Welcome to the New European’s rundown of the top 50 most objectionable people in British public life. It’s a nightmare-inducing line-up of national embarrassments, rabid self-promoters and ranting ideologues, who between them have given us Brexit, populism, immigrant paranoia, Boris Johnson and other horrors. So read on for TNE’s Shit List 2023…
50. Charlotte Owen
Embodies pretty much everything that’s wrong with modern Britain. If anyone knows of a good reason for this 30-year-old to be in the Lords on £342 a day for life, please email us.
49. Jeremy Kyle
Not content with helming one of the worst British TV shows of all time, Kyle is having another go. Reborn on TalkTV, he shouts performatively at assorted “wokies” in search of ratings.
48. Robert Jenrick
When Nigel Farage calls you “mean”, it might be time for a rethink. Yet the immigration minister continues to stand by his decision to order the painting over of murals of cartoon characters on the walls of an asylum seeker reception centre. Jenrick’s previous ministerial post, as housing secretary, ended after it was revealed he had unlawfully waved through a housing development in a way that could have saved Tory donor Richard Desmond up to £50m, following lobbying from Desmond at a dinner and by text message.
47. Katharine Birbalsingh
The desperation of “Britain’s strictest head” to take education back to the 1950s has turned her into a culture warrior of the worst sort.
46. Claire Fox
The ex-communist-turned-Brexiteer peer is sniping at the BBC’s coverage of Hamas despite once being in a party that supported the IRA bombing in Warrington that killed two children. Was co-publisher of Living Marxism when it falsely accused ITN of faking evidence of the Bosnian genocide.
45. Lord Ashcroft
The billionaire former Tory donor and publisher of scurrilous books about, among others, Carrie Johnson and David Cameron, Ashcroft loves Britain so much he lives in Belize.
44. Miriam Cates
Evangelical Christian Tory MP who believes that Britain is threatened by “cultural Marxism” (a phrase often used as an antisemitic dog whistle) and that “extreme, violent and very disturbing” porn is inspiring children to become transgender.
43. Nadine Dorries
Unusually fond of Boris Johnson, Dorries was loyal to the last – right up until the point when he failed to give her a peerage. It would have taken a heart of stone not to laugh.
His periodic racist outbursts (including “What politically correct newspapers refer to as ‘disaffected young people’ are black thugs, sons of black thugs and grandsons of black thugs”) have not prevented Taki Theodoracopulos, playboy son of a Greek shipping magnate, from hanging on to his Spectator column since 1977. Will a 12-month suspended prison sentence in Switzerland for an attempted rape in 2009 finally stop the presses? If so, he still has his digital Taki’s Magazine – in which he has praised the Greek neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party – to fall back on.
41. Matt Le Tissier
Once a brilliant footballer, was Le Tissier’s head turned by constantly being told only his individualism prevented him from winning more than his eight England caps? He now expresses his disregard for convention by voicing absurd and offensive conspiracy theories – notably that some Covid sufferers seen on TV “were actors, by the way”, that the vaccine was “a crime against humanity” and that “a communist takeover is slyly being implemented”. Recently he shared a social media post claiming that Osama Bin Laden’s “actual name is Tim Osman, or Colonel Tim Osman, a CIA asset and Mossad agent who worked with the Justice Department”. Let’s just remember the goals.
40. Stanley Johnson
Boris Johnson’s father was accused of inappropriately touching the Conservative MP Caroline Nokes and of groping the journalist Ailbhe Rea. Johnson senior’s first wife, Charlotte Fawcett, told the biographer Tom Bower: “He hit me many times, over many years… He broke my nose. He made me feel like I deserved it.”
39. Michelle Mone
Tory peer, Mone personally recommended PPE Medpro to the government during the Covid pandemic. The company then won a £200m contract to supply equipment, much of which didn’t work. The Guardian reported that a trust in the Isle of Man, of which Mone and her children are beneficiaries, received £29m originating from PPE Medpro. Rachel Reeves’s promise to create a “Covid Corruption Commissioner” to investigate fraud during the pandemic will not have escaped Mone’s attention.
38. Tim Martin
The boss of the Wetherspoon pub chain, he campaigned for Brexit but wants an exemption so he can hire more foreign workers. On economic damage from Brexit, he says: “I just don’t see it. I just don’t think it’s true.”
37. Nick Timothy
The man who wiped out Theresa May’s majority by convincing her to pursue the “dementia tax”, it was only natural that Timothy should go on to a column in the Telegraph, where he rages against migration and the BBC.
36. Toby Young
Not as clever or interesting as his dad, the sociologist Michael Young, little Toby should perhaps have been told to talk less and listen more. A climate change sceptic, a lockdown sceptic and a Eurosceptic, Young’s main gift is the ability to be wrong about everything
35. Laurence Fox
The cretin’s cretin, Fox started out as a TV and film actor, but his obnoxious public school instincts meant he had to share his opinions, no matter how ill-informed, which he did on a now notorious Question Time appearance. Unhappy at a line of questioning, he accused an audience member of being racist against him. In the ensuing hoopla he was dumped not only by his agent, but also his girlfriend. In a recent appearance on GB News, he asked rhetorically “what self-respecting man” would “climb into bed” with Ava Evans, a political journalist. He was promptly sacked. Shortly after, the police arrested him for encouraging people to vandalise Ulez cameras.
34. Carole Malone
If these migrants don’t like it here – Lee Anderson is right – they should shove off back to France,” wrote Malone, who is married to a Bosnian, in August. A former News of the World columnist who seems to loathe Meghan Markle, “the bloated, unelected, protectionist mob in Brussels” and her frequent Jeremy Vine TV show sparring partner, Marina Purkiss, in equal measure, Malone marked the sixth anniversary of the EU referendum last year by asking: “When will the Remoaners finally admit that Brexit is working?” Erm, when it shows some sign of actually doing so?
33. Brendan O’Neill
The king of whataboutery, former Marxist-turned-libertarian bore O’Neill is a one-trick pony who can be dragged from his stable for a tediously predictable defence of the indefensible, from Russell Brand (“there is a dearth of democratic scepticism in the ‘Believe women’ lobby”) to Laurence Fox (“the middle-class mob that has formed with unholy speed to demand that GB News be officially sanctioned… is an objectively greater menace to public life than the chauvinistic blather of a man on the telly”). It says something about our country that O’Neill is treated seriously by the mainstream media 11 years after these musings on Jimmy Savile: “Some people have said it is brave of the women who claim to have been assaulted by Savile to come forward and tell their stories. I’m sorry, but it isn’t. Making serious accusations against a dead person who is in no position to fight back… 30 or 40 years after the alleged incidents occurred, is the very opposite of brave – it’s cowardly.
32. Amanda Platell
Despite being someone who believed the sight of William Hague in chinos sipping from a coconut at the Notting Hill Carnival would be a massive vote-winner, Tory spin doctor-turned-Mail columnist Platell still has the self-confidence to tell everyone else where they are going wrong. Styling herself a queen bee, but actually just another droning drone in the hot take hate-hive, Platell is cruel (especially to women), reliably wrong and sometimes hilariously contradictory: “I don’t find women’s matches as exciting as men’s – and I’m not ashamed to say so,” she wrote in early October, three months after telling Mail readers: “I was wrong. I now realise it is women who are the best at the beautiful game.
31. Darren Grimes
Smug, annoying Brexit campaigner-turned-smug, annoying talking head.
30. Russell Brand
With the dress sense of a Dickensian street urchin and an acute case of verbal diarrhoea, Brand went from successful comic and screen actor to ranting conspiracy theorist, blathering endless nonsense to his online audience about world government plots. A joint investigation by the Sunday Times and Channel 4 recently revealed a series of terrible sexual assault allegations against Brand.
29. Desmond Swayne
Best known for “blacking up” at a 2019 party (and later calling blackface “an entirely acceptable bit of fun”), the preening New Forest West MP’s recent campaigns include calling for schoolchildren to address female teachers as “ma’am” (because “it was good enough for her late majesty”) and insisting that Keir Starmer is plotting with Brussels to overthrow Brexit (if only). Voted against censuring Boris Johnson over Partygate – one of only seven MPs to do so – and also against a windfall tax on energy companies. Entirely coincidentally, it was revealed that at the time of the latter vote, a close family member of Swayne’s held almost £30,000 worth of shares in BP.
28. Jonathan Gullis
Earlier this year, when the scandal of 200 unaccompanied migrant children who have gone missing from UK hotels was raised in parliament, the MP for Stoke-on-Trent North shouted, “Well, they shouldn’t have come here illegally”. One of the great pleasures of the next general election will be to see Gullis – trailing in local polling by over 12% – lose his seat.
27. Andrew Bridgen
So bananas and so unpleasant that even today’s Conservative Party had enough of him, Brexiteer-turned-Covid conspiracist Bridgen now sits as the sole MP for the Reclaim Party, led by bananas, unpleasant conspiracist Laurence Fox. Has described the vaccine programme as “the biggest crime against humanity since the Holocaust”, leaving older watchers nostalgic for the days when he was simply a chump who told Radio 5 Live in 2018, “As an English person I have the right to go to Ireland and I believe that I can ask for a passport, can’t I? That’s the system we have, isn’t it?”
26. Daniel Hannan
Self-styled Brexit intellectual, the unbelievably pompous Hannan was a relentless Covid lockdown sceptic, and argued that the virus was not as dangerous as was widely believed. Wants to scrap the BBC
25. Matt Hancock
Now a wannabe celebrity, Hancock was most recently seen on telly being put through SAS-style training. As health secretary during the Covid pandemic, he incompetently allowed patients discharged from hospital to return to care homes without being tested. Thousands died as a result.
24. David Frost
The booze peddler-turned-hopeless Brexit negotiator-turned-Telegraph windbag, Frost is perhaps the most over-promoted man in Britain
23. George Osborne
The highly smooth former chancellor, former editor of the Standard, former Blackrock banker, former chairman of trustees of the British Museum-turned-podcaster is perhaps best remembered for introducing austerity in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008. That policy brought misery to millions. The sight of banks being bailed out while taxpayers shouldered the burden of the economic recovery helped to usher in Britain’s new populist age.
22. Allister Heath
A ludicrous egg-headed Europhobe, Heath is editor of the Sunday Telegraph. Increasingly unhinged, the former business and finance journalist wrote of Liz Truss’s mini-budget: “This was the best budget I have ever heard a British chancellor deliver, by a massive margin.” Her budget caused an immediate financial crisis. A Brexit cultist, Heath recently claimed Britain had become infected by what he called a “hopeless Remainer institutional mind virus”.
21. Dan Wootton
One half of an unspeakably sordid on-air episode that occurred on GB News, the unspeakably sordid TV channel. Wootton chuckled along as guest Laurence Fox ranted about the sexual appeal of a left wing journalist he didn’t like. Wootton did nothing to stop him and issued no on-air apology. This came on top of allegations that Wootton used a false name to solicit sexual images from colleagues. Wootton denies those claims. He was suspended by GB News and sacked by the Mail. (Update: In February 2024, after a six-month investigation, the Metropolitan police decided to take no action against Wootton over the allegations).
20. Rishi Sunak
Peevish, narrow-minded and, lest we forget, unelected, Sunak is much more ideological, right wing and tribal than he first appears. Highly intelligent and wildly successful, Sunak has climbed to the top of Winchester, Goldman Sachs, the Treasury and now the Tory Party. But a politician must understand one basic truth – that not everyone can win. Sunak’s almost complete lack of self-awareness means he doesn’t grasp this point. That failure, more than any other, is the reason he’ll soon be gone.
19. Jim Davidson
Who would have imagined that the man who spent much of the late 1970s doing impressions of a West Indian character called “Chalky White” would end up as a YouTuber whose recent work includes “Immigrants? We’ve had enough!”, “They’re coming in their thousands” and “Diane Abbott, I wish you’d fuck off to France”? In a recent broadcast, Davidson moaned: “They’re going to call me a racist.” Why could that be?
18. Nigel Farage
If his school contemporaries are to be believed, little Nigel was politically inspired by a visit to his school by Enoch Powell. One of his teachers wrote a note objecting to a decision to make Farage a prefect, citing his “fascist” views. A lifelong Europhobe, he left the Tory Party after the Maastricht deal, eventually becoming leader of Ukip. He was perhaps the individual most responsible for the Brexit disaster, and for injecting populism into British politics. He was pictured dancing with Priti Patel at this year’s Tory Party conference, prompting fears that he might rejoin the party
17. Matthew Goodwin
Another charmer from the hard-right school of condemning modern Britain, Goodwin made a bit of a splash recently with a book in which he blamed pretty much all the nation’s ills on “the elite”. In Goodwin’s view, a shadowy cabal of lefty metropolitans has seized control of the country, snatching it away from the “real” people of Britain, who are left to feed on the scraps. Two things are missing from his description of the lefty-liberal takeover of Britain: the 13 years of Conservative government; Brexit. Funny that. It’s a mystery why so many people take Goodwin seriously.
16. Peter Bone
Bone, the permanently self-satisfied Brexiteer MP and Sven-Göran Eriksson lookalike who once called same-sex marriage “completely nuts”, may face a recall petition after parliament’s Independent Expert Panel ruled he had bullied and exposed himself to a young member of his Commons staff. Bone denies all wrongdoing.
15. Quentin Letts
PG Wodehouse, but without the sense of humour, warmth, empathy or talent. Letts is the Daily Mail’s idea of a wit. They are half right.
14. Sarah Vine
The Daily Mail’s star columnist (and former Mrs Michael Gove) declared of Rishi Sunak in February this year: “I’m not saying he’s the messiah, but he’s been a very clever boy.” Yet things have since soured. Vine, an enthusiastic Brexiteer who has complained that being a “focal point for Remainer anger” has contributed to losing her friendships and damaging her mental health, recently wrote: “Britain feels like an absolute shambles, a basket case. Almost nothing works any more, and it hasn’t done so for a while now.” Whatever – and whoever – might have caused this?
13. Crispin Odey
Hedge fund ghoul and alleged sex pest Odey pumped money into Brexit and his operation spawned the careers of both Jacob Rees-Mogg and Kwasi “Oops, there goes the economy” Kwarteng. His investment career went splat after the FT revealed a horrifying list of sexual misconduct allegations.
12. Jacob Rees-Mogg
The most bizarre and ridiculous individual in British public life. A pantomime posho, he is the arriviste’s idea of an aristocrat, with a got-up accent that makes the royal family sound like scaffolders. Though he affects the air of a 19th-century duke, he is in fact younger than Kylie Minogue. Mogg started life in the city, setting up a hedge fund with the help of the unpleasant Crispin Odey. He won a parliamentary seat in 2010 and has been a traditionalist, nationalist, hard-right politician ever since, a fact often obscured by his bizarre manner. He was a determined defender of Boris Johnson, a Brexiteer, and is a fan of Nigel Farage, commenting in 2019: “I personally hold Nigel in the highest regard.” At this year’s party conference, he suggested Farage might even rejoin the Conservative Party. Both Mogg and Farage have shows on GB News, the conspiracy theory TV channel.
11. Richard Tice
Bouffant, ladies’ choice Orbán-in-waiting and the other half of Britain’s most objectionable couple (Isabel Oakeshott), Tice leads the hard-right Reform Party, an anti-Europe group of rabid Little Englanders. A former Tory donor, Tice made a fortune in property after his grandfather gave him a job. Was in favour of a no-deal Brexit.
10. Douglas Murray
On of high seriousness and low opinions, Murray is perhaps the most icy and paranoid of the Spectator’s current crop of pseudo-intellectual culture warriors. His views are scorchingly unpleasant, particularly when it comes to anyone or anything that is not, as he sees it, a product of “western” culture. Murray’s paranoia is so acute that he actually thinks there is a “war on the west”, which gave him the title of his recent book, which he promoted across the nether regions of the US right wing media. In liberal western society, he wrote, “it is now necessary to demonise white people…” This was just one of many startlingly unpleasant opinions in a book littered with examples of historical illiteracy and dubious racial theorising. The Spectator, a once-respectable weekly magazine of conservative thought, has remained happy to publish his writing.
9. Roger Waters
Waters, the Pink Floyd co-founder, has been slipping into ever-more eccentric patterns of behaviour for a while now. At a recent show at the London Palladium, he took to the stage in a show billed as a performance of his greatest hits. Instead, he spent an hour reading to the audience from his unpublished memoirs. This included a 20-minute section on his pets, including a duck named Donald. When the crowd began to protest, he told them to “fuck off”. While this behaviour is disrespectful and highly eccentric, it’s not necessarily harmful. But his views have a much darker side. A former producer said in a recent documentary that Waters had called him a “fucking Jew”. Waters has taken to dressing in what look like Nazi uniforms on stage, and dropping confetti on crowds in the shape of swastikas, Stars of David and dollar signs. Waters denies being antisemitic. A former band member alleged that, at a restaurant in Lebanon, Waters lost his temper and told staff to “take away the Jew food”. Waters’s behaviour has even drawn comment from the US State Department, which said in a statement that he had “a long track record of using antisemitic tropes”, and that his live shows “contained imagery that is deeply offensive to Jewish people and minimised the Holocaust”
8. Prince Andrew
A golfy dimwit, Andrew is also responsible for giving the single most stupid and ill-advised interview in British TV history. Cocksure little “nepo baby” that he is, Andy reckoned he could breeze through a Newsnight grilling from Emily Maitlis on his friendship with the serial paedophile and sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein. Maitlis took him to pieces, and he was left gibbering about trips to Pizza Express in Woking. He was famously photographed with his arm around the waist of one of Epstein’s victims, who said that she and Andrew had sex when she was 17, and that she recalled him sweating profusely throughout. In the bizarre highlight of his Newsnight interview, Andrew tried to dismiss her claims, saying “I have a peculiar medical condition, which is that I don’t sweat or I didn’t sweat at the time.” He had to sell his ski chalet in Verbier to reach a settlement with her.
7. Isabel Oakeshott
When she committed the greatest of journalistic sins by giving up one of her sources to the police, Oakeshott might have reassessed her outlook on life. Not a chance. She went on to write a book with the former health secretary Matt Hancock about his time in power, and Hancock shared a cache of WhatsApp messages with her for background. Big mistake. Those 100,000 messages found themselves on the front page of the Telegraph, under the headline “The Lockdown Files”. Oakeshott’s political views are like a bingo card of the miserable, close-minded attitudes of the new right. She was pro-Brexit, is a climate change denier, a lockdown sceptic and is “in a relationship” with the head of the Reform Party, Richard Tice. She is a collaborator with the Tory donor and Belize tax exile Michael Ashcroft, and will be best remembered for suggesting, in one of Ashcroft’s books, that David Cameron once performed a sex act with the severed head of a pig. As an expression of the level at which she operates, it cannot be bettered.
6. Liz Truss
The was the briefest prime minister in British history and also the least repentant. Her “mini-budget”, a hotch-potch of free-market fundamentalist ideas, was perhaps the most disastrous piece of economic policymaking ever devised. It crashed the value of the pound, the bond market, the mortgage market, and the pensions industry – all at the same time. Devoid of shame, and bewilderingly self-confident, Truss now flies around the world giving speeches about her time in office, alleging she was brought down by a left wing conspiracy.
5. Boris Johnson
It was once said of Boris Johnson that everyone loves him, apart from the people who actually know him. When addressing Johnson’s many, many shortcomings, it’s hard to know where to start. His failure to lock down the country or to take Covid seriously in the crucial first weeks of the pandemic is one of the greatest failures in the history of British leadership. His decision to support Brexit, having concluded it would be a good career move, was also calamitous for Britain. The prorogation of parliament was a constitutional outrage, and the lies to parliament over Partygate were astoundingly brazen. Stir into the mix the enormous personal betrayals, and you end up with an individual who is without doubt one of the worst people ever to enter British public life. Now he flies around the world giving cripplingly expensive after-dinner speeches, a wandering advert for Britain’s national decline.
4. Lee Anderson
Gruff hard-right xenophobe, with the interpersonal charm of a septic tank. Anderson’s view of migrants was that they should all “fuck off back to France”. When it came to the cost-of-living crisis, his insistence that meals could be made for 30p each earned him the nickname “30p Lee”. Asked for his views on the crisis, he remarked: “I’m a big believer that we do not need food banks.” A firm supporter of the death penalty, Anderson once justified this view by arguing that “nobody has ever committed a crime after being executed”.
3. Paul Dacre
The man who single-handedly created the monster that is the Daily Mail, a relentless compendium of paranoia, hatred and bigotry. Dacre’s newspaper was at the heart of Boris Johnson’s attack on Britain’s institutions, and his “Enemies of the people” front page, showing senior judges whom Dacre thought were trying to thwart Brexit, was one of the most insidious ever published. A frothing Eurosceptic, Dacre’s huge farm in Scotland was a beneficiary of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy. His effect on British public life has been relentlessly toxic, so much so that not even Boris Johnson would agree to put him into the House of Lords.
2. The entire staff of GB News
Wootton, Fox and Calvin Robinson, the phoney vicar, may be gone, but the cast of characters at GB News remains a sumptuous buffet of lunacy, delusion and poisonous, culture war ranting. From Neil Oliver, the spooky-eyed conspiracy theorist and Covid denier, to Jacob Rees-Mogg, an antique in search of his period, GB News has gathered together some of the very worst people in British public life. The channel’s CEO, Angelos Frangopoulos, along with its main backer, Paul Marshall, have created something that’s not only vile but also dangerous. The main currency in which this TV channel deals is hatred – hatred of immigrants, of “woke” ideology, of anything that smacks of modernity, or anything that is not a hard-right political view. What’s more, it has used sitting Tory MPs as journalists to interview sitting Tory ministers. And that really tells you what GB News is – Britain’s first propaganda channel.
1. Suella Braverman
The person Britain could most do without 2023
With her furtive grin and vastly overinflated CV, Suella Braverman has risen through the Tory Party to become the nation’s most high-profile populist. Unencumbered by a sense of proportion, compassion, human decency or self-awareness, Braverman once announced that she was “engaged in a battle against cultural Marxism”, a remark that led her to be compared to the mass murderer Anders Breivik. It also won her a complaint from the Board of Deputies of British Jews, who regard the phrase as having antisemitic overtones. She has justified her support for Brexit, saying it would allow Britain to “get rid of all this woke rubbish”, and famously remarked that sending immigrants to Rwanda was her dream. Recently delivered a speech to the eye-wateringly right wing American Enterprise Institute, before her appearance at Tory Party conference, where she called immigration a “hurricane”, in remarks so extreme they were even condemned by fellow Conservatives. A British nationalist of the worst kind, she will probably end up leading the post-defeat Tory Party and is a worthy recipient of this year’s The Person Britain Could Most Do Without Award. Many congratulations to her.