Congratulations to Somerville alumna and journalist for The Times, Rachel Sylvester (English, 1988), who won the Political Journalism prize at the British Journalism Awards and the Political Studies Association (PSA)’s Journalist of the Year award.
Sylvester’s winning entry, headlined ‘Being a mother gives me the edge on May’, included an interview in which Andrea Leadsom suggested she would be a better Conservative leader than Theresa May because she had children. The piece prompted Leadsom to withdraw from the race.
‘Sylvester asked pertinent questions and elicited responses that subsequently influenced Leadsom’s decision to withdraw from the Conservative Party leadership contest. Sylvester’s composed responses defending the interview were also notable’, said the PSA judging panel.
The story led broadcast news bulletins after it broke and prompted Leadsom to tweet a message to Sylvester, which said: ‘This is the worst gutter journalism I have ever seen. I am so angry – I can’t believe this. How could you?’ The Times responded by releasing an audio excerpt of the interview which appeared to back up its reporting.
On accepting the award at the PSA’s Annual Awards ceremony in Westminster, Sylvester said: ‘Politics is never boring but this has been an extraordinary year to cover. As thrilling as it was unpredictable, it’s been a reminder that politicians and even journalists can make a difference but that voters still always have the last word. I’m honoured to receive this award at the end of such a momentous period.’
On the 10th of October, Sylvester spoke at a sold out Somerville London Group event titled ‘Clinton v Trump: the most significant election of our era?’ at the Oxford and Cambridge club.
She joined The Times in 2008 and is also a regular contributor to Prospect magazine. As well as her weekly column she undertakes regular interviews with Alice Thomson. Sylvester started writing about politics in 1996 and was a lobby correspondent on The Daily Telegraph before becoming Political Editor of The Independent on Sunday.