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AFTER a record number of submissions providing some truly exceptional examples of investigative journalism, the judges of the Paul Foot Award for Campaigning Journalism 2008 decided to increase the prize money and split this year’s award between two outstanding journalists.

Paul Foot 2008 Richard Brooks Camilla Cavendish
Richard Brooks of Private Eye and Camilla Cavendish of the Times, joint winners of the Paul Foot Award 2008

The joint winners are Camilla Cavendish of The Times, for her investigation into the many injustices which have resulted from the Children Act 1989 and the professional cultures that have grown up around child “protection”; and Richard Brooks of Private Eye, for his investigation into the mismanagement and financial irregularities behind the sale of the government’s development business, Actis.

Ian Hislop, editor of Private Eye, said: “In these difficult economic times the Paul Foot Award is proud to offer two winners for the price of one! The standard was so high this year that the judges had to give a joint award, shared by a forensic financial investigation into a government scandal and a dogged critical campaign against legal injustice. Both are firmly in the tradition of first-rate journalism that Paul exemplified.”

Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian, commented: “I think Paul would have admired the two winners for very different reasons. Richard Brooks is a digger and a troublemaker who niggles away at difficult subjects in a meticulous, punchy and highly effective way. Camilla Cavendish would have appealed to Paul’s campaigning heart for the way in which she pursued one story through thick and thin. Both are extremely worthy winners in the Foot tradition.”

Private Eye magazine and the Guardian newspaper set up the award in memory of Paul Foot, the journalist and left-wing campaigner who died in 2004. The 2008 prize was presented in London on Monday 3 November, with £6,000 split equally between the two winning entries and each of the four runners-up receiving £1,000. The judges for this year’s award were, in alphabetical order: Clare Fermont, Bill Hagerty, Ian Hislop, Richard Ingrams, Brian MacArthur (chair), Alan Rusbridger, and Michelle Stanistreet.

Paul Foot 2008 Richard Brooks Camilla Cavendish Ian Hislop
Look, no bung: Ian Hislop, editor of Private Eye, is left empty-handed after presenting the winners’ cheques

Citations on behalf of the judges by chairman Brian MacArthur

Richard Brooks, Private Eye

Early in 2007 Richard Brooks discovered, buried away in a memo submitted to a Public Accounts Committee inquiry into the government’s management of shareholdings in various corporations, a highly valuable but largely unheard of fund management company called Actis. Brooks then wrote a series of articles exposing the sale of a key government international development business to the organisation’s own management for a fraction of its value, and the transformation of an effective development body into a money-making machine for executives at the expense of the world’s poor.

Camilla Cavendish, The Times
The outrageous miscarriages of justice which are being perpetrated on children, because unaccountable social workers are removing them from parents in closed courts with virtually no scrutiny, have been raised before. But in a series of articles for the Times, Camilla Cavendish provided a more detailed analysis of the many injustices which result from the Children Act 1989 and from the professional cultures which have grown up around child “protection”. She did so in a sustained way which will force the authorities to think again. The Times’ wider campaign included several leading articles on various aspects of the issue. Many disparate campaign groups were encouraged to put their links on the Times website, and urged readers to email their MP. Hundreds of readers have done so, and the letters those MPs have written to Jack Straw have put real pressure on the Ministry of Justice.

Paul Foot Awards 2009
Runner-up Dan McDougall (left), Camilla Cavendish, judges Alan Rusbridger and Ian Hislop, runners-up Jim Oldfield and Andrew Gilligan, with Richard Brooks on the far right (ha ha). Warwick Mansell is not pictured as he was on his honeymoon

Shortlisted runners-up:

Andrew Gilligan, Evening Standard, whose investigation exposed the so-called “Lee Jasper affair”, serious financial irregularities in London’s City Hall and the London Development agency, involving a senior aide to the then mayor, Ken Livingstone. The investigation has so far resulted in six police inquiries, seven arrests and Mr Jasper’s resignation and was credited by some, including Mr Livingstone, with his defeat in the recent mayoral election.

Warwick Mansell, Times Educational Supplement, who wrote extensively about the government’s school testing/exams regime, including the first major story on the Sats test marking scandal which led to the late return of thousands of pupils’ test papers and the sacking of test contractor ETS Europe, and the first story bringing together opposition across the education profession to the government’s league tables/targets/testing regime of school accountability.

Dan McDougall, The Observer’s South Asia Correspondent, whose undercover investigations in India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh led to the shaming of three of the world’s top five retailers, Esprit, Primark and Gap Inc, for using children in their supply chains. All three firms sacked or fined major suppliers, cancelled millions of pounds worth of contracts and launched multi-million pound social funds.

Jim Oldfield, of Rossington Community Newsletter, South Yorkshire Newspapers, who, long before Fleet Street had ever heard of eco-towns, started chronicling the activities of a group of landowners and speculators to plant one in the village of Rossington – Rossington Eco-Town - apparently against the wishes of 13,000-odd residents.

Paul Foot Awards 2009
Jim Oldfield with, from left, Sally Burton, Emma Roots and Haley Paterson of the Rossington Community Newsletter
Paul Foot Awards 2009 Bill Hagerty Alan Rusbridger
Judges Bill Hagerty and the Guardian’s Alan Rusbridger
Paul Foot Awards 2009 Paul Foot Brian MacArthur Roger Graef
Former Private Eye editor Richard Ingrams, a lifelong friend of Paul Foot and one of this year’s judges, with Brian MacArthur, judges’ chairman (right), and film-maker Roger Graef
Paul Foot Awards 2009 Ian Hislop Richard Ingrams
Great Bores of Today – and yesterday (right)
Paul Foot Awards 2009
Paul Foot, 1937-2004.
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