Good morning Lemmings and welcome to 2012, a year in which – if this episode of QT is anything to go by – our primary vexation appears to be none other than trains getting from London to Birmingham slightly quicker at some point in the far distant future. Remember that extinction level economic crisis that dominated Question Time throughout 2011? Yeah, well you needn’t have worried because it turns out that all it needed was a damn good Christmasing and now it’s not worth bothering our pretty little heads over. On top of that it also seems that 2012 is the year in which politicians of all stripes put aside their various differences and simply agree with each other on just about bloody everything. That’s right, no more bitter hand-to-hand combat on the battlegrounds of economic policy but instead a cosy love-in as representatives from across the political spectrum bask in the warmth of consensus on boob jobs, HST and Leveson. Ok, so there was a bit of contention when it came to Scottish independence but I’m struggling to recall an episode of QT that was quite so dreadfully agreeable.
The upshot of all this is that it was actually a pretty dull affair last night that lacked any real juice and left me feeling a little short-changed. Take the train question for example: Literally every single political panelist held near identical views and this left the floor wide open for Kelvin MacKenzie to reap all the rewards in his role as Self Appointed Man of the People. Now, I’m no fan of MacKenzie but I have to admit that without him last night would have been little more than a well-heeled Woodstock without the acid and let’s face it, that doesn’t sound like a barrel of laughs. So that didn’t exactly inspire me with confidence (you know things are bad when the highlight of a particular question is a gentleman of Scouse extraction getting a little over enthused about Watford Junction) but I held out a little hope that at least the question of Scottish independence could provoke some level of disagreement. And so it did, but in a ridiculously one-sided manner.
Our main protagonist in the only real point of contention in this encounter is none other than the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon and I must say that I did feel slightly sorry for her last night. For one, life can’t be easy when it looks like your hair has been borrowed from a Lego figure (see Fig. 1) and preaching Scottish Nationalism to a London crowd is a tall order but the main reason was that Dimbers seemed to have it in for her a bit last night. Sure, she didn’t do herself many favours as she deployed her usual tactics when in a tight spot (which is to just continue talking, regardless of whether the content makes any sense) but Dimbleby was really short with Sturgeon and seemed to relish any opportunity to clip her round the ear. Another weird by-product of this question was the part when Sturgeon and Danny Alexander got into a very surreal little tiff, ostensibly about something-or-other that an aide to Alex Salmond had said. Sensing danger, Sturgeon tried to wibble her way out of it but Alexander wouldn’t let it go and just sat there, quietly repeating the phrase “Was she wrong? Was she wrong?” like a shell shock victim lost in his own personal hell. This bizarre little charade went on for some time and it reminded me of that ‘You can’t handle the truth!’ scene in A Few Good Men… Except set in a particularly passive-aggressive PTA meeting rather than a court-martial and with Tom Cruise’s character being played by the little man in the bowler hat from the Homepride ads.
As for individual performances, well I think it’s fair to say that ‘fair to middling’ is just about the best that this lot could muster with Ashdown putting in the most impressive turn simply by alternating between his ‘Paddy Ashdown is tired of reasoning with you people’ face and his ‘You don’t know cuz you weren’t there!’ war-vet-who’s-seen-too-much routine. Poor old Justine Greening fared less well, chiefly because she seemed to have been relegated to a role in this episode similar to that filled by Dictionary Corner on Countdown and appears to have been there only for reference purposes only. And as for Wee Dougie? Well, I’ve got to say that he’s beginning to freak me out a little. It’s his delivery. Very slow, very soft and very deliberate yet also completely relentless. It’s like being force-fed warm milk at the most leisurely of tempos and that, dear Lemmings, is the sort of experience that I’d rather avoid.
So there we are: A less than brilliant start to the series and one in which the crowd could be at complete odds with the panel and yet still clap along with practised docility. Ok, I guess that’s a little harsh but last night did bum me out a little as I’ve just spent the last month doing the whole Peace on Earth/Goodwill to All Men thing and I was really looking forward to kicking the new year off with a right old gorefest. Alas, it was not to be and so I’ll just have to bide my time until this new-found unity amongst QT panelists shatters into a thousand tiny shards of spite laden hatred. My reckoning is that it won’t be the longest of waits.
Greening: Still in the waiting room
Ashdown: On the express train to Seriousville
Alexander: Lost his ticket
Sturgeon: Got tied to the tracks
MacKenzie: Has a season ticket to Smug City
The Crowd: Want to get off at Watford Junction
Next week Lemmings, next week…