Morning Lemmings and stop crying! I know it’s the last show of the series and all that but let’s face it, it ended with a hell of a bang. Admittedly, this has more to do with the fact that this week’s news has been hurtling forward at the speed of light than anything inherently Question Timey, but nevertheless, it was a belter.
Now usually I tend to do this in the order that the panelists were introduced but I’m making an exception this week and kicking off with Hugh Grant, mainly because he pretty much owned this show and cemented himself beyond doubt in the ‘more than just a pretty face’ category. Personally, I’ve always been a bit up and down with Hugh but in the last few years, he’s really grown on me. Here’s why:
This is probably one of the worst films ever made and even by Polanski’s usual standards it’s beyond weird. I’d explain the premise if I understood it but I don’t and all I can really tell you is that involves Hugh Grant being berated by a wheelchair bound Peter Coyote while Kristin Scott-Thomas lezzes it up with Polanski’s real-life girlfriend. Sounds rubbish, right? Well yes, it is, but sublimely rubbish.
If Bitter Moon is crapness done right then Mickey Blue Eyes is mediocrity taken to perfection. It’s a formulaic and wholly unsurprising flick which rests heavily on Grant playing the same role that he does in every damn film but you know what? I love it. Unashamedly, wholeheartedly and unreservedly love it.
- His sting in the New Statesman.
This piece totally blindsided me and if you haven’t read it, check it out. The long and short of it is that Grant blagged a pap (who had previously papped him) into spilling the beans about all sorts of nefarious goings on whilst he happened to be wearing a wire. Not only was it fairly entertaining but it was also a great piece of journalism. From that day on, Grant’s stock has been rising on the Loudribs Exchange (LR
So that’s where I was with him prior to the show and I’m happy to report that the upward tick on his share price graph is not merely an aberration and is in fact part of a sustained rally. This has been largely achieved by melding what he’s very good at (i.e. being a bit charming in a floppy sort of way) with actually knowing a thing or two about his pet subject and not being afraid to point fingers. In essence, he’s done a Lumley.
In terms of how this came across on the show, let’s just say that it’s a foolhardy politician who tries to go toe-to-toe with Grant as not only does he know the terrain inside out (he seemed more clued up than either Alexander or Grayling on the details) but he also does anger in quite an intriguing way. I say this because we’re so used to him being the ‘don’t mind me’ and ‘I’m so terribly sorry I’m so damnably befuddled’ chap when he’s in films that to see him accuse Cameron of being “Murdoch’s little helper” is like being viciously savaged by something you believed to be harmless and benign. On top of this, he didn’t seem to be picking sides last night and he poured near equal amounts of scorn on both the Tories and Labour whilst rattling both their closets so that the crowd could dance to sound of jangling skeletons, all of which was refreshingly even-handed. His bitter little scrap with Gaunt was also something to behold (especially when he did the old switcheroo and asked whether Murdoch had the right to tell people what to read) and again, it showed a very steely side to him that took me unawares. Ok, so the guy knows naff all about train manufacturing but I’m inclined to forgive him that. I was also a little disappointed that he wasn’t wearing his mugshot placard from back when he was arrested, but I’d handily mocked up such a scenario the day before (see Fig. 1) and then felt massively guilty when John Gaunt bought it up and got rightly shot down for being “cheap and pathetic”. But yes, Grant played the match of his life last night and I think this performance will be remembered for quite a while hence.
Facing this rather formidable prospect for the Blue Team last night was Chris Grayling, a man who it’s very hard to find anything to say about. Some of this is because he looks scarily bland, almost as if he has an inflatable head that someone has simply drawn his features on to, but also because I suspect he really is quite a dull guy. However, this apparent lack of anythingness might have actually been an asset last night as his brief was bloody difficult (‘look angry yet promise nothing’) and while he didn’t exactly make matters better for the government, at least he didn’t make them that much worse. What he did do however was to look just a little lost and actually quite out of his depth. You could see the odd moment when he felt brave and tried to have a pop at Alexander but there was no fire in him and he probably could have been replaced by an actual inflatable man, like the autopilot from Airplane! In short, I’ve seen better.
Now, remember a few weeks back when I got sidetracked and started blathering on about a book about the US Civil War that I’m reading? Well here it comes again! I bring this up because the Civil War was basically led on the Union side by two different types of general. On the one hand were the dapper West Pointers of old who did things ‘the proper way’, looked terrific, were held in much fondness by their men but were absolutely crippled by caution (your McClellan’s and Burside’s). These guys seemed to be largely competent and decent people who played by the rules but as soon as anything unexpected happened (which it invariably did), they all went completely to pot. Now the other set of General’s were much more fun. These were the guys like Sherman, Grant and Sheridan who had no interest in ‘the proper’ way’ of doing things, looked a mess but were extremely effective and utterly, utterly ruthless. Naturally, this meant that they did things that look very questionable in hindsight and they bought to the war a special kind of ugliness but by god did they get things done.
I bring this up now because what Labour really needed last night was a Sheridan. As I mentioned earlier, the rate of knots that the news has been steaming along at is absolutely phenomenal and so far, Miliband has been making a decent fist of it (I caught PMQ’s this week and you can see that Cameron knows he’s in trouble. As soon as that temper starts poking it’s head out, you know you’ve pressed the right buttons). However, ‘a decent fist’ is only a start and what is actually required right now is someone who will sweep in on their flanks, break their lines and then relentlessly harry them all the way back to Richmond. Right now, the prime candidates for this role appear to be Bryant, Watson and, bizarrely enough, Prescott, all of whom have really got the bit between their teeth. Unfortunately for Labour, what they got was Douglas Alexander and his instincts are certainly not of the ‘relentlessly harrying’ type. No, I’m afraid to say it but Wee Dougie is one of those who makes an excellent general in peacetime but when put into a fluid situation like the one we have now, he simply goes rigid.
Last night, that tendency manifested in his wanton overuse of the line “judicial inquiry” and had I counted the amount of times he uttered those words, I would have probably run out of fingers. Now don’t get me wrong, I also think that a judicial inquiry is what needs to happen and he was right to hammer the Tories on that one but there’s so much more he could have done. Granted, his room for maneuver was constricted by New Labour’s own shenanagising with Murdoch (as aptly and repeatedly pointed out by Grant) but if you can build up enough forward momentum, that issue should start to fade a little. Ultimately in a political sense, this is very dangerous for Cameron. It doesn’t matter what way you slice it, he’s been knocking about with some very bad people and all those who suspected that he kept some pretty shady company now have all the ammunition they will ever need. As to why Alexander couldn’t find the grit to really pursue that line I don’t know but it’s a great shame that he didn’t and what could have been a Battle of Atlanta turned into a Battle of Antietam: A bloody, grinding affair that squandered what had otherwise been great odds in his favour.
Ok, history lesson over and on to Shirley Williams, a woman who appeared to be positively enjoying the whole experience last night, simply by dint of doing what she does best: Telling people off. Most of her ire was directed in the vicinity of Murdoch (and she was the only politico to come out as avowedly anti-News International) but he wasn’t the only one to get a thundering denunciation by any account. Oh no, there was Grayling getting it in the neck about BskyB, Grant being chided for something or other, Dimber’s for playing favourites with the boys and a poor member of the audience who got a minor tongue lashing for putting his hand up. Now usually I hate the teller-offers in this world but for reasons unknown, I don’t mind it with Williams. Partly I think this is down to her voice which is very well suited to rollickings and partly because she wears the head mistress cape so well, but also I think I may just have a soft spot for angry old people. Let’s face it, they’ve earned the right and I fully intend to become an absolute volcano of rage when I hit 70. So nice one Shirley, jobs a good ‘un.
Right, final panelist now and let’s not spend too much time on it as this week we have been blighted by John Gaunt, ex-Sun journo and all round pillock. In the interests of fairness I should point out that he did receive some fairly decent chunks of applause and he was far from uncritical of the News of the World but then again Hitler probably could have raised a clap or two by slagging off Murdoch on last night’s show. No, what really gets my goat about Gaunt is a) the way each sentence starts at around 70 dB and ends at an ear-splitting 150 dB and b) he reminds me of one of those novelty keyrings that play different and largely annoying little soundbites. Can’t be bothered to think of an answer? Just press the button named ‘Blame Europe’. Get caught out thinking you’re in London when you’re actually a Basingstoke? Just press the button marked ‘Annoying Squealy Laugh Followed By Rubbish Joke’. Worried that Hugh Grant might be hogging the limelight? Just press the button marked ‘Keep It In Your Trousers’. I think you get the picture and don’t need me to elaborate further on how much of a div he is. Div.
So there we have the panel, what of the crowd? Well, in actual fact it’s quite hard to draw a bead on them as the show was utterly dwarfed by its context and other than them being wholly game for a spot of Murdoch bashing, they all just seemed to coalesce into one great big angry mob. I make that sound like a bad thing but it’s not. Everything that has gone on in the past week completely justifies angry-mob-like-activity and I think this was pretty accurate depiction of the national mood. Then again I could be wrong. They could have been driven to such levels of torment by the tie Dimbers was wearing. He does know that Global Hypercolor ceased to be ‘in’ several decades ago, right?
Grayling: Not in the least bit
Alexander: Doesn’t quite get it
Williams: True grit
The Crowd: Tightly knit
So there we have it, a right old clangerlang to end the series with. As is only right, I’d like to thank all those who’ve had to put up with how cranky I get on a Friday night, especially my partner Hannah. Thanks as well to those who keep coming back to read this week after week. The traffic on this blog isn’t exactly massive, but knowing that it hits a chord with some people is good enough for me. As is traditional at the end of the series, I will now make some rash promises about how this blog may move to its own dedicated site although this time I don’t fully intend to disappoint. I only semi intend to. Thanks for reading and enjoy your summers.
September Lemmings, September…