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The 50 Most Influential Non-Elected People in Britain – My Top 10

This weekend saw the Guardian release its ‘definitive list’ of Britain’s most influential non-elected people, and to the surprise of no one, the CEO of Tesco – Sir Terry Leahy – has topped the list.

You can see the full list in two places on the Guardian Unlimited Politics website: one in a horrendously designed ‘interactive’ flash version and the other as a plain text list. Can you guess which one I read?

As expected, I disagree with many choices and believe that some shouldn’t even be on the list. A couple of examples would be Kate Moss at number 9 and David Bowie at 43 – yes, they’re in the public eye and are famous… but are they influential really? I think not. Surely Bob Geldof should get a mention instead of Bowie, even though I loathe him so.

Now I’m not going to go through the list here; deconstructing it and arguing my point for moving or removing people from it or giving reasons for adding people as that would take forever, and I’m sure we’re all busy. Instead, I’ll present the Guardian’s top 10 and show mine next to it – along with a sentence or two.

Guardian Unlmited Politics
Sir Terry Leahy, CEO of Tesco Sir Terry Leahy
I’ve written about Tesco before and to quote myself and the Guardian: one in every eight pounds spent in the UK is spent in a Tesco store. With that amount of money coming through stores you control, you have a lot of power. Let’s not even get onto the issue of the ClubCard – Tesco knows more about your shopping habits than you can imagine… this isn’t some Orwellian conspiracy theory… I studied actual Tesco ClubCard data for my degree… it’s impressive!
Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England The Queen
She’s a frail old lady and no, she’s not cool, but the Queen is the most powerful head of state in the world, reigning over more than 128 million people in 16 different countries including Canada, Australia and New Zealand. She is the richest woman in Britain (her finances make for fascinating reading) and technically she owns all the land in the Commonwealth which amounts to one sixth of the world’s land. Luckily for us, she rarely exercises her political power – although she can, her predecessors have, and her successors can too!
Paul Dacre, Editor of the Daily Mail Mark Thompson
As the Director General of the BBC – the largest broadcasting company in the world in terms of audience members – Mark Thomas is the head of a company that has a £4 billion budget. He also has final-decision control over the most popular television station and website in the UK.
The Queen (You know who she is, right?) Rebekah Wade
The Sun newspaper has the highest circulation of any English-language daily newspaper in the world and has a daily readership of over 7,800,000. It is (unsurprisingly) owned by the Australian Rupert Murdoch, but is edited by Rebekah Wade. She beat up TVs hard-man Ross Kemp too, so beware!
Simon Cowell, Television Personality and Record Company Exec. Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England
To quote The Guardian ‘He has the ultimate power of interest rate rises, which hits people where it matters most – in the pocket.’ However, his power may be slightly overstated – he is forced to work closely with the Monetary Policy Committee and the HM Treasury.
Sir Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin Paul Dacre
Like The Sun, the Daily Mail is an ultra-patriotic, populist and sensationalist newspaper and is the second most read in Britain. It too is a right-wing paper preaching homophobia and xenophobia in a veiled manner. A fact for you: it was threatened with closure in 1939 by the British Government due to its avid devotion to ‘Adolf the Great’, the German Nazi Party and Mussolini – it was nicknamed The Daily Heil.
Sir Alex Ferguson, Manager of Manchester United FC Lakshmi Mittal
One of the top five richest people in the world, Lakshmi is the Indian-born British citizen who personally owns the biggest steel company in the world – Arcelor Mittal. He is said to be one of the most powerful people in the world, gets personal business recommendations from the Prime Minister, and is currently venturing into the oil market. He has paid the highest amount for any house in the world (Kensington Gardens, London – decked in Marble from the Taj Mahal’s quarry) and hosted the most expensive wedding in history for his daughter (held in the Palace of Versailles).
Stephen Hawking, Physicist Sir Gus O’Donnell
Whilst politicians are elected to run the country, the people that actually do the work are the civil servants; the people who are non-elected and are in their positions for life (unless they move on or are fired, of course!). As Cabinet Secretary, GOD has authority over all civil servants in the UK (and 15 other commonwealth countries).
Kate Moss, Model Lord Goldsmith
As Attorney General, Goldsmith represents the Queen and the Government in court, has total supervisory power over all prosecutions undertaken by the Crown Prosecution Service and the serious Fraud Office and on top of that is Guardian of the Public Interest. It is highly likely that if Lord Goldsmith had come to the conclusion that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was unlawful, Britain would never have invaded. Instead, he changed his mind and declared it legal, thus Britain joined the Second Gulf War.
Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury Lloyd Morgan
Winner of Time Magazine’s Person of the Year 2006, blogger and Web 2.0 contributor extraordinaire, I have complete control over a number of websites and am controlling exactly what you’re reading right now.

The last two places were a difficult choice and a close call between the two above and Rowan Williams – Archbishop of Canterbury: head of the Anglican Communion – and Brendan Barber – the General Secretary of the Trade Union Congress, representing over seven million UK workers.