Miliband, Clegg and Cameron
Miliband, Clegg and Cameron. Heroes and zeroes. Reuters

Politics just isn't fair. One day you are up, riding high on a tide of party support, impressing all around you with your wit and skill and secure in your position for the foreseeable future.

Then the unforeseen future happens and it all changes and comes tumbling down around your head. Overnight, the fan club evaporates, no one can remember what they saw in you in the first place and there is talk of you being replaced.

Perhaps the most cruel and unforgiving aspect is the judgements made by fellow politicians and political pundits in the media. There is very little room for sentiment, personal preferences or weighing things in the balance – just a simple, instant, hugely unfair verdict: Hero or Zero.

So here we go, the heroes and zeroes of 2013.

David Cameron: He saw off any talk of a leadership challenge, he faced down Ukip with a pledge of an in-out referendum on the EU and he routinely bested Ed Miliband in the Commons chamber, where frontbench careers can be made and destroyed. And then it all went wrong.

There were the policy U turns, over energy prices and payday loans for example, Ukip refused to roll over and Eurosceptic backbenchers simply demanded more concessions, he started losing to Miliband in the Commons. And all this after, horror of horrors, recalling MPs from their summer break to back his rush to bomb Syria only to lose the vote having fatally misjudged the mood on his own benches and the country.

By the end of the year, even his closest allies were predicting he couldn't win an outright election victory.

At least the economy started going his way and there was the glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Plus there was no talk of any leadership challenge.


Ed Miliband: He started off as the geek with the cheek to think he could lead Labour to victory in 2015 when no one in his party thought so. He was written off as weak, clumsy, policy-light and worst of all "not David".

While the opinion polls continued to show a steady, traditional mid-term lead over the Tories, he personally lagged behind Cameron. Then he came up with his wheeze on energy prices and proved a policy is not just for a party conference speech but the life of a parliament.

He started beating Cameron in the Commons with his crafty cost of living crisis strategy and all talk of leadership challenges vanished. He ended the year far stronger than he began. But can he keep it up as the economy improves?


George Osborne
Chancellor George Osborne: Economics wizard? (Reuters)

George Osborne: Chancellors don't have to be liked to be successful. So Osborne got it partly right. His omnishambles budget in 2012 showed just how disliked he was in some quarters, even on his own benches, and he wasn't even getting it right.

He was forced to drop his "we're all in it together" soundbite as, every time he went out in public it was obvious he was amongst those lucky few, like his boss, who really were not in it at all and probably had no real grasp of what "it" was anyway.

But he pulled off a barnstorming comeback with his autumn statement which deployed his economic recovery weapons with full force, deflating his opposite number Ed Balls in dramatic fashion.

Suddenly, he is back as one of the contenders for the top job, his party loves him and he is on a roll. If he can keep it up.


Ed Balls: The man who still won't apologise for anything he did in government, largely because he doesn't believe he got anything drastically wrong. But it didn't help his, or his party's attempts at rehabilitation.

His "flatlining" jibes worked. Then when the economy started to recover they stopped working and he switched tack to living standards "going down" and accompanying gestures. A neat trick. But he failed to pull it off in a dreadful autumn statement performance which, inevitably, re-opened speculation about his future in the job.

He "didn't give a toss" about the chatter, largely because he is certain his leader can't risk the trouble it would cause if he tried to shift him. According to some, he has about six months to get his act together.


Nick Clegg: The man they couldn't hang out to dry. If you believe the hype "nobody likes him, everybody hates him". But he is not about to start eating worms just yet.

He swung his party behind his (Osborne's) economic strategy at conference, saw off the predicted Vince Cable challenge to his authority and, like a man who knows he has nowhere else to go, stuck to his coalition guns through thick and thin.

He will still be there at the election and, just maybe, beyond.


Alex Salmond: Scotland's Braveheart SNP leader is universally acknowledged as one of the canniest operators in the business. But he was outmanoeuvred by Cameron over the independence question and has, so far, failed to shift the polls in favour of separation.

The White Paper which was supposed to answer all the questions, didn't. And his promises to keep the Queen and the pound left some to wonder what was going to be so independent about an independent Scotland.


Iain Duncan Smith: IDS is what is known as a "brave" politician (and we all know what that means). It also means he has taken on something others have failed at or wouldn't touch with a bargepole. And he appears to be failing at it. Welfare reform is the thing every party says needs to be done but only IDS has attempted it with such commitment. He insists it is "in time and on budget", experts say he is going to run over budget and out of time.


Boris Johnson
All-conquering London Mayor Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson: Never forget the London Mayor – as if he would let you. He made an astonishing speech about thickos who can never succeed but then claimed it was all wilfully misconstrued. His buses are saunas, his bikes have lost their sponsorship and his airport will never get off the ground. So what's left?

Boris' ambition, that's what. And the Tories still love him. He is a cert as a future Tory leadership contender. But Boris as prime minister – really?

Hero. Because he just "is".

Nigel Farage: He is likely to be the biggest electoral winner this year, in the EU and local elections. He manages to rise above the Godfrey "Bongo Bongo land" Blooms and Victoria "send them all home" Aylings of his party denouncing those who suggest they ARE his party.