Good morning Lemmings and no, your eyes do not deceive you – Questionable Time is 100 posts old today and yes, you should all be very excited about this. What? What’s that? Why should you be excited? Well I don’t bloody know – I’m 100 now and easily confused so unless you’re the dispatch rider with my telegram from the Queen I’ll be asking you to take your leave now thank you very much indeed.
(Incidentally, due to arbitrary changes in naming schemes, this isn’t the 100th post at all. No, it’s actually the 149th – or the 151st if you’re being particularly thorough. Either way though, Questionable Time is now officially old).
Anyway, to celebrate this ‘exciting’ turn of events, QT has got all giddy with excitement and sent us not 5 but 6 flesh bags to play with which works out as 20% extra ire to vent. Best get on with it then…
The sum of Tristram Hunt’s parts…
Cast your eyes on Tristram Hunt and what goes through your head? Well, if your answer is something along the lines of ‘A jaw line that says ‘rugged’,a pre-politics profession that says ‘bookish’, a voice that says ‘plumby’ and a constituency that says ‘authentic, grinding poverty” then not only are we on the same page but we’re probably both experiencing that weird sensation of witnessing something that shouldn’t really be. That sounds harsh – particularly as we often consider some of these traits to be positive things when dealt with in isolation – but when we take them as a combined whole they make this odd melange that just doesn’t quite cut it and leaves him in this strange netherworld of unconnected dots and verses that never quite make it to the chorus.
Take for example his response to the question about whether the UK is inherently racist: Here’s where he pitches his voice down to just shy of ‘solemn’, dons the look of a man wracked with concern, and gravely intones that maybe the Red Team took their eye off the ball when it comes to the worries of the great unwashed before swiftly concluding that it’ll all be ok in the end because Labour understand the cost of living – providing it doesn’t have to go into specifics about the price of milk, bread or any other essential component of this whole ‘living’ business. On paper, this is a perfectly reasonable play which, if deployed properly, should naturally segue into a soaring crescendo of Labour being the best placed party to right these wrongs but with Hunt it never quite does: Instead it just sort of judders along, never quite finding biting point as the listener tries to match the incongruous vision of this clearly clever and privileged man trying to ‘engage’ with people who might as well have grown up in a completely different universe.
The sad thing is that we caught a fleeting glimpse of the authentic Tristram this week. This was Historian Tristram who when asked about the comparisons between Hitler and Putin suddenly became enthused, animated and coherent. It was a good answer as well, robustly delivered and neatly tying up his specialist interest with a sly pop at The Daily Mail – a confluence of factors that made him (for a brief moment at least) a thing that was supposed to be. The problem is that these moments are not only so few and far between, they also tend to be sandwiched between those awkward encounters like the race question or the bluster he hid behind when Labour’s education policy was put under the spotlight. Oh Tristram, if only there were such a thing as a Minister for History…
…And the winner of this year’s Panelist I’d Never Thought I’d Like But Actually Have A Lot Of Time For is…
…Ladies and gentlemen, the Rt Hon. Jeremy Browne MP! Woop woop! So yes, Jeremy Browne is in the house and for one I am delighted because:
A: He’s the polar opposite of Tristram Hunt who knows what he is (a veritable trouser press of a man who is probably insufferably enthusiastic during any event that involves the words ‘Team Building’) and gives not a hoot if you don’t care for his ways.
B: The whole panda thing makes him ridiculously easy to photoshop.
And C: I think he got a really raw deal when he was thrown under a bus for the whole ‘Go Home’ debacle.
However, I must admit that it was a fair to middling performance last night where he never quite hit his stride and I suspect I know why: He got rid of his beard. To those who may not have spotted it, Browne spent much of this year with not only a beard attached to his face, but a majestic one that dominated everything within a 100 ft radius. Seriously, (and I say this as a bearded man) it was a thing of utter beauty that made him look like a Special Forces operator who’d just rolled in from the hills of the Hindu Kush with a clutch of sexy superficial wounds and a haunted look that says “I’ve seen things no man should see” (see Fig. 1). Alas, he now appears to be sans beard and as a result we’re back to plain old Vanilla Browne – not the worst thing in the world but certainly not a patch on Jeremy ‘Instrument of State Sanctioned Murder’ Browne. I really got on with that guy.
Grayling and the love/hate of the game…
Hmmmm… A quiet one from the Justice Minister last night but one that was not without its own story to tell. Basically, the key to Grayling is not what he says – that’s usually your standard boilerplate ‘the mess Labour made’ stuff – but the way he reacts to things. For example, whenever an opponent is getting it in the neck you can always hear this little laugh come from Grayling and it’s not a nice laugh. No, instead it’s one of those ‘Fade away, jerk!’ laughs that you get when you ask a bus driver if they have enough change for a tenner and on top of that it’s usually packaged with a subtle sneer.
And thus is the problem with Grayling: Satisfaction for him comes not from the furthering of The Plan (whatever that may be) but from the game itself and, more precisely, the smiting of one’s enemies. Now, as a political tool this is certainly a handy disposition to cultivate but, in the wider battle of winning hearts and minds? Nah, it just reminds people of that look that Kevin McCloud of Grand Designs fame pulls when the amateur developers tell him that they’re project managing themselves and funding the job on their credit card. Schadenfreude: It’s a double edged-sword.
And the rest?
Time is short and so is this paragraph.
Allsop – Likes saying “ought to” a lot, talks about the property market in a very ’round the houses’ sort of way, conflates fertility with housing status.
Hamilton – Real life panto villain who represents the truly terrifying nexus of UKIP, bent Tories and bow ties.
Monroe – The only logical outcome of putting both Lily Allen and Owen Jones into the Large Hadron Collider, pressing the big red button and hoping for the best.
(A right old) Jumble (of a man)
(Not much to) Grumble (about)
(Would laugh long and hard if he saw you) Tumble (down some stairs)
Bumbles (amiably about in a twee sort of way)
(Does the sinister) Mumble (quite well)
(Reputedly makes good) Crumble
The Crowd: 6/10
(Made for a perfectly serviceable) Fumble (in the dark).
Gah, I can never get my head around these six-for-the-price-of-five episodes but then again, I am 100 so just getting to the end of this piece without major incident is an achievement in itself. Right, that’s me done and next week we return to bog standard, non-celebratory Questionable Time, hopefully with the more traditional compliment of five panelist. Until then, that’s your lot and GET OFF MY LAWN YOU BLOODY WHIPPERSNAPPERS!
Next week Lemmings, next week…