Questionable Time #111


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Good morrow lemmings and it looks like the most wonderful time of the year has come around once more. That’s right – it’s poppy season, and everyone’s got one on their lapel despite it being not even the last week of October. It starts earlier every year, doesn’t it? Soon we’ll be fully emersed in the Poppy Wars, where politicians try to out-poppy each other by pinning bigger and bigger paper flowers to every inch of their bodies in an attempt to be the most sincere.

Anyway, as you may have noticed, the Big Man has come to town. Actually, several big men. Alex Salmond’s admission that he may be getting back into the ring of Westminster politics was headline news, but Len McCluskey was also on hand to metaphorically punch his enemies into the stratosphere. All standard for a Liverpool edition of QT. Let’s do this shizzle.

This is a local panel for local people. There’s nothing for you here

Dimbleby starts us off by addressing a cameraman who’s wandered behind the stage, and then leads on to a question about life sentences.

Alex Salmond isn’t here to talk about this. It’s England’s fault, wotevs. So we move on, knowing that Alex’s time in the sun will come (on this particular edition I mean, since he’s been basically everywhere the past two years – I’ve got Salmond fatigue/Salmondella). Meanwhile in the blue corner is Mark Harper, who is clearly doing this show as a punishment for sinning in a former life. He simply must have got in trouble somewhere along the line – maybe he accidentally kicked Michael Gove’s dog – because no Tory with half a survival instinct would willingly go on a Liverpool Question Time. Five seconds off the starting gun and he already looks like he’s about to pee himself. I mean, for goodness’ sake, he’s the minister for disabled people and he’s being trotted out immediately after ol’ Freudy put his foot in his mouth! But ah, what the hell, that was one whole week ago. Everyone’s got over it now, right? Well apparently so because it doesn’t get brought up once. The cosmic ballet goes on.

His trundling dullness is interrupted by Louise Bours. Life should mean life, she says. Okay, the audience nods along. Nod. Nod. Nod nod nod. N- wait, what the hell did you just say? Bringing back capital punishment? I turn up the volume on iPlayer because things have suddenly got a whole lot livelier. The audience is groaning! Louise is struggling to be heard! Kill a cop, get your head chopped off!

“Is that UKIP policy?” Caroline Flint asks, baffled. Louise responds excellently. UKIP don’t have a policy. And the crowd goes wild! This is great fun.

The next question is even more fun. It’s about Hezza lamenting the state of the North and London trampling all over it. Len McCluskey’s ready for this one. He was born ready. We need regional banks! Regional jobs and growth! There’s money but the dirty Londoners are sitting on it having cocktail parties. The Tories don’t understand because “there are no Tories north of Birmingham”. This gets a predictably ecstatic reaction from the crowd, including some whistles (take it off, Len!) and Mark continues to pee himself. He does his best, pointing out that Len wouldn’t mind if Ed Miliband fell under a bus. Seems like the audience wouldn’t mind either. Mark valiantly rattles off some statistics but what he really needs to do is bring out his owl.

Caroline agrees with Hezza, unlike those mean old Tories – ignore the fact that Tarzan is also a Tory. “Mark is living in fantasy land”, she says, and then a member of the audience echoes her: “you’re living in cloud-cuckoo land!” This is quickly turning into the gang-up-on-Mark Harper show and it’s only about to get worse for him.

“The Labour Party doesn’t have an economic plan!” he squeaks (Mark, please speak up, I can barely hear you). Then he gets thrown into the dumpster by King of the School Alex, who proposes we run over George Osborne instead. More applauding. Gosh, this is a worryingly violent programme.

Louise smooths over her earlier brush with unpopularity by supporting “true localism”, health workers on boards etc, which is nice I guess but then she gets steamrolled by the audience, who appear to be preparing to join Len in storming the government and unleashing the glorious revolution. Len’s on a roll now: he only needs yell the words ‘zero hours’ and a great wave of emotion rolls across the studio drowning all in its wake. Alex suggests Liverpool and Scotland skip off into the sunset together. This is beautiful. I’m having a great time watching this, although I do feel a bit sorry for poor Mark.

I’m never gonna dance again (though Alex Salmond apparently will)

Next question: it’s the election-winning issue, the NHS! Out of nowhere Louise turns into a killer robot. Destroy all managers. Destroy all managers. No, we need health and social care brought together! says Caroline. She’s not letting Dimbleby interrupt her, she’s roundhouse kicking all who stand in her way no matter what the question and/or answer actually is. DESTROY ALL MANAGERS, blasts Louise.

Mark now comes to the crux of the matter. The report vindicates us, he says, and we need a strong economy to achieve a strong NHS. Mark, for a small, shining moment, believes he’s on top of this one, but then he gets pushed in the lockers by Big Alex again. It’s almost sad. Caroline is enjoying watching Owl Man get beaten up. She doesn’t even need to intervene. Just lie back and enjoy the bloodbath.

Len’s leading his troops – let’s get the elite to pay their taxes! Yeah! Just grab ‘em in the street and steal their wallets. The audience wolf-whistles their approval and for a moment I’m scared Len really will start taking it all off. Alex and Len then share an intimate moment of mutually gazing at each other. The saxophone solo from Careless Whisper plays sexily in the background. This edition of QT is too much for me. I’m literally dabbing my sweaty forehead right now.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

Nite Owl bristles at Len’s accusation that he’s posh. How dare you call me posh. I’ll tell you whose fault it is, it’s Labou- DESTROY ALL MANAGERS! comes the cry from…the audience? Oh.

Then Alex drops the bombshell covered in the opening paragraph. Maybe Liverpool can adopt him? He’s certainly tried to adopt Liverpool.

I could only think of two bold headline thingies

Final question is on Scotland and whether they’ve been given the middle finger or not. Caroline says yes, Mark says no. All pretty standard. What does Alex think? Could he possibly be a little bitter? Surely not! He does, however, come out in favour of Liverpudlian votes for Liverpudlian people, and disses the “three amigos” that make up the world’s worst boyband – Cameron, Clegg and Miliband. All popular with the audience, as is Len’s admission of “positive neutrality”. Louise crests the wave by gleefully continuing Alex’s diss verse. Things have gotten out of hand again. Time for Dimbles to wrap it up.

One thing’s for certain though: this debate ain’t ovah, although I think Mark has finally finished weeing himself.

Time for the scores!

Salmond: 7/10

Here’s (Alex!!)

Harper: 4/10

(Almost broke out in) Tears

Flint: 6/10

(About average level with her) Peers

Bours: 5/10

(Unlike ol’ Nige, not someone you’d want to have a couple of) Beers (with)

McCluskey: 8/10

Fierce (shut up that rhymes)

The Crowd: 8/10

(Exploring new) Frontiers (for the coming revolution)

Next week has that fountain of charisma Tristram Hunt, and hopefully a crowd full of angry teachers.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #110


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Good morrow lemmings and this week we’re in Newbury! Despite this there are sadly no references to the nearby Greenham Common which I could have made an amusing ‘shop out of. Oh well. We’d best get stuck in.

Jeremy Hunt’s NHS pin: secretly a ninja shuriken used to dispatch his enemies

Can Dave pull an emergency brake on immigration? Well, I don’t know, but let’s ask the fine folks of the panel. Angela Eagle is first up and, as she shakes her head ruefully, I rub my hands in anticipation of her performance. If you closely watched last month’s Labour conference like a complete nerd (aka like me), you’ll know that she was an effective, funny chair during the debates/speeches/general flailing and panicking, and as such I was expecting great things from her.

I was let down. It’ll become apparent why later, but let it be known that I’m so betrayed that I’ll never love another human being again.

Anyway, for now she’s just shaking her head at Jeremy Hunt and sighing. Net migration is the same as it was in the beginning of the Parliament apparently, and ol’ Cammers has been a complete dodo in Europe. Remember when the cool Eurokids dissed him by going off in their own little gang and not letting him in the treehouse? It basically became the ‘No Daves club’. (“But you let in David Glumplich!” “It’s no Daves. We’re only allowed to have one.”)

Jeremy disagrees the only way he knows how – terrifyingly. If anyone can do it, it’s ARE DAVE, he slurps. Thank you Dave for my Chinese wife. I’m not sure this is relevant, Jeremy, but he gets away with it because Jeremy gets away with everything. He may well be the luckiest and/or slipperiest man in Parliament, and I strongly suspect he oils himself down every morning so he can pencil-roll along the corridors at top speed and knock down dawdling Labour MPs in a game of human ten-pin bowling.

He’s even wearing an NHS pin on his lapel, so you know how sincere he is, and is doing his best ‘mild, constipated with truthiness’ voice. This is undermined slightly by the fact that occasionally his eyes widen even further apart than they already are (a trait he shares with a certain Ed Balls) and bore a smoking hole in the direction of his next victim. He’s a true believer, that’s for sure, absolutely confident that The Plan is good, The Plan is working, all hail the great Plan, and how dare you assume I’m one of those people that admitted to having no idea what the hell Andrew Lansley was smoking when he put together the Health and Social Care Act.

I must confess I’m somewhat scared of Jeremy.

Fig. 1

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Suddenly, Giles Fraser, your one cool Sunday School teacher amidst a sea of ennui, punches through the wall with a mighty cry to STOP PANDERING, aiming straight for the jugular. People from other societies enrich our society, he bellows (like my Chinese wife! nods Jeremy), and do not disagree with me FOR THIS IS THE WORD OF THE LORD!

Meanwhile, Menzies Campbell is playing the traditional role of ‘the sensible one who you want to patronisingly pat on the head’, which he has done on various other occasions to great success. He’s not as amazing at it as the Nice Old Man from last week, however, as Ming doesn’t look like he really understands what’s going on. Why can’t you be nice to Europe, Dave? Audience? You’re not going to get anywhere by throwing a hissy fit. The audience revolts by immediately throwing a hissy fit.

Here Stella Creasy’s evil clone speaks up – Isabel Oakeshott, best known for entrapping Vicky Pryce and probably cackling about it. She’s also third cousins with Lord Oakeshott, who you may remember as the perennial ex-Lib Dem troublemaker. Dave was crap in Europe, she says. No he wasn’t, says Jezza H. Then there’s some meaningless back and forth around this topic for five-ish minutes, none of which is very interesting apart from a lady in the audience spitting acid about her village uncontrollably expanding, which reminds me very much of the current storyline on Downton Abbey.

Where have all the nurses gone, long time passing / Where have all the nurses gone, long time ago

The next question is on the NHS, of course. Jeremy is champing at the bit to wave his pin around but Dimbleby elects to go to the non-politicians first. Isabel is all doom and gloom – the NHS can’t afford a 1% pay rise (although MPs can afford themselves one), she says, with a smirk. Something drastic has to be done, she says, with a smug. Yeah, smug is a verb now. Jeremy Hunt is staring murderously at her and if she weren’t protected by a mystical barrier of smugness I’d be in legitimate fear for her life.

Giles is on the offensive again. Everyone’s going to have to pay more taxes, and they’re going to like it. Don’t be so negative, replies Jeremy – we’ve saved the NHS, and it’s all thanks to me.

“You know nothing about nursing!”, cries a nurse. Jeremy’s wistful voice about how much he wuvs the NHS falls away and he’s back to staring. Isabel is saved, at least. Meanwhile, Angela’s got an open goal, but nursey man is hot on her tail. What about all these new nurses, is the question, but unfortunately NO! WE NEED THE OLD NURSES! is the answer. And – woman down, woman down! Angela’s on the floor. Oh, what a shame. But patience, lemmings: her humiliation isn’t over yet.

Dimbleby decides to move on, because he’s falling asleep and Isabel’s ever-widening grin has started to engulf the entire table.

A few more moans

So, the leaders’ debates. Where’s the Greens? Ah, who cares about them. They’re not polling highly, smugs Isabel. I mean, how are you supposed to become popular unless you’re relentlessly invited on to Question Time panels? Hey, here’s an idea, Respect have an MP, let’s put George Galloway in the debates! What could possibly go wrong? (Can you imagine? You’d only have a smoking crater by the end of it.)

Dave is “up for it”, says Jezza. It won’t be a Punch and Judy show. (Also, look audience man – PMQs isn’t ‘increasingly’ ridiculous, it’s been that way since the 60s. Trust me, I’m a scholarist.) Then Giles metaphorically punches him in the face again. Appropriate for a Punch and Judy show! Wow Giles, maybe calm down a little.

Funnily enough, not much time is spent mulling over the plight of the Greens, as people want to move on to diss Lord Freud’s Freudian slip. And this is where Angela’s troubles truly begin.

“Resign!” demands Angela.
No, don’t, people yell back.
Now she’s yelling at them.
Now they’re yelling even more at her. She’s been playing political football/jumping on the bandwagon/drowning puppies/take your pick. It’s not a good look for a politician to be so relentlessly dismissed. It seems impossible, but Freudy appears to have gotten away with it. Angela, let it go. Let it go. Don’t hold it back any more.

It finally takes Giles to calm everyone down again, which considering he’s been firing on all cylinders for the rest of the programme is quite remarkable. Now we can all listen to Ming the Merciless’s snoozy voice to soothe us off to sleep once more. “He’s on probation,” apparently, but all that means is a naughty finger wagging if it comes from Mingity-Ming. At least Lord Freud’s not on Jeremy’s shit list. You’d be better off dead than there – caught in his line of sight, staring, forever.

Time for the scores!

Hunt: 5/10

Leery

Eagle: 3/10

(The reaction to her was) Jeery

Campbell: 5/10

(Surprisingly) Cheery

Oakeshott: 4/10

Sneery

Fraser: 8/10

(More than he first) Appear(…ed…y)

The Crowd: 6/10

Sincere…y?

Len McCluskey’s going to pick some serious fights next time, so that should be fun, I guess?

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #109


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Good morrow lemmings and it seems that the rapture has come at last. By the time you read this we will most likely be in full swing of The Kippening. How will the world keep turning with its first UKIP MP? It is a time of desolation, chaos, and uncertainty. Brother pitted against brother. Babies having babies.

The end is nigh. Or perhaps, it is merely…the beginning? Or somewhere around the middle or something. I don’t know. Here’s Questionable Time, live and alive from Clacton, high five!

Chasing Carswell

Dimbles has exchanged his pink shark tie for his turquoise frog tie, and reminds us that another by-election is also happening, but since that won’t be referenced any time later in the show that doesn’t matter. The first question is about UKIP, of course, and nobody cares exactly how it’s worded as they’ll use it as a stepping stone to discuss absolutely everything relating to UKIP for the majority of the programme.

Harriet Harman, that QT stalwart, is up first, and is trying very badly to diss the Kippers while simultaneously not pissing off the entire audience. She’s off to a rocky start but Harriet very rarely gets hit with a knockout blow in situations like these – the Labour wranglers, no doubt, often opt to shove Harriet on with her metaphorical umbrella to take shelter against the shower o’ shit during unpleasant and turbulent moments in the politisphere (and the coming of a first MP for the purple team certainly counts as one of those for the Labs.) She’s alright at keeping the umbrella aloft, even though there’s nothing you can do other than cower beneath it, if you catch my drift and I’m not spreading this metaphor too thinly.

However, what about our peachy purple representative himself? The very first response he gives gets a playful “don’t curry favour with the chair” from Dimbleby, and that ought to tell you a little about where Patrick O’Flynn is going to pitch himself. I have a strong suspicion he was a last minute replacement as all the other Kippers are out screaming on the battleground, and also because he may actually be the smarmiest man in existence next to Grant Shapps. Maybe that’s just due to the answer he’s giving, which basically boils down to a badly edited UKIP party political broadcast. Come on Patrick, now we just need the soft focus stock images of ~ordinary people~! Talk to the producers, for goodness’ sake!

No, no, that’s being unfair. It’s not a PPB, not really. They’d have to have Nigel Farage on again for that to be true.

It’s always disconcerting to hear a Yorkshire accent coming out of Eric Pickles’ ’18th century MP for Dunny-on-the-Wold’ face. Also, he sounds a little hoarse – or is that just normal? He’s oddly soft-spoken. Maybe he’s trying to entice floating ex-Tories over to his side with his charm and masculine virility. He attempts to crack a joke about hoarding Ralph Lauren scarves or whatever, but UKIP dropped that potential source of hilarity like it was hot before any comedic capital could truly be made of it. Shame, as it’s probably too ‘radical’ for a lot of Labour MPs.

(Incidentally, why does Patrick have a permanent half-smile on his face, like the Joker? Why does he sound like Jeffrey Archer? Surely UKIP have representatives that don’t terrify me stashed away somewhere, maybe at the back of a cupboard?)

Jeanette Winterson takes this opportunity to opine that if Nigel Farage died tomorrow then UKIP would die alongside him. The panel doesn’t get too excited at this prospect – they know that Nigel has already survived a plane crash and is thus unkillable. He is the Terminator. And he’s coming for your seats. (P.S.: remind me to Photoshop Nigel Farage as the Terminator the next time he’s on the panel. It must be done.)

On a side note, away from UKIP, Malcolm Bruce – the Deputy Lib Dem leader guy – has a cute Lib Dem phoenix pin. That’s all I can say about him so far. He seems like a nice old man. A little confused. A kind face. Didn’t really get angry or upset or anything other than ‘pleasant’ for the whole show. It’s…kind of soothing? Reassuring? Maybe all Question Times should include a token ‘nice old man’ to offset the shrieking and poop-slinging going on on the other side of the table.

I…I’m so conflicted. I don’t even care about his policies any more. Questionable Time, I have a confession to make: I need this man to be my new grandpa.

Fig. 1

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“Could I ask for some clarification on the health service?” pipes up Eric, sweetly yet suddenly. He asks, with a soft, offended tone to his voice, if the health service would be broken up and sold off under UKIP rule. Perhaps Eric is unaware of the chainsaw noises and maniacal laughter routinely coming from the Department of Health, but Jeffrey Ar- I mean, Patrick O’Thingy doesn’t point it out for him. He says that UKIP want the NHS exempted from TTIP, which not even Labour has committed to, despite the fact that…Labour did commit to that. Oops.

…Wait a second, Harriet, why didn’t you jump on that like a starved and goaded monkey? Too busy holding the smelly umbrella? No, for Harriet is too busy ignoring earlier calls to avoid taking the moral high ground by…taking the moral high ground, and warning against division. Yes, let’s all be the same, and all wear tasteful giraffe jackets. It’s the best kind of freaky cultish uniform.

By this point I swear more audience members have spoken than panellists. In fact, let’s drop the panellists altogether and arrange a giant general public brawl-out, still chaired by Dimbleby. It’s what we all really want. One such eager-to-wrassle participant enters the ring with this doozy:

“If ol’ Dougy Carwizzle is re-elected,” they smartassedly smirk, “how long before a leadership election?”

Wry laughter breaks out, but Patrick is on the case. Nigel was only just re-elected and guess what – he, Patrick O’Archer himself, was his campaign manager! The sound of slurping is only drowned out by the barks of even more wry laughter. Thank the Lord we’re finally escaping this tenth circle of Hell.

Obligatory NHS screeching

The NHS and competition shouldn’t even be mentioned in the same sentence, begins Jeanette. I mean, competition? This isn’t a school sports day sack race. Luckily, Malcolm is here to win the sack race. Here’s some extra money we won’t get to deliver, because the Liberal Democrats are doomed and feeling kinda okay about it all things considered! Mental healthcare? Well, a lot of Lib Dem MPs are going to be in need of that come 2015, do ho ho! “We’ve just had a referendum in Scotland, by the way,” he says. NO, REALLY? I HADN’T GUESSED.

Finally Eric Pickles gets another chance to speak. He says that everything is running smoothly on board the good ship Coalition, and the following conversation goes as follows.

“But what about blah and blah?” says Malcolm.
“I’ve been working with Danny Alexander on blah and blah so [flips the bird].”
“No, but we still say blah and blah.”
“Well gee I’m SORRY you’re being pissy little bastards about blah and blah! Hmph!”

There, I saved you five more minutes of your life.

Eric isn’t living in reality, says Harriet. He’s in an alternate dimension. The Picklezone. With extra ketchup. Pickles fights back and there’s a predictable NHS scuffle, being the most emotionally charged issue of them all. The solution is for big companies to pay their taxes, yells Harriet triumphantly and vaguely, and that gets a convenient round of applause to allow her to suplex Pickles and move on.

“I don’t understand why you’re obsessed by this!” boggles Pickles as he is suplexed. Jeanette then asks him six times for an answer on…something? Profits before people, people before profits, I don’t know, it all got a bit muddled in the confusion, but it was very entertaining nonetheless. Pickles got in a bit of a pickle! I bet that pun has never ever been made before!

Ebola-ing for Soup

The next question is on foreign aid, and we’ll keep this short: foreigners can suck it! yelps Patrick. Or at least corrupt governments can. But not Ebola, we need to stop Ebola or we will all definitely die horribly by the end of the week. It is known. I read it on the internet.

Harriet disagrees. Foreign aid is 100% cute as it’s less than 1% of GDP, and we shouldn’t be mean, narrow-minded, Scroogey bastards. (Like a certain purple team she could mention.) Pickles agrees with her. It’s like all their past disagreements have melted away. Aww.

What does Nice Old Man think? Well, all these foreigners are “our brothers and sisters” and we should help them and hug them close, of course! Aww, again. I’d like to hug Nice Old Man too. Jeanette joins in with the agreeing! We’re all nice people with an obligation to be nice to each other, apparently! Aww, once more!

What a lovely conclusion to a bitter opening – wait, there’s another question?!

Ah, it’s only on MPs’ wages and there’s five minutes left so you bet your sweet bippy that there won’t be any sort of deep discussion going on here. Absolutely no MP who doesn’t want to get egged, stoned, and/or tarred and feathered in the street will say they won’t take their pay rise and will shake their head vigorously at any potential increase proposed. What about MEPs’ pay, Harriet almost giggles at Patrick. The panellists try to out-frugal each other as I grumble about the lost fuzzy-cuddles ending that could have been – but then Dimbles asks how many audience members have voted, and…guess what…it’s all of them! It just goes to show that the QT audience isn’t as ‘normal’ as they’d have us believe: they’re closet political nerds too. Thank you, Saint Dimbleby, for showing us the light.

Time for the scores!

Pickles: 5/10

Befuddled

Harman: 5/10

(Standing in a) Puddle (Under her umbrella)

O’Flynn: 5/10

(In a threatening) Huddle (with the rest of the East Side Kippaz)

Bruce: 6/10

(Deserves a) Cuddle

Winterson: 6/10

Ruddle (is apparently a red ore used in dyeing and marking, yeah she was alright)

The Crowd: 7/10

TROUBLE!

Chazza Kennedy had better come covered in phoenix pins next week if he’s to keep anybody’s attention these days.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #108


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Good morrow lemmings and welcome to a controversial edition of Questionable Time! As you may have noticed, Question Time has got in a bit of a pickle today, and it’s not exactly a subject one wants to joke about – but that’s alright, because the reaction to every other subject covered ended up being ridiculous in the extreme. The cameras are on, Dimbleby’s wearing his legendary pink shark tie, and the panellists are raring to go. Hop on board.

Also, my scanner still isn’t fixed. Perhaps it will never be fixed. What a fart.

You know that song from Les Mis, ‘Who Am I’, where Jean Valjean sings about his identity crisis, well do you think Grant Shapps sings that to himself every day in the shower

A man named Crustle starts us off with a simple one: “will tax cuts save Dave?”

Stella Creasy is up first and I’m already blown away by whatever it is she’s wearing around her neck. It looks like a bunch of piano keys, or maybe some sort of ancient cosmic device to manipulate the universe to your every whim. Stella is so earnest, so sweet and gentle looking, like a small beige rodent, you can sort of forgive her for anything, no matter if she’s basically staying on the same ‘message’ as everybody else. No, Stella says, and I can talk you through in detail why it won’t work and why our plan will. Silly Stella, we don’t have time for nonsense such as ‘detail’ on Question Time! Why won’t Dave be honest?, she continues, like your chirpy primary school teaching assistant, or a rabbit caught in the headlights.

Meanwhile, Grant Shapps, or whatever his name is today, is here and disappointingly hasn’t brought along his army of Tory youth in matching jumpers. Nevertheless, Grant is pretty confident he’s got this one in the bag. The economy is booming, and judging by that one audience member’s plea to thank the coalition for everything they’ve done, it’s all thanks to Darling Dave and his Dangerous Dudes. Dimbleby pushes back by saying he has asked the Institute of Fiscal Studies for some figures to trip up Grant’s flow of bullshit. Stella is uncomprehending. She doesn’t understand how one man’s face can be so smug. BUT GRANT! she cries, but Grant, indeed, is unrepentant.

Susie Boniface, the Mirror woman, squeaks in that Dave is the human incarnation of a boot stamping on a human face forever. Or, apparently, your boyfriend who always lets you down. A horrifying image to be sure.

Suddenly an extreme Cockney voice pipes up. My God, is this a Cameron fantasy of a working class lad made good – or fiscally neoliberal – made real? No, it’s Charlie Mullins, the lovable chimney sweep, or perhaps I’ve got that wrong.

He goes after Susie and they have a little showdown between themselves while Stella is trying to fend off Grant to no avail. Julian Huppert, your beardy geography teacher, makes his entrance here, by still hoping for a Lib Dem government to much general jollity and chortles in the audience. Unfortunately, there isn’t one question this entire programme about Nick Clegg dissing Theresa May about civil liberties, and since that’s Julian’s (commendable, to be fair) area of expertise he must have walked off stage at the end and thrown his hat on the ground and stomped on it. Although he doesn’t have a hat. Maybe he ripped his beard off.

AT LEAST BE HONEST GRANT! BE HONEST!!!! Stella weeps. Stella is absolutely befuddled that someone wouldn’t explain themselves plainly and truthfully. The truth is that there’s an easy way that these tax cuts are going to be paid for: Dave’s gone to Wonga. Grant continues to act like a naughty schoolboy kicking your pushover teacher Stella’s legs, and asserting his obvious honesty.

Fig. 1

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Are you going to actually explain your plans at any point or just keep on rambling, says Dimbles. (I’m paraphrasing here, but this is 99% accurate.)
Oh, we will, says Grant, confidently.
No, now, says Dimbledore.
Er…in the Autumn Statement? says Grant.
Well done Grant, nailed it, says Charlie.

It appears that Stella has missed an open goal. A more forthright panellist would have exploded at this point, screeching “Autumn bloody Statement?! Yyyyou bastard,” but she’s just too…nicey-nice. What surprised me is that the Fleet Street Fox woman also missed it. Come on ladies, Grant and Charlie are working together, you need to form a girl power clique!

I thought I found a way to enter / It’s just a defektor / I thought I found the connector / It’s just a defektor

Then there’s a question on why Tory MPs are buggering off to UKIP, with a first MP most likely on the way. Grant knows the solution to this mess. Don’t vote for them, vote for us, since we have everything that they have, but with added me. Nailed it again.

Julian is noncommittal. He loves Europe, you see, and thinks the defectors are a bunch of what that Home Office source called Nick Clegg for throwing shade at Theresa May: wankers.

“It’s sad to see a party split up like that”, he mumbles…so sad…can’t do anything about it…

(Also, the Clacton edition is being trailed menacingly over this argument, like a great dark cloud.)

According to Susie, UKIP are probably going to knock the Lib Dems into fourth place. Julian shakes his head in disgust, then gets his name forgotten by a fierce-looking audience member. It’s not been a good night for Julian, through no fault of his own! That same audience member then rounds on Stella who attemps to placate her but to no avail – the wrath of a woman despairing of the modern democratic process cannot be sated! Stella is just too waffly and doesn’t have the urge to grab someone by the collar and yell in their face, or alternatively shrug her shoulders for the 1000th time and go “they’re a bunch o’ shits”. That is her struggle, apart from getting abused by trolls online.

Then Charlie says that voters could “go to bed with Farage and wake up with Miliband”, and that’s a pretty terrifying thought no matter which way you swing it, so let’s move on.

…On second thought, let’s not (also, pajamas!)

Question Time, as I mentioned before, has got in quite a bit of trouble for bringing up the horrific death of a young schoolgirl, her body only just found, and the inappropriateness of the resulting debate being chaired by a bloke in a pink shark tie. While the discussion was pretty restrained, as all serious, non-kick-the-opposition questions should be, and an apology has been issued, this does bring up an important question that tends to rear its ugly head whenever a sensitive issue like this comes up on QT.

Are we entitled to debate absolutely everything in the news, where it must be pored over inanely as commentators try to top each other’s outrage, and misspelt tweets abound, amidst the high-emotion of the Question Time setting? Sure, people may want to talk about it – but is that really the right thing to do, when they’d only be figuratively stomping on an already grieving family?

Thankfully, the next question is about the objectively hilarious story of the Mirror ‘exposing’ (ooh, missus!) Newt Brooksmark or whatever silly name it is he has. Susie, you’re from the Mirror. Looks like you’re up to bat. She regales us with the legal definition of entrapment, and concludes that it wasn’t that because Newmark was an enthusiastic perv-in-pajamas anyway, and the (fake) power imbalance was, like, hella skeevy.

Charlie responds that nobody wanted to hear about Newmark’s pajamas before this sad event and nobody wants to now. Grant follows up by immediately reminding us of them again with a grin like he knows exactly what he’s doing, even though he attempts to look disapproving, but sadly doesn’t have the kind of face for any emotion other than ‘smug’ and ‘delirious glee’. Stella is earnestly befuddled once more as she wonders how anyone could have believed the weird-ass messages being sent. Susie responds that it’s quite simple: Brooks Newmark is the king of being ruled by what’s in your pajamas instead of what’s in your noggin.

Then Julian raises what is probably the main issue, which is the nonconsensual usage of a woman’s photos. This has been apologised for, but he gets a point for bringing it up. However, now we’re on to our last question, about…GPs or something, I’m sorry, but I’m still curled up in the foetal position thinking about paisley pajamas and crying.

Stella has been shrugging her shoulders all night long and doesn’t stop now. It’s a white hot battle between her and Grant’s rival visions of chucking stuff at the NHS and seeing what sticks. Apparently all the GPs are getting the hell out of the profession and Grant’s solution is to gurn smugly at them until the system fixes itself. We’re screwed, replies Susie. Nobody wants to become a new GP, and in this climate, I don’t blame them. Why become anything? Why not just cry, like me. Julian says, welp, the problem is NHS privatisation, and this finally rouses Stella as she huffs and puffs and shakes her head in legitimate outrage.

“Are you kidding me?!” she almost screams, “What about the Health and Social Care Act that your party voted for? Ring any bells, Julian?!”

“Ain’t my fault, #yolo.”

Dimbles then quickly wraps up the show before Stella can leap over the desk and punch Julian in the beard.

Time for the scores!

Shapps: 4/10

(I break out in hives every time I hear him) Speak

Creasy: 4/10

(Mainly) Squeak(ing in a mouselike fashion)

Huppert: 6/10

(Unable to utilise his) Critique (of authoritarian policies)

Boniface: 4/10

(Justified the) Peek (we got of Newmark’s jammies)

Mullins: 4/10

Cheek(y chappy)

The Crowd: 5/10

Bleak

Now let us never speak of paisley pajamas again.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #107


qt 107

Good morrow Lemmings, and it’s time for a new round of Questionable Time! As you may have noticed, our Glorious Leader has departed for the Promised Land and left affairs to me, Elizabeth, the dancing monkey. I’ll be trying out a new, quasi-liveblogging format of post this edition, so let me know your thoughts in the comments and if you want me strung up or not.

Also, unfortunately, my plans for this post were sadly dashed! My scanner has broken down/computer is slow as molasses, so I was not able to prepare some cool illustrations this time. But starting from next week, that’s what we’ll be doing. I leave you with only one bad Photoshop this edition, done in a panic when I realised that technology had failed me. And that’s why this post is so late and why I’m incompetent.

In any case, here we go!

Isis is also the name of the dog on Downton Abbey

Ahh, listen to that familiar theme tune! Doesn’t it send a chill down your spine, the kind you experience whenever you – merely for example – see a big ol’ spider hanging in the corner of your bedroom and you yell and the spider wobbles on its web and you lie crying in the corner waiting for the pain to end, my god won’t it end? Or is that just me?

The first question is on the potential airstrikes, despite the Scottish setting, but don’t worry – we’ll have more than enough of that brand of fun later. Emily Thornberry from the red team is first up and she’s assuring everyone that this isn’t like last time. She’s likeable enough, but her mumblings about an ‘international team’ bring up hazy memories of a certain film some of you may have heard of – Team America: World Police. Heck yeah! (Censored on behalf of our younger readers, of which I am sure there are many.)

IS or Isil or Isis or Helloisitmeyou’relookingfor are bloody horrible, repeats every member of the panel to much collective nodding. I groan as they continue to nod faster and faster, because questions like these rarely rouse hysterical screaming which is obviously the real reason we’re all watching Question Time, mainly in vain. Don’t worry, count on the Scots to heat things up later. In any case, MPs are most likely wondering right about now: ‘Why Iraq? Why couldn’t it be one of those other Middle Eastern countries no-one cares about?’ So, boots on the ground is a big no-no…at least for now.

Rory Stewart from the blue team is up next. He looks like a sixth-form student, specifically a guy I used to know in sixth-form, so much so that I did a double-take and almost looked up his Facebook to congratulate him on his new career path. He’s apparently a respected academic, foreign policy expert, charity worker, author and general scuttler across the Middle East. It’s unbelievable yet true, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he goes on to be promoted once or twice or thrice. Anyway, he says, squirting some anti-acne cream on to his sallow cheeks, airstrikes alone won’t solve things apparently, just like how dropping a beachball on to an anthill won’t get rid of an infestation. Everyone just sighs miserably at this point. It seems that politics, after a brief flash of life in the Scottish referendum, has devolved (heh) into a resigned grumble. All is as it should be.

Meanwhile, JSP is in the house and shaking her head about mission creep, which isn’t a hot new hiphop group but a very serious problem about not knowing what the hell it is you’re doing. She’s profoundly against airstrikes and makes a good point about the mawkish reporting of Isis atrocities. Janet hasn’t made any sort of embarassing outburst yet, but we’ll just have to wait and see!

Rory says we need diplomats on the ground. Bring in the diplomats! That’ll learn ‘em.

On the Scottish side of things, it’s all about to heat up – so far John Swinney and Lesley Riddoch haven’t contributed much but that’s about to change. I’ve heard so many Scottish accents in recent weeks that I’ve basically turned Scottish.

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE OIL, comes the obligatory cry from the audience, and on that note, let’s move on.

FREEEEDOM or whatever

Lesley begins by saying the past year was the best year of her life: the humanity, the optimism, the haggis. That’s a bit worrying Lesley, even if the level of democratic interest was heartening to see (although as an English person I was pooping myself over what would happen either way). But is it ovah? It ain’t ovah. Now the argument over the devolution solution begins. Janet agrees, it was great to watch with excess popcorn, but she’s tired of all the campaigning ‘n’ stuff and wants to have a nice nap. Or greater democratic control for ordinary people, either one. I’ve only now realised that Janet is like your wacky aunt that shows up at family reunions and spikes the punch with vodka.

But will there be another referendum? Devolution won’t stop that, says a woman in the audience. The SNP are growing and hunger for blood. IT WON’T STOP. NOTHING CAN STOP IT. RUN, MORTAL. The dream will never die!

There’s also a guy in the audience that looks like Rory Stewart’s SNP clone. My god, they’re breeding! Anyway, he says that he doesn’t believe that they’ll get devolution. Yes you will, assures Emily, to the satisfaction of no-one. Rory remains silent, perhaps freaked out by his clone.

Emily is still going. I’m British, she says a thousand times. Thank you for staying because I’m British, you’re British (whether you like it or not), everybody’s British! British for everyone! You all get a British! But the Tories still suck and I won’t even acknowledge them. Since she reminds me of Professor Sprout from the Harry Potter series she’s about to get away with this when John Swinney, who up until now appeared like the Yes vote version of Alistair Darling, makes a pretty sick burn. “You were all too happy to speak to each other during the referendum campaign!” Emily says no, we’re smacking David Cameron down. Don’t worry, we’ll force him into line. Rory remains silent, quietly sweating. Dimbleby rounds on him as he tends to do and the man, who looks like a weedy nerd but actually scampered across Afghanistan one time, is startled into life. “No ifs, no buts,” says Rory, “No public sector cuts”, he doesn’t continue.

Then Emily has one more go at dismissing DCam. “He’s been put back in his box!” Applause and laughter as the thought of David Cameron being left in a box is inexplicably popular.

The West Lothian question: Tam Dalyell has a lot to answer for

I scream in terror as this infamous questions rears its ugly head once more. Janet thinks some things should be devolved but on the other hand it could be a right kerfuffle, couldn’t it? John Swinney responds to the ‘should only Scottish MPs vote for Scottish devolution’ point by replying, smugly, well! You can’t exactly rely on Labour for that one, eh? Eh? Eh?! Emily will not rise to this. You hear me, John? You’re on your last warning.

NO! shouts Janet, NO MORE! WE’RE DROWNING IN REFERENDUMS. Rory sweats in response and doodles on his schoolwork paper. Lesley seems to have given up and basically finishes with a ‘Screw this, let’s abolish the Lords’ flourish. This gets approval from the audience, who are up for any sort of tearing down of ancient institutions at this point. Doesn’t matter what they are, grab your pitchforks because we’re about to go a-mobbin’.

Rory finally jumps in. English votes for English laws. It’s not like this would help the Tories or anything. Let’s rely on the Queen instead. Dimbleby, who has been overly sarky this whole episode, brings up the Queen ‘purring’ and her secret life as a member of furry fandom. Emily is cackling like a witch around a cauldron. But then Ed Miliband forgetting his speech pops up and ho ho ho oops it’s no longer a laughing matter. Of course, the fact that Ed Balls rambled boringly on about it for his whole conference speech doesn’t register, but John takes this moment to distinguish the lovely SNP from the evil Labours. Janet says she’s had enuff of these no-notes speeches and that they’re so macho, they’ve gotta be so macho, big and strong, enough to turn you on. And something about class war. I wonder if Janet is affected by the potential mansion tax? If only we lived in a Scottish dream state in which nobody disagreed with each other ever! BRB, moving up there in time for the next inevitable referendum.

Also, as brought up by Janet, apparently Ed Miliband’s had voice coaching, but so did Maggie Thatcher and pretty much every Prime Minister since then. The only problem with this is that unlike all those other PMs, Ed’s voice has not changed at all. He is uncompromisingly, eternally, despairingly Ed. Unlike Rory’s bizarre wish, he’s not Fidel Castro. This actually may end up being a problem.

The petty bickering continues until Dimbleby finally pulls the plug, thus proving Janet, Lesley and John to be absolutely correct: this is definitely the best time in their lives. Wouldn’t you all agree? I’m going to go eat a sandwich.

Anyway, I spot Clacton in the weeks ahead so be ready for Farageageddon on QT once more. Will his reign over the programme ever end? Signs point to a No vote there!

Time for the scores!

Stewart: 5/10

Jogging (across the world)

Thornberry: 5/10

Slogging (away)

Swinney: 7/10

Flogging (some cut-price referendums, get ‘em while they’re hot)

Riddoch: 3/10

Clogging (up the stage)

Street-Porter: 6/10

Hogging (the screentime)

The Crowd: 8/10

Blogging (about their intense Scottish opinions, probably)

So how do you all feel about this style of post? Like it? Hate it? If you hate it, I’ll be sad but change it back. I also may change other things around here, but don’t worry – nothing major. Just converting it into a Anna ‘Chortles’ Soubry fanclub, that’s all. It’s what we all really want.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time: The Reckoning


questionable time the reckoning

Good morning Lemmings and (as self-indulgently promised) I’m back for one last hurrah – a sort of summary of what 5 years of Questionable Time has left me with - before signing the lease over to Elizabeth and hanging up my QT cap for good. In fact, you can think this post much like the movie Downfall: Simply replace Hitler with myself as the increasingly unhinged tyrant refusing to believe that his nearly-5-year QT Reich is now but a charred wasteland, my cat Champ in the role of post-facto voice of reason Albert Speer, my other cat – Miss Penis-Marie – as the ever-doting Eva Braun and a hammock in place of a bunker. This is it, my Götterdämmerung, my Rapture, The Day It All Falls Apart… To the bitter end Lemmings, to the bitter, bitter end!

The Devil really does have the best tunes…

I’m not really a team player: If push came to shove I’d reluctantly throw my lot in with the Red Team but I’ve been known to stray to the Yellows when Labour have got a little giddy with the precision guided democracy and the Greens on the rare occasions where I’ve had too much hope for breakfast. However, the one consistent feature in my political make-up is that I can’t stand the Tories and on the most base, visceral level there will always this suspicion in me that they are up to no good. As you can probably tell, this is just as much a matter of the gut as it is of the head.

This is not a new thing either. I’ve always been this way and when I first started writing Questionable Time I was acutely aware that it could become a problem – you know, putting together an ostensibly ‘non-biased’ blog when you’re actually prejudiced up to the eyeballs. The weird thing though is that my fears never came to pass and despite some early editions which were a little ‘Rah Rah Tory Twaddlepots’ in the worst possible way, actually being fairly balanced came quite easily. Why? Because Blue Team panelists tend to be infinitely more interesting than their multi-coloured adversaries.

Here’s a good example: Anna Soubry, the newly promoted Minister of State at the MoD with hockey sticks so jolly that they turn water into Pimms – should, by rights, check a respectable number of boxes on my list of Tory allergy warnings but she’s actually ended up being one of my favourite panelists. How can this be? Well, largely because she’s a) human (and by ‘human’ I mean ‘fallible’/’good at buggering stuff up’/’equally good at apologising for stuff buggered up’) and b) she looks incredibly comfortable in her own skin. Granted, our opinions tend to diverge widely and with great velocity but never do you get the sense that she’s contriving to be anything other than Anna Soubry. Hell, even the Tory Rotters of Yore – the Michael Howards, Nigel Lawsons and John Redwoods – they may have an outlandish and frankly dangerous worldview but you know where you are with them: They’re the Baddies, but at least they play the part with aplomb (the same goes for their supporting cast – the Peter Hitchens and Douglas Murrays of this world).

Now – for the purposes of contrast – take Douglas Alexander, the Red Team’s election co-ordinator and Shadow Foreign Secretary: Here’s a man whose every appearance is characterised by a mania for control. You can see it in his face, the way he runs the numbers on every question, treating them like inputs in an algorithm. To him, every statement, every utterance, every gesture is a threat to The Message and must be neutralised with a carefully triangulated response delivered with the use of a cut-and-paste emotional repertoire. It’s not just him either. Much of the Red Team’s newer faces (I’m thinking Reeves, I’m thinking Umunna) also have this inbuilt veneration of The Message that leaves them too terrified to show us anything other than highly censored and vetted glimpses of their true selves.

This isn’t to say that you don’t get ringers on the Blue Team (IDS is still the same zealous missionary of a discredited gospel that he always was while Matthew Hancock appears to be developing an endearing knack for cack-handedness) or that the Red Team are without stars (Alan Johnson – when he’s not suffering from that jerking knee all ex-Home Secs end up with – springs to mind) but taken as a whole, the Tories are – well – just more interesting.

The last 5 years have left me with a grudging respect for both politicians and the QT team.

What do we want?

‘Normal politicians!’

When do we want them?

For breakfast, dinner and tea!

Here’s Tim Farron/John Cruddas/Patrick McLoughlin, will that do?

No! When we said ‘normal’ we meant ‘normal’ like Boris, Farage and Galloway!

…Said every QT crowd/#bbcqt twitter lynch mob ever and do you know what? I’m getting a little bored with it. Yes, we know politics has a massive problem when it comes to connecting with the public and yes, I’ve come to despise ‘professional’ politicians as much as the next man but seriously, this endless demand that we find ‘regular’ politicians comes across as a bit lame when you dismiss anyone who isn’t a dancing horse in the Boris/Farage/Galloway mould as ‘boring’ and ‘just another suit’. Politics isn’t a Michael Bay movie. It’s not something where you can be spoon fed MASSIVE EXPLOSIONS and GRATUITOUS SEXINESS from the comfort of your own sofa. No, the governing of 60 million people is a complicated affair that runs on a protracted timescale and requires more than a little patience and compromise on the part of both the governed and the governors. If you haven’t got the time or inclination for it then fine, but don’t be surprised when your demands for politicians to be everything to everyone leaves them looking like nothing to no one.

In a similar vein, I’d like to extend my sympathies to the QT production crew. I’m not a cheerleader for them by any means and they are not without their sins (the chief one being their tendency to overuse panelists to the point of destruction – I’m sure there’s a refuse area at the back of the QT offices that’s filled with broken Shami Chakrabartis, knackered Baroness Warsis and clapped out Diane Abbotts), but the constant chorus of ‘QT is too right-wing/left-wing/up-wing/down-wing’ gets a little tired when you look at what they have to work with. First of all, they need to make the programme relevant to what’s going on in the here and now while balancing it out so that all ends of the political spectrum get a look in. On this front, I think that they actually do quite well and the panel composition does tend to rotate on a fairly proportional basis (ok, so they did over egg the UKIP pudding but I think the fact that UKIP only ever seemed to want to send Farage amplified this tendency). The same is true of locations for the show and again, despite my constant griping about the number of Scottish episodes, they do tend to share them out reasonably enough. However, the thing that animates the naysayers is always about the questions and it’s here that we only have ourselves to blame.

The process for picking questions on QT is as follows. All of the questions submitted (every audience member gets two – one submitted a few days before via email and one just prior to recording) are gathered up and then formed into piles based on topic. The topic with the biggest pile ends up being the first question, the second biggest the next question and so on (I’m not sure about the final ‘funny’ question though – that might just be at their discretion). As to which question gets picked is up to them to decide but generally speaking it is the audience who dictate the agenda. So how about this for an idea? If you feel that the show’s not adequately representing your corner, why not apply for the audience the next time QT’s in town? You might get picked, you might not (again, this is done proportionately and based on your answers in the application form), but there’s nothing stopping you from giving it a punt and should you get on you’ll probably discover that trying to put a sentence together in the knowledge that several million people are watching is easier said than done. Or done than said. I don’t know, one of the two. Anyway, trust me – I know.

Regrets? I have a few…

…And here they are in no particular order.

  1. I should have watched these much earlier than I did.

  2. Totally gutted that Michael O’Leary never appeared on the show. Yes, it would have probably turned into an hour-long Ryanair commercial but that’s a chance I’d be willing to take.

  3. Similarly, I’m a little upset that Nick Bowles stood me up twice – I’ve always had a feeling he’d be QT gold.

  4. I’ve been sitting on a killer piece about Ed Davey for a good six months now. It was along the lines of how he’s like my ‘smart’ shoes that I have had since I was 18 and only get to see the light of day for weddings and funerals. Explaining it like this makes it sound a bit crap but trust me, it had legs.

  5. I never got to see Grant Shapps drown in a torrent of his own bullshit. He’s come dangerously close on a couple of occasions but the jammy little sod always lives to fight another day. Oh well, the law of averages will inevitably catch up with him. It just won’t be on my watch.

  6. Rhyming scores were the biggest rod for my own back I ever did make.

And lessons learned?

A few of them as well…

  1. Writing 1200 words with a 9am deadline and an 11.40pm kick off is an unremittingly bleak experience.

  2. Writing 1200 words with a 9am deadline and an 11.40pm kick off whilst drunk is an unremittingly farcical experience.

  3. The Internet is a harsh and capricious mistress who will invariably reward your worst posts with the most traffic and the best ones with the least.

  4. If you’re looking for fame and riches, don’t start a blog based on a current affairs show. Start one on pictures of cats or simply scrape and repackage other people’s content into list form if that’s your game.

  5. David Dimbleby looks best in green eyeshadow.

  6. A kind email or comment from someone who ‘gets it’ can suddenly make the 10 hours a week of unpaid labour seem worthwhile.

And that really is your lot. I hope you all stick around for the next stage of Questionable Time’s evolution but this is where we go our separate ways. Thanks for reading and I’m sure our paths will cross again.

Some other time Lemmings, some other time…

Questionable Time #106


questionable time 106 david dimbleby thats all folks

Good morning Lemmings and as the above picture suggests, changes are afoot around these parts – big changes that mean that this will be my last post-QT write-up for the foreseeable future although not the end of Questionable Time itself. However, before I get stuck into explaining all that, there’s still the matter of last night’s show to contend with. Fear not though– this won’t take long.

It’s almost like they knew this would be my last show…

…And decided to celebrate the good news by engineering an episode specifically designed to irritate me. I mean c’mon – Scotland? No politicians? Only four on the panel? Jesus guys, a carriage clock and some WH Smith’s vouchers would have sufficed – no need to go to all the trouble of putting together a personalised nightmare just for me. But they did. They went to all that trouble and more, going so far as to book a panel that is known by no-one in the whole world ever and in a location primarily associated with gorse and darkness. If that wasn’t bad enough there was also a very cruel raising of hopes when I googled “Ricky Ross” and was delighted to find that we would be spending the evening with ‘Freeway’ Rick Ross – an ex-drugs kingpin from LA and all round ne’er-do-well who was sure to spice things up by recommending which asses caps should be popped in and who exactly should lick a shot. Alas, it was not to be as what we were actually getting was Ricky Ross, frontman of seminal mid-80’s twaddle pedlars Deacon Blue and all round walking haircut. Thanks QT production team! This is the best send off a boy could ever hope for!

Things can only get better, right?

Well, sort of. The lack of politicians made for a really odd atmosphere where the crowd – all geed up with the usual appetite for a damn good blaming – found themselves a little stymied by a lack of anyone to really blame for anything other than Alan Savage, a harried looking man who repeatedly got it in the neck for no lesser crime than simply existing/pointing out that a currency is sort of a helpful thing for a country to have. The others fared better though, what with Scott Hastings doing his best to prop Savage up yet ultimately looking like he’d got lost somewhere between a Rotary Club meeting and the Grandstand studio, Joan Burnie displaying an aptitude for both the having and eating of cakes and Ricky Ross actually turning out to be very good despite occasionally veering a little too close to the Bono/Sting Line and hoping that claiming not be a politician would somehow disguise the fact that he very clearly wants to be a politician.

So yes, it wasn’t as bad as I feared but there was something missing in that the stakes weren’t high enough: No one involved was going to get a bollocking if they messed up, no careers were on the line and as a result it all felt like an end-of-term game of rounders where you’re only allowed to throw underarm rather than the usual bare knuckle brawl that’s driven by fear, malice and reckless ambition.

Then something magical happened…

So there I was, drifting in and out of the show as I sat inches away from the telly, trying to get a shot of a man in the crowd who looked like Central Casting’s go-to guy for any Vietnam Vet related role and feeling vaguely miffed that I was going out with such a whimper. Then the camera fell upon a gentleman of advancing years and a very stiff gait – let’s call him ‘The Highlander’. At first it appeared that we were in for a standard ‘doddery old man in very drawn out response’ offering but a few seconds in things started to get weird: First there was talk of love for both Scotland and the Union – fair enough really – but then his face started contorting into this sort of rolling snarl and an arm came jerking up as he moved on to other, more dramatic subjects. There was talk of dead relatives, the Highland Regiment and then – out of nowhere – “BRITISH ARMY! [Unidentifiable chunter] BRITISH FOREVER! WE WILL NEVER CHANGE! WE WILL KEEP OUR UNION TOGETHER IN THE NAME OF JESUS!”. Lemmings, I could have died with delight. They hadn’t forgotten me! They’d laid this guy on especially in lieu of the carriage clock!

But that wasn’t even the half of it: In a breach of the usual Do Not Give Clearly Unhinged Audience Members A Second Bite Of The Cherry protocol, The Highlander was returned to later in the show and treated us to an extended encore that covered the poor (he’s CONCERNED FOR THEM), showing the losers down at the rugby team what’s what (“WATCH ME!”), and blood (I think he was referring to his own but probably wouldn’t have minded if it was someone else’s either). Basically, it was the single greatest display of frothing randomness I have seen to date and a fitting way to draw the curtains on my Questionable Time career. My sincerest thanks go out to whoever booked the audience this week – you’ve made my year – and should anyone wish to relive the glory of The Highlander’s headlong plunge into the abyss, you can do so here and here.

Tl;dr

Ross: 7/10

Slick

Hastings: 5/10

(Built of) Brick(s)

Burnie: 6/10

(Is in good) Nick

Savage: 4/10

(Got a lot of) Stick

The Audience: 5/10

(Were) Quick (to have a go at Savage)

The Highlander: 100/10

Tick(s every single box I ever wanted ticking)

And that was that – a victory from the jaws of defeat that has bookended my time here with considerable aplomb.

So that’s nearly it from it – I say ‘nearly’ because I’m hoping to put up a post next Friday that sort of outlines everything I’ve learned about QT over the last 5 years (5 years!) and also I’m hoping that the new management will let me return to do the odd post every now and then. And who is this ‘new management’? Well, I’m delighted to say that regular Questionable Time contributor Elizabeth has been blagged into willing taken on the role as QT Fuhrer and will now be in charge of things around here.

As for me, well I’m moving on to other things – like colourising photographs for cash monies – but I’ve had a hoot doing this and would like to thank all the regular readers for making this little corner of the internet the strange and rather special place it is. Huge thanks also go out to the following: Jalf, Rick, Benry, Kev and Beef for the years of looking on in a bemused fashion, @markinreading for being a clown of note, @dimblebot for services to evil and nefarious scheming, members of the QT production team past and present for aid afforded, Ellen E. Jones at The Independent for taking a massive punt on me, James Corrigan for all the kindness and assistance, Elizabeth and Mike for their outstanding contributions (both past and future), the Ribs-in-Laws/Frere Ribs/Elder Ribs/Step Ribs for the years of support, the Frau Ribs for putting up with me for all this time and most of all to my mum who – believe it or not – has proofread every one of these reports over the years and made up for the fact that I’m a 34-year-old who still struggles to arrange letters into a coherent order. None of this would have been possible without you guys so heartfelt thanks all around.

Right, I’m done. Come back next week if you wish to see what five years of Questionable Timing does to man (it’s not pretty, I can tell you that for free), but if not then thanks for reading and I hope you continue to come back here when Elizabeth takes the helm in September.

so long lemmings


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