Wednesday, 16 December 2009

My Man of the Year

It’s that time of year again when Time Magazine unveils its ‘Person of the Year’ (I personally preferred the title ‘Man of the Year’ even if it was awarded to the fairer sex, but even Time has gone all PC) which inevitably got me thinking about who my choice would be.

For me, there are a number of contenders. Nancy Pelosi, first female speaker of the House of Representatives, has ruled over the chamber with a steely determination (you certainly wouldn’t cross her) reminiscent of the great speakers of the past, such as Sam Rayburn and Tip O’Neill. In Christine Lagarde, France has found a Finance Minister able to operate and, crucially, communicate on the world stage.

I also think a word of praise for Vice President Joe Biden is necessary. Expected by some to be a gaffe-prone embarrassment he is emerging as a major voice in the Obama Administration, particularly on Afghanistan, and has been charged with implementing the massive public spending programme designed to re-float the US economy. He is rapidly putting the lie to Lyndon Johnson’s old line that the job “is not worth a bucket of warm spit.”

Back at home (and this will be a controversial one) Peter Mandelson has shown what the Labour Party has been missing. His assured handling of the DTI (car scrappage, the MG Rover Investigation, GM sale of Opel to Magna) was only bettered by his superb handling and thwarting of the attempted coup d’etat on Gordon Brown in June.

There is only one contender for Heroic Act of the Year. When Captain Chesley Sullenberger ditched his plane in the Hudson River after a bird-strike had knocked out both his engines he saved dozens of lives and showed the sort of calm in a crisis situation which the rest of us can only hope we never have to face. There is another reason I love this story. As Sullenberger calmly checked the fuselage of the ditched plane to ensure that everyone had got out he was described as "looking like David Niven in an airplane uniform". Fantastic!

But, surprisingly perhaps, for those who know me, my choice is not a politician or an economist. There is one person who this year defied his age to almost achieve one of the greatest wins in sport. At the age of 59 you are pretty much past it as a contender in any game, but this man came within a whisker of winning the Open Golf Championship 26 years after his previous victory. His failure, at the very final hurdle, was a heartbreaking moment, but his humility in defeat, ready acceptance of the bad luck which contributed to his loss and refusal to feel sorry for himself were lessons that many of today’s superstars, across golf and other sports, would do well to learn.

My Man of the Year is the golfer Tom Watson.


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