Panel of Judges

Making an objective and informed assessment of each candidate against the specific nomination criteria means that drawing together the right panel of judges is of critical importance. The group that has been assembled combines a broad range of professional experience, political balance, and diversity.  The judging panel will approach the difficult and important task of agreeing a shortlist and then a winner, with utter professionalism, insight and most importantly, an open mind.  

Ali Miraj

Ali Miraj - Contrarian Prize JudgeAli Miraj

Having qualified as a Chartered Accountant, Ali Miraj currently works as a Director in Infrastructure Finance at a leading European financial institution specialising in infrastructure and project finance. He was the Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for the marginal seat of Watford at the 2005 General Election. Prior to that he contested the 2001 General Election in Aberavon, South Wales and served as a Councillor (London Borough of Hillingdon) from 1998-2002 having been elected at the age of 23.

He has been a governor of two schools and served as an adviser to the Conservative Foreign Affairs Team from 2001-2003. He has presented the Islam Channel’s flagship political programme, “In Focus” and has been a regular contributor to the media on domestic political issues and foreign affairs. He served as a Board Member of both the Conservative Party’s Policy Commissions on Quality of Life and International and National Security (2005-2007).

He sits on the board of the London Institute of Banking and Finance and was a member of the Strategic Advisory Board of Cass Business School (2016-2017). He was a Trustee of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (2009 - 2014), a Director of the UK Board of the Abraham Fund Initiatives (2008 – 2013), a charity based in Israel that fosters co-operation between Jews and Arabs through grassroots projects, and is an ambassador for the charity “War Child”. He has served on the Main Committee of the London Society Chartered Accountants and is a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of International Bankers and a Freeman of the City of London.

Educated at Haberdashers Aske’s School for Boys, Elstree, he went on to the London School of Economics where he obtained degrees at both graduate and postgraduate level and also read Modern Political Philosophy at Harvard. His interests include writing, the theatre and DJing (mixing and producing House music).

Julia Ebner - Contrarian Prize JudgeJulia Ebner

Julia is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) and author of the bestselling book “The Rage: The Vicious Circle of Islamist and Far-Right Extremism”. She leads ISD’s research on cumulative extremism and coordinates the Online Civil Courage Initiative in cooperation with Facebook Germany. Julia spent two years working for the world’s first counter-extremism organisation, Quilliam, where she carried out research projects on terrorism prevention for the European Commission and the Kofi Annan Foundation and gave evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee on far-right extremism.

In her role as the coordinator of the pan-European network Families Against Terrorism and Extremism (FATE), she led radicalization-prevention projects across Europe and North Africa. She regularly writes for The Guardian and The Independent and gives interviews in English, German and French on the BBC, CNN, ZDF, ARD, France24, Al Jazeera, LBC and others.

Michael Woodford - Contrarian Prize JudgeMichael Woodford

Michael spent the next 30 years of his professional life working at Olympus. In April 2011, he was appointed President of the Olympus Corporation - the first Western 'salary-man' to rise through the ranks to the top of a Japanese giant. That October he was also made CEO, but only two weeks later was dismissed after querying inexplicable payments approaching $2 billion.

After his bravery at Olympus, The Sunday Times, The Independent, the Financial Times and The Sun, all awarded him the 2011/12 ‘Business Person of the Year’. Michael was also the winner of the ‘Association of Certified Fraud Examiners award’ “For Choosing Truth Over Self”, and in 2013 was the recipient of the inaugural Contrarian Prize.

In 2014, Michael was awarded the International Chamber of Commerce’s special award for “displaying courage and a sense of deep conviction towards the highest principles of corporate governance”. In May of 2015, at the Foreign Correspondent's Club of Japan he received the “Friend of the Free Press” award.

Michael has chronicled his unbelievable story in his bestseller true life thriller ‘Exposure: Inside the Olympus Scandal: How I Went from CEO to Whistleblower’. He now spends his life writing and lecturing on business culture, and the frailties of human nature in the workplace.

Izabella Kaminska - Contrarian Prize JudgeIzabella Kaminska

Izabella is the a journalist at the Financial Times and is the editor of FT Alphaville. She joined FT Alphaville in October 2008, which was, perhaps, the best time in the world to become a financial blogger. Before that she worked as a producer at CNBC, a natural gas reporter at Platts and an associate editor of BP’s internal magazine. She has also worked as a reporter on English language business papers in Poland and Azerbaijan and was a Reuters graduate trainee in 2004.

Everything she knows about economics stems from a childhood fascination with ancient economies, specifically the agrarian land reforms of the early Roman republic and the coinage and price stability reforms of late Roman emperors. Her favourite emperor is one Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletian.

She studied Ancient History at UCL and has a masters in Journalism from what was then the London College of Printing.

Gawain Towler - Contrarian Prize JudgeGawain Towler

Gawain was the Head of Press for UKIP between 2009 and 2018 as the party went from being a statistical anomaly to becoming a significant force in British politics, first winning the European elections in 2014, forcing the Cameron Government to offer a referendum, then being a significant part of the winning Leave campaign. Previous to that he worked in the European Parliament in Brussels and Strasbourg as an advisor on International Development and Humanitarian Aid.

He was 'Brussels Sprouts' for Private Eye and founded and edited the EU focussed satirical and investigative magazine, The Sprout. He is a regular columnist in the New European and regularly writes for a range of other publications and runs his own PR firm, CWC Strategy.

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