About the Prize

The Contrarian Prize seeks to recognise individuals in British public life who demonstrate independence, courage and sacrifice.  It aims to shine a light on those who have made a meaningful contribution to the public debate through the ideas that they have introduced or the stand they have taken.  

All nominations come directly from the public and are considered by a diverse panel of judges that are all highly-respected within their respective fields.   

The conformists are rewarded with senior positions in government, business, quangos and the media.  But there is nothing to acknowledge those that stand up for what they believe in and suffer as a result.  We applaud our military heroes but what about those heroes of conscience whose impact may, in time, be profound?

The British public has lost faith in the key institutions in our country.  Parliament, the press, the police and bankers are all in the dock.  From the expenses scandal, to phone-hacking, to financial mismanagement, we have witnessed abuse on a gargantuan scale.  Institutionally rotten cultures have been exposed and trust has broken down.

The public are rebelling, or disengaging, in part, because they see that the only people that seem to benefit are those that perpetuate the status quo, conform to the party line and never challenge the prevailing consensus.  It is the stooges who prosper.  It is time to address this.

The Contrarian Prize which was established in 2012 aims to make a positive contribution by getting ordinary disillusioned people in Britain to think about individuals in public life be they politicians, journalists, activists, business people, religious leaders and others, who demonstrate authenticity, lateral thinking and boldness.  People who go against the grain, put their head above the parapet and stand up for what they believe.

History has shown us that those who take the path of conviction as opposed to the path of convenience do exist.  Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi, Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi and Galileo are all international examples.  But we have seen such figures in British public life too.  

The shortlist for the Contrarian Prize has been very varied in previous years. The 2015 shortlist comprised: Craig Murray - former UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan who was sacked for speaking out about the use of intelligence obtained by torture in Uzbekistan; Simon Danczuk – a politician who has led the charge in calling for a public inquiry into child sexual abuse; Ed Husain – a former Islamist radical who has become a leading proponent of counter-extremism in the face of personal attacks; Nevres Kemal – a former social worker who spoke out about failings in child protection at Haringey Council and lost her job in the process; and George Galloway a politician who has consistently spoken out on a whole range of issues including the war in Iraq, the Palestinians and Syria.  

In 2014 it comprised Benjamin Zephaniah - poet, writer, musician, broadcaster - who has consistently spoken out against injustice and turned down an OBE; Douglas Carswell - politician, thinker, polemicist - who has advocated British withdrawal from the EU and championed greater public involvement in the democratic process; Brian Cathcart - co-founder of the “Hacked Off” Campaign, academic and former journalist - who has led the charge for independent regulation of the press; Kay Sheldon - Board member of the Care Quality Commission - who highlighted failings at the Commission and was smeared for doing so; Peter Oborne - Journalist and author = who has highlighted the growing professionalisation of the political class and has challenged conventional wisdom over Iran’s nuclear capability; and Clive Stafford Smith - Human Rights Lawyer - who has represented over 300 people on death row in the US and consistently campaigned against the death penalty and for the closure of Guantanamo Bay.

In 2013 the shortlist:comprised Michael Woodford – the former CEO of Olympus who exposed a $1.7 billion fraud at the heart of Olympus and was sacked for doing so;  Heather Brooke – the freedom of information campaigner who spent five years fighting for MPs to come clean about their expenses; Nigel Farage – the UKIP leader who has pushed Europe to the top of the political agenda; Giles Fraser – former Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s who resigned over the potential forced removal of protestors camped outside the cathedral; and  Peter Tatchell who has fought tirelessly for human rights for over 40 years regardless of personal risk.

The prize itself
The prize has been generously donated by the renowned pop-art sculptor Mauro Perucchetti, who is famous for his distinctive, large, brightly coloured resin sculptures and has addressed a number of thorny issues including cloning, contemporary consumerism and war in his pieces.

He has provided one of his iconic works, “The Three Politicians” which has been exhibited in a giant public installation outside the Louvre in Paris, to be the annual prize.  Unique, symbolic, and meaningful, it encapsulates the essence of the values and behaviours being recognised by the prize.

The piece is not only a beautiful and extremely valuable work of art, it is also wonderfully appropriate. “The Three Politicians” - the one who does not see, the one who does not hear and the one who does not speak out.  The Contrarian is the opposite of all of these.

The Prize is funded by private individuals that believe that contrarian behaviour should be recognised and does not currently accept funds from corporates or large foundations to preserve its independence.

You can read more about the prize on this site and we encourage you to tweet using #cprize .

Ali Miraj
Founder and Chairman of the Panel of Judges

Contrarian Prize

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