Orwell Prize 2012 Shortlists Announced

Tuesday 24 April 2012

  • 6 books in contention include themes of murder, opium and urban underworld; 6 journalists in the running include pieces on 9/11 jumpers, reading the riots and welfare war; 7 bloggers still competing for the prize include those on broken bureaucracy, generation vexed and defying the economy
  • Winners of £3,000 prizes to be announced on 23rd May
  • Shortlists revealed at debate; Our overwhelmingly white media are inevitably delivering ‘white news’
  • The shortlists for this year’s Orwell Prize – Britain’s most prestigious prize for political writing – have been announced today, Tuesday 24th April, at the University of Wesminster, Regents Street. The shortlist announcements (from 7pm) were followed by the annual shortlist debate, this time; Our overwhelmingly white media are inevitably delivering ‘white news’. The debate featured Hannah Pool (author and former Guardian writer), Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (Independent columnist and winner of the Orwell Prize 2002 for journalism), Rob Berkeley (Director of The Runneymede Trust), chaired by Brian Cathcart (2012 Orwell Prize journalism judge, winner of 2000 Orwell Prize for books and professor of journalism at Kingston University). The shortlists were announced by Jean Seaton (director of the Orwell Prize).

    Book Prize

    A record 264 books were whittled down to a longlist of 18 and then the shortlist of 6 by this year’s judges, Miranda Carter (writer and winner of the Orwell Prize 2002 for Anthony Blunt: His Lives), Sameer Rahim (assistant books editor, Daily Telegraph) and Baroness Helena Kennedy QC (previously shortlisted for Just Law). The shortlisted books are:

  • Siddhartha Deb The Beautiful and the Damned: Life in the New India (Penguin)
  • Misha Glenny Dark Market: CyberThieves, CyberCops and You (Vintage)
  • Toby Harnden Dead Men Risen (Quercus)
  • Gavin Knight Hood Rat (Picador)
  • Richard Lloyd Parry People Who Eat Darkness: The Fate of Lucie Blackman (Jonathan Cape)
  • Julia Lovell The Opium War (Pan Macmillan)
  • The six books on this year’s shortlist come from six different publishers. Each of the authors appears on an Orwell Prize shortlist for the first time. Director of the Prize, Jean Seaton, said: ‘Two of the books on our shortlist share a precarious journey to the public. Siddahartha Deb’s book was censored in India, Toby Harnden’s book on male camaraderie in the Welsh Guards pulped by the MOD. Julia Lovell’s witty, erudite, history of the founding myth of modern China – that of the Opium War, would most certainly be censored if the Chinese authorities recognised how mercilessly it slays illusions. Misha Glenny’s book makes any use of a credit card seem infinitely risky while Richard Lloyd Parry’s book on the murder of an English girl is really a gripping essay on justice and the law in Japan. Hood Rat is Gavin Knight’s extraordinary portrait of the under-belly of urban, unseen Britain. What do they share – except for a dark content? Precision, wit, elegance: important books about important things. Orwell would have devoured all of them.’

    Journalism Prize

    This year’s shortlist of 6 journalists came from the longlist of 12 journalists, out of a record field of 140 journalists. This year’s judges are Brian Cathcart (journalist, winner of the Orwell Prize for Books 2000 for The Case of Stephen Lawrence, professor of journalism at Kingston University) and Ian Hargreaves (former editor of The Independent, former director of BBC News and Current Affairs, professor of digital economy at Cardiff University). The shortlisted journalists are:

  • Edward Docx Prospect Magazine; The Guardian
  • Daniel Finkelstein The Times
  • Amelia Gentleman The Guardian
  • Simon Kuper Financial Times
  • Paul Lewis The Guardian; Twitter
  • David James Smith The Sunday Times
  • Amelia Gentleman is shortlisted for a third consecutive year. Paul Lewis, also from the Guardian, was also shortlisted in 2010. Edward Docx, Daniel Finkelstein, Simon Kuper and David James Smith are recognised on an Orwell Prize shortlist for the first time. Director of the Prize, Jean Seaton, said: ‘Journalists and journalism have had a bruising even shaming year. Yet it has also had a remarkable year of consequential stories told in quite new ways bringing new evidence to bear on important issues. Our shortlist represents the moral heart of reporting at its best.’

    Blog Prize

    7 bloggers, rather than the usual 6, have been shortlisted for this year’s Prize. 18 bloggers (rather than the usual 12) were longlisted from a record 226 entries. This year’s judges are Suzanne Moore (journalist, The Guardian and the Mail on Sunday), Hopi Sen (blogger, previously shortlisted and longlisted for the Orwell Prize) and Sean Dodson (Guardian contributor and senior lecturer of journalism at Leeds Metropolitan University). The shortlisted bloggers are:

  • Alex Massie Alex Massie (www.spectator.co.uk/alexmassie)
  • Ms Baroque Baroque in Hackney (http://baroqueinhackney.com)
  • BendyGirl Benefit Scrounging Scum (http://benefitscroungingscum.blogspot.com/)
  • Lisa Ansell Lisa Ansell (lisaansell.posterous.com)
  • Rangers Tax-Case Rangers Tax-Case (http://www.rangerstaxcase.com)
  • Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi (http://rebeccaomonira.wordpress.com)
  • Wiggy Beneath the Wig (http://beneaththewig.com/)
  • Six out of the seven shortlisted bloggers are writing independently without any formal alignment of their blog to a publication. All seven are shortlisted for the first time. Director of the Prize, Jean Seaton, said: ‘Blogging has a vocal and enthusiastic community. The form is evolving – experts let light into dark professional corners and despite the dominance of the mainstream media (and its accomplishment) blogging still provides a venue for differerent and independent voices.’ The winners of the Orwell Prizes – each worth £3000 – will be announced at an awards ceremony at Church House, Westminster, on Wednesday 23rd May, 6.30 for 7pm. ENDS Notes to editors 1. The Orwell Prize is Britain’s most prestigious prize for political writing. Every year, prizes are awarded to the work – for the book, for the journalism and for the blog – which comes closest to George Orwell’s ambition ‘to make political writing into an art’. Each Prize is worth £3000. 2. The Prize was founded by the late Professor Sir Bernard Crick in its present form in 1993, awarding its first prizes in 1994. The Media Standards Trust, Political Quarterly and Orwell Trust are partners in running the Prize, through the Council of the Orwell Prize. Richard Blair (Orwell’s son) and A. M. Heath. 3. For further information, please contact the Administrator, Katriona Lewis at katriona.lewis@mediastandardstrust.org or 0207 229 5722.