voted for Mark and am a longstanding party member. I did not think that Occupy or Ken Clarke were good choices. I understand that Mark could reach out to people outside the party which is surely a good thing.

    I voted for Mark because of his broadly libertarian agenda.

    I am also with Dave Page – I would also vote for Mark internally on FPC as he is a good communicator.

    Ed Joyce

  • The last two years results in this poll have been a joke IMHO.

    If there is to be any credibility to LDV Liberal Voice of the Year Award then IMHO the poll needs to be moved to the members only forum as its quite evident the polls are being dominated by non members.

  • Tom Papworth,

    “and I’m afraid that your belief that his support comes mostly from non-Lib Dems is based on wishful thinking rather than any evidence.”

    So where did they come from? If you know the answer, tell us. If not, then what is your justification for holding that Geoffrey’s belief is based on wishful thinking?

    “I would also vote for Mark internally on FPC as he is a good communicator.”

    David Icke, Ron Paul, Tony Benn – three of the best communicators alive today. Would you want them on the FPC, though? Being a good communicator is only a plus if the policies being communicated are the right ones.

    I am reluctant to comment on this topic further, for fear of giving Mr Littlewood the oxygen of publicity that he and Liberal Vision clearly need to promote themselves as mainstream Liberal Democrats. But I do so because I fear that a vocal and organised minority is giving the public an impression of this party that simply isn’t real. When I was active in the party I met plenty of authoritarian conservatives (people in favour of conscription, capital punishment, school uniform, etc), but I cannot recall encountering a single free market fundamentalist (ie, “libertarian” conservative). These are a recent infusion into the party, and their opinions (at least on economics) are antithetical to what Liberal Democrats have been campaigning for during the party’s lifetime (and, indeed, those of its predecessors). Mark Littlewood has annoyed me with his support for the tobacco industry and Rupert Murdoch. I’m sure he intended to and I expect he is delighted to have succeeded. If we had been given a genuine choice, and AV, then we might have achieved a result that more realistically reflected what Liberal Democrats think.

  • A couple of corrections:-

    (1) The second quote is from Ed Joyce, not Tom Papworth.

    (2) The final three sentences should read as follows:-

    “Mark Littlewood has annoyed me by, among another things, his support for the tobacco industry and Rupert Murdoch. I’m sure he intended to and I expect he’ll be delighted that he’s succeeded. If we had been given a genuine choice, and AV, then we might have achieved a result that more realistically reflects what Liberal Democrats think.”

  • LondonLiberal 17th Jan '12 - 2:55pm

    it’s a crying shame that mark littlewood doesn’t preface every media appearance that he makes with the words “i’m not actually a liberal democrat, and nor do i speak for, or at the request of, the party. “

  • Neil Bradbury 17th Jan '12 - 3:09pm

    so you have to resign from the Lib Dems to be eligible? Lets not give people another reason to leave!

  • I feel rather ashamed that I don’t know who Mark Littlewood is, but congratulations to him all the same, and I will look him up.

    However, I think the award is undermined because we called the winner early, when the leading candidate had only achieved 32% of the vote, and before eliminating any of the losing candidates so as to find out who really would have passed the winning post ie 50% on a head-to-head basis.

    I remember there were similar comments about the process last year, even though the winner was not in doubt. Please LDV, if we believe in proper democracy, we have to apply it ourselves. Otherwise people will start voting for who they think will win rather than who they really want. Remember?

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