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Alastair Campbell’s heroes and villains of 2023

Our diarist gives his personal rundown of who has been good – and who has been bad – over the last 12 months

Photo by Richard Cannon/Country Life/Future Publishing via Getty Images


Feargal Sharkey

The ageing one-time rock star who has become a never-ending nightmare for water companies and the trail of environment secretaries he has left in his campaigning wake. Aged 65, he is living proof of the wise words of Theodore Roosevelt that “nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care”. Feargal cares, knows his stuff, and water industry CEOs and Thérèse Coffey have the scars to prove it.

Carol Vorderman

All Photos: Getty Images

Younger than Feargal, at a mere 62… so what a great age to get radicalised, and start calling out the worst government in history for who and what they are. In common with anyone who puts their head above the parapet – especially women – she has come in for a fair amount of flak, from the usual suspects. She annoys all the right people, and rather than be silenced by the BBC’s new social media guidelines, she decided to quit her BBC show so she could continue to point out that corruption is, er, corrupt, and not very British.

Jacob Kinsella

The youngest on my list, Jacob is in year 6 at Freshford Church of England primary school, near Bath. When I was explaining how I would like to see the voting age lowered from 18 to 16, he shouted out: “Why not five?” before going on to say – and show – that he knew a fair bit about politics. He wasn’t a great fan of the local MP, someone called Rees-Mogg.

Caio Benicio

The Deliveroo driver who risked his own life to tackle a knifeman who was stabbing young children outside a Dublin school. While the immigrant-hating hard right and assorted thugs immediately used the incident to organise riots, the 43-year-old Brazilian leapt off his moped and used his helmet to batter the knifeman to the ground.

Leo Varadkar

In his statement on the riots, Ireland’s Taoiseach gave no quarter… none of that “we understand their legitimate concerns” pandering to the extremist stuff that we hear all too often. “These criminals did not do what they did because they love Ireland. They did not do what they did because they wanted to protect Irish people. They did not do it out of any sense of patriotism, however warped. They did so because they’re filled with hate.”

Sue Campbell

No relation, and unlike me not averse to taking a peerage. But unlike so many of the Baron and Baroness villains, she is worthy of it. Few people have done as much to promote sport, and her leadership role in women’s football is one of the reasons why England women beat the men in the national sport of trying to make 1966 a thing of the past.

Joe Biden

Yes, he is getting on, he sometimes mumbles, and you hold your heart in your mouth every time he walks on or off a stage. But he beat Donald Trump, has done some pretty amazing things on the economy, and remains a good guy. The chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan was a bit of a blot, but thank God he has been there during major foreign policy crises of recent times.

Hillary Clinton

She didn’t beat Trump. But I spent every minute of the hour recording our interview for The Rest Is Politics wishing that she had. She embodies “persevilience”, the word I invented in my book, But What Can I Do? Whatever life throws at her, she keeps on keeping on. A lesson for us all.

Donald Tusk

Vladimir Putin and Viktor Orbán were hovering, vulture-like, hopeful that another term of the hard right PiS government in Poland would bend Europe in their direction. The former EU president ousted them, and became prime minister of Poland. And though elections in Slovakia and the Netherlands saw wins for the populist right, Tusk made sure they did not have it all their own way.

Peter Stefanovic

If you don’t follow the waistcoated former lawyer on social media, you should. Day in, day out, he exposes the propaganda, the gaslighting and the outright lies told by the Tory government. I like to think of myself as perseviliently indefatigable – but Peter is in a category of his own.

Judge Tanya Chutkan

The district judge in Donald Trump’s trial gives us hope that he might be put away. Her sentences for those she has tried for participation in the January 6 riots have been harsh, with all but one of the 32 cases resulting in jail time. “It is not patriotism, it is not standing up for America to stand up for one man – who knows full well that he lost – instead of the constitution he was trying to subvert,” she said, during one sentencing. Let’s hope the same principles are applied to the tangerine-faced, self-appointed Messiah.


Charlotte Owen

Oh sorry, Lady Owen of Alderley Edge, I should say. I am all in favour of more young people getting into politics, but a peerage aged 30 for having been an assistant to the most venal prime minister in history? Sorry again, but it is beyond absurd.

Robbie Gibb

Oh sorry, Sir Robbie. Living proof of the falsity of the right wing media myth that the BBC is run by lefties. He was happy enough to allow the myth to grow during his years in charge of BBC political programmes, happy to drift into Downing Street for a Tory prime minister, Theresa May, and now happy to be back at the BBC as a board member or, as ex-BBC presenter Emily Maitlis puts it, “an active agent of the Conservative Party”.

Nadine Dorries

Sorry, Baroness Dorries, oh sorry, no, Rishi Sunak blocked that one, didn’t he? Even he felt that, what with Dame Priti Patel, Dame Andrea Jenkyns, Sir Michael Fabricant, Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, and a couple of adolescent peerages, this was a step too far for the most ludicrous resignation honours list in history. As I admire loyalty, I was tempted to put Dorries in my hero list, given the sheer scale of her loyalty to Boris Johnson. But Sunak was right. There are limits, and blind loyalty to Johnson is villainous, not heroic.

ITV executives

It’s too obvious to have the nicotine-stained man frog in the list of villains, so he has to make way for whichever ITV executives decided that a bit of telly-funwashing was in order for the UK’s best known far right politician.


For being asleep at the wheel as we see wealthy right-wing billionaires fund the Fox-Newsification of UK TV, hiding behind the ludicrous notion that GB News and Talk TV are not news channels, which means it is OK for right wing Tory MPs to interview right wing Tory MPs about how brilliant right wing Tory MPs are.

Suella Braverman

For no longer being the woman who opened her maiden speech in 2015 with a warm tribute to Jeremy Corbyn and then said this: “On a cold February morning in 1968, a young man, not yet 21, stepped off a plane at Heathrow airport, nervously folding away his one-way ticket from Kenya. He had no family, no friends and was clutching only his most valuable possession, his British passport. His homeland was in political turmoil. Kenya had kicked him out for being British. My father never returned. He made his life here in Britain, starting on the shop floor of a paint factory. My mother, recruited by the NHS in Mauritius as a girl of 18, passed her 45th year of service last year.

“My family had nothing but hopes and dedication. They were so proud to be British and so proud to make our country even better. If I succeed in making some small contribution during my time in this place, it will reflect only a fraction of my gratitude to this country for the abundance of education, culture and traditions that have made Britain great, for the tolerance and fellowship of the British people, and for the opportunity and liberty that we all enjoy.” WTF happened?

Rishi Sunak

For failing to deliver on his promise of “professionalism, integrity and accountability”. He had the chance to signal real change after the chaos of the Johnson years and the Truss days. Whatever words you want to use for the Sunak era, professionalism, integrity and accountability are not the ones that come to mind. All word clouds confirm.

Elon Musk

He is clearly a very smart guy, but my God has he made Twitter worse or what? And surely he could exercise a bit more self-control when the temptation to promote conspiracy theories creeps upon him, and over his own mouth when asked difficult questions. He vies with Sunak for a petulance award.

Vladimir Putin

Not just for the continuing war in Ukraine, but for being at the heart of so many of the wars, coups and destabilisations that have created the current era of fear and chaos. Sadly, he sees all of the above as a success, but has been a disaster for the world.

Donald Trump

For not going away. Or going down. Yet.

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