UK People of the year 2008 in Pictures

Which celebrities, politicians and artists hit the headlines in UK in 2008?

1 Cheryl Cole
It takes a special kinda lady to be able to turn a year around that started with revelations about her husband Ashley's alcohol-fuelled one night stand and end it with tabloids dubbing her the 'Angel of the North'. Before the X Factor, she was the pretty one from Girls Aloud. Afterwards, she was the gorgeous one whose sense of empathy with the contestants was matched by her sharp tongue. And we haven’t even mentioned that she has the best hair since Farrah Fawcett.

2 Alexa Chung
By rights, the pretty TV presenter should be intolerable. But one should never underestimate a patently ambitious young thing, even if she does hang out with Peaches Geldof. Her fondness for penny loafers and high waisted vintage-style dresses shows she wisely knows that going for the obvious doesn’t get results. Most surprisingly of all, she turned out to be funny. When she was made a presenter in her own right on T4, she was more than able to hold her own.

3 Guy Garvey
Elbow's appearance at Glastonbury saw public perception of the band shift from lauded unaderachievers to national treasures. Then their album, The Seldom Seen Kid, went on to win the Mercury prize and Elbow began selling out tours. In a year when big musical success stories like Duffy seemed almost sinisterly premeditated, Garvey’s was a victory against the odds, a genuinely unpredictable feat.

4 Leona Lewis
In 2008, Lewis became a star in the US: her album entered the Billboard charts at No 1, she was the first British female singer to reach the top of the US singles chart for 21 years, she has been nominated for three Grammys. She has been helped by Simon Cowell, who actually appeared to put some effort in: teaming her with blue-chip pop songwriters, working with legendary US record executive Clive Davis.

5 Damien Hirst
This year, on the day in September that Lehman Brothers fell, the artist cleared £95.7 million in a pair of auctions at Sotheby’s. It is said that art-market booms favour artistic over-producers such as Hirst. Those with long memories, however, will recall that it was in the last serious economic downturn that he first made his mark. Hirst, one suspects, is here to stay.

6 Steve McQueen
What a year it has been for Steve McQueen, the artist who won the Turner prize in 1999. May saw the premiere of his wonderful debut feature film, Hunger, at Cannes. McQueen’s Queen and Country, meanwhile, a powerful installation that takes the form of postage stamps bearing the heads of British soldiers killed in Iraq, continues to move those who see it. Finally, it was announced that McQueen will represent Britain at the Venice Biennale next year.

7 Alan Bennett
Those of us who are paid-up members of the Alan Bennett fanclub may ask ourselves if there is any year that passes without his making a noteworthy contribution to our culture, simply through his very existence. This year, however, was special by any standards, for he donated his papers to the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford.

8 Dawn French
This has been the year of the undead for French and Saunders, who have spent months hoofing around the country with what they promise will be their final show as a duo, Still Alive. But proving that there is indeed life after death, French, 51, has meanwhile taken a giant leap into a new career, as a memoirist. And not just any memoirist, but quite possibly - in sales terms, at least - the memoirist of the year.

9 Alex Ross
Whoever would have thought that one of the runaway successes of the publishing year would be a chunky history of 20th-century classical music written by an American nerd? But Alex Ross, 40, is not really a nerd. As well as being music critic for the New Yorker, he is an innovative blogger and counts Radiohead among his friends. The Rest is Noise steers a course from the golden age of Strauss and the fin de siecle to the postminimalist composition of the late 20th century.

10 Thomas Ades
Adès continues to bestride British musical life, as a multi-talented, composer, conductor, pianist, and programmer. The highlight this year was a vintage-Adès programme given by the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group of music by Ligeti, Barry, Kurtag and his own early piece Living Toys. He goes from strength to strength.

11 Lewis Hamilton
Last month Hamilton became the youngest ever formula one champion, and its first mixed-race champion. He is also unusual because he’s British and he’s a fearless, dead-eye winner. This year he took the title on the final corner of season, having lost it in the same race in 2007. You still might not like Formula 1 much. But this year Hamilton, a true original, became its single most interesting figure.

12 Christine Ohuruogu
Are we allowed to like Christine Ohuruogu now? This is the question that still hovers, perhaps unfairly, around Britain’s 2008 Olympic 400m gold medallist. Her weakness remains an impression of inadequate penitence for her 2006 ban over missed drug tests, and many British people have had problems forgiving Ohuruogu for this.

13 Rebecca Adlington
Britain’s 19-year-old gold medal-winning swimmer has been pigeonholed as 'normal'. She loves Strictly Come Dancing! She talks about shoes! She’s not oppressively beautiful! The fetishising of Adlington’s normalness was grating, not to mention patronising. But mainly it misses the point. Adlington is a brilliant sportswoman, the first British swimmer to win two Olympic golds since 1908. She broke a 19-year-old world record in the 800m final. This is not normal.

14 Jamie Oliver
He began the year with an apology to Sainsbury's for criticising it in his programme about the iniquities of industrialised chicken, and ended with the launch of his own glossy magazine and a promise to reduce the amount of swearing in his programmes in future. But the triumph of his year was his autumn Channel 4 series, Jamie's Ministry of Food: it showed just how bad diets among the most disadvantaged could be.

15 Olivia Chessel
Chessell represents the young, agitating wing of the fast-growing anti-aviation movement. When 56 Plane Stupid campaigners were arrested earlier this month at Stansted airport, much of the resulting press attention focused on her. After all, it wasn’t the first time she had got herself arrested this year. Back in February, she was among five protesters from the same group who scaled the roof of parliament.

16 Georgina Downs
Last month, Downs exited the high court clutching a landmark ruling, having successfully argued that the government’s pesticides policy was unlawful and did not adequately protect the health of residents living adjacent to sprayed fields. The government is expected to appeal, but the ruling could prove to be the biggest setback for the pesticides industry in this country for more than half a century.

17 The Kingsnorth Six
In October 2007, six environmental campaigners broke into the Kingsnorth power station and scaled a 200-metre smokestack before they were stopped and arrested. The six were accused of criminal damage. In court, the case centred on whether the six protestors had a 'lawful excuse' for their actions, which the protestors argued was conducted to protect against far greater damage elsewhere. By a majority verdict, they were acquitted.

18 Gary McKinnon
For the past year, the US has been attempting to extradite Gary McKinnon, a 42-year-old computer hacker from north London, who hacked into the computer systems of Nasa and the Pentagon. McKinnon and his ragtag army of supporters, lawyers and family members are fighting the extradition every inch of the way and refusing to go gently. He has one final judicial review to go in January and growing cross-party support in his bid to be allowed to face trial here.

19 Fiona Shackleton
Shackleton elicits praise so sincere from other lawyers in her field that it is almost baffling. But publicly, she was less well-regarded. The victory for Paul McCartney, whom she represented in the Macca-Mills divorce case, was her rehabilitation: it was clear-cut and satisfying. And of course it ended with Mills drenching Shackleton with a glass of water, whereupon it was revealed that, with wet hair, she looks a bit like Joan Cusack.

20 Sarah Brown
Sarah Brown's stock was low. After President Sarkozy's visit, she was compared unfavourably to Carla Bruni. She then came off worse against Samantha Cameron following the politician-on-holiday photos. What's changed? First, the Labour conference, and Sarah Brown's exemplary introduction for Gordon. Second, Michelle Obama brought substance to the first-lady role. Third, Gordon Brown went from zero to hero, and Sarah was suddenly on the side of the angels.

21 Boris Johnson
Since his election as mayor of London, Johnson has been charming, hapless and ghastly. He refused to do his jacket up at the Beijing Olympics closing ceremony and waved the union flag perfectly imperfectly. His move to force Sir Ian Blair from Scotland Yard and subsequent interest in the Damian Green affair has provoked proper argument. Several of his senior staff have quit, quickly. But he is still there, concrete proof that posh, compassionate Conservatism can win.

22 Vince Cable
The Lib Dems’ treasury spokesman was right on the end of the boom, right on the debt mountain, prescient on Northern Rock (he said nationalise, the government later did) and clamping down on speculators, even right on the crisis in the Icelandic banking system. He’s got excellent timing, in more than one way - an accomplished ballroom dancer at a time when Stricty Come Dancing is all the rage.

23 Peter Mandelson
The return of the twice-departed Peter Mandelson to the cabinet was the jaw-dropping political moment of the year. If Gordon Brown has made a more imaginative or daring move in his eighteen-month premiership we don’t know about it. This time last year Mandelson was a respected EU trade commissioner and British political history. Now he is the minister the Conservatives most fear and would most like to bring down. Again.

24 Alistair Darling
At first, Darling's interview with the Guardian's Decca Aitkenhead this year looked like a completely disastrous attempt to personalise him. But, a few months on, it feels like a success. The Darling of that interview may just be the Darling that has imputed into the public mind: likable, dry-witted, unhistrionic, astute, competent. He has had plenty of bad moments. The economy is on the slide and is a spectacular problem. But he, Darling, is not.

25 Robert Peston
The credit crunch has been the making of the former City editor of the Sunday Telegraph. His broadcast about it won him a Royal Television Society award for scoop of the year. Since, he has become the poster boy of the financial crisis.

26 David Blanchflower
Blanchflower, British-born but based at Dartmouth college, New Hampshire, saw the economic meltdown in the US and figured - rightly - that the same thing was heading in Britain’s direction. He warned repeatedly that 'something horrible' was about to happen to the UK economy. Blanchflower was vindicated and his critics - including some former MPC members - now look foolish.

27 Mervyn King
A difficult year for the governor as he tried to keep up with unprecedented financial events. King came up with the idea for an emergency lending scheme and was instrumental in setting up the massive bank bail-out and rescue plans. The end of the year did not reflect well on him, however. He looked very slow in turning round to back big cuts in borrowing costs and appeared to lose leadership of the monetary policy committee.

28 Amanda Staveley
One day Amanda Staveley's prince did come (Prince Andrew proposed to her in 2003), and she turned him down. Instead, she carved herself out a career in high finance and emerged this year as a deal-broker for some of the hugely wealthy royal families in the Middle East.

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