The UK, Alibaba and Nigel Farage are the biggest winners of 2014

Guy Bentley
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As the year draws to a close it's a good time to reflect and look back on who will be cheerfully toasting 2014, after looking at those poor souls who've been dealt nothing but coal this year.

This lot have plenty of reason for good cheer this holiday season - here's our pick of the biggest winners of 2014.

Nigel Farage

Oh, how times have changed. Nigel Farage has helped transform the fortunes of a party once seen as a rump of the Tory party into a serious force in British politics. After a steady rise in the polls, Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg challenged Farage to a televised debate. Farage duly accepted and the two men fought it out over the Europe and immigration in two debates.

The result in both debates were big wins for Farage and a devastating defeat for the hapless Lib Dem leader and once star of televised debates. Farage has led his party to a stunning victory in the European elections, capturing 24 seats, with 27 per cent of the vote. The result gave Ukip the honor of being the first party that was neither Tory nor Labour to win a nationwide election in almost 100 years.

However, Farage was not content with a string of local and European election wins but set his eyes firmly on Westminster. Former Tory MP and backbench maverick Douglas Carswell fed-up with the lack of reforming zeal of the Conservative leadership decided to jump ship to Farage's party. He subsequently forced a by-election, which he won handsomely. Carswell was followed in short order by Mark Reckless, who dealt the Tories another bitter defeat.

Alibaba's Jack Ma

The founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has seen his fortune soar by staggering $18.5bn this year to $29.2bn, according to private wealth consultancy Wealth-X. The company's initial public offering (IPO) became one of the largest in US history at $68 per share netting $21.8bn. Ma has increased his fortune by 173 per cent, according to CNN.

After the float, Alibaba reported strong second-quarter results with revenue rising 53.7 per cent to $2.74bn during the three months to 30 September, versus expected sales of $2.7bn.

United Kingdom

If Russia is languishing in the economic and geopolitical doldrums the UK comes out of 2014 in rude health. The big win was the maintenance of the UK as a political union. The 300-year old union faced its greatest threat of modern times with the a referendum on Scottish independence.

After an intense campaign that mobilised Scottish politics in a way not seen in recent memory the Scots voted decisively against independence by a margin of ten points. The UK economy has also been a winner this year with the fastest growth in the G7 and unemployment falling to six per cent. Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed the economy added 63,000 jobs in the three months to October. Real wages have also increased by 1.6 per cent.

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