Alan Johnson wins Orwell Prize

Alan Johnson wins Orwell Prize

Former home secretary Alan Johnson has won the Orwell Prize for Books with childhood memoir This Boy (Bantam).

The prize, which recognises books which match George Orwell's ambition of making "political writing into an art", was announced at a ceremony in London this evening (21st May). It was the second prize win in a week for the Labour politician, who also took the £10,000 Ondaatje Prize on Monday (19th).

Journalist Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, who writes for The Guardian and the London Review of Books, won the Orwell Prize for journalism. Both Abdul-Ahad and Johnson won £3,000.

The book prize was judged by Sue MacGregor, Robert McCrum and Trevor Philips. MacGregor said of This Boy: "This is a tale told without a trace of self-pity, but with great grace and good humour, of what it was like growing up poor in a single- parent family in post-War Britain. It is at once deeply personal and nationally significant, and a highly engaging read."

The other titles on the shortlist were Charles Moore's Margaret Thatcher: The Authorised Biography (Allen Moore); Gaiutra Bahadur for Coolie Woman (Hurst); Frank Dikötter’s The Tragedy of Liberation (Bloomsbury); James Fergusson’s The World’s Most Dangerous Place (Bantam); and David Goodhart’s The British Dream (Atlantic).

Also announced at the ceremony was a special prize, awarded to Guardian journalist Jonathan Freedland, who has been shortlisted for the Orwell Prize seven times.

The Orwell Prize announced today a series of new initiatives to mark its 21st anniversary, including a new journalism prize in collaboration with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the Orwell Prize for Exposing Britain's Social Evils, and a new prize for school pupils sitting their GCSEs or at sixth form, the Orwell Youth Prize.

An online publication, Encountering Orwell, has also been launched, featuring a number of writers describing their first experience of reading Orwell. Readers are invited to contribute their own experiences.