Once they had passed judgment on their peers our respondents were asked to step out of the role of industry expert and assume the guise of generalist: which British companies did they most admire, regardless of size, ownership or sector, on the basis of the same nine characteristics? The result, if not wholly unexpected, was overwhelming. Marks & Spencer, poll winner in 1992, triumphed yet again with a greatly increased margin - almost 18% of the overall vote, a six-point extension of its previous lead. In contrast the rest of the field, led by Hanson with 5.9%, straggled far behind.
There were some surprises. British Airways, apparently unsullied by last year's revelations of dirty tricks, nearly doubled its share of the vote and moved up to ninth place. Ironically, its evident zeal in the characteristic for which it was most admired - 'quality of marketing' - was also the cause of its public shame. Virgin, meanwhile, though failing to reach the final list, may take comfort from the fact that in the one category it did appear - 'capacity to innovate' - it received four times the number of BA's votes.
Others are notably absent this year - ICI, for example, which prior to its de-merger ranked fourth, and Guinness, previously in sixth place.