Good morning Lemmings and welcome to Questionable Time which this week is brought to you from my death-bed. Ok, so ‘death bed’ might be a slight exaggeration as it’s more like my ‘moderately hungover and groggy bed’ but there is a commonality between the two phrases in that they both contain beds and that these beds contain me. So, why am I hungover? Well, I’ll level with you, I just couldn’t quite bear the thought of approaching a Scottish episode involving Janet Street-Porter, a bunch of no-name Caledonian politicos and a clutch of issues pertaining to our northern cousins without something to take the edge off it. In fact, the only thing that kept me from unilaterally declaring this week a holiday was the prospect of Charles Kennedy being there (he’s like my secret QT hip flask… Even with the most God-awful panels he somehow manages to make my insides feel all warm and fuzzy) so upon receiving the news that he had ‘missed his flight’ I thought ‘Cobblers to it, I’m getting sauced’. As a result, this likely to be a short and less-than-accurate account.
Right, where to start? How about with the SNP’s Humza Yousaf, a jaunty fellow who’s got a good line in prattling enthused claptrap about all things Scottish and independent? Initially I was quite taken with him because he seems to have quite the talent for rabble rousing but as time went on the penny started dropping that there wasn’t a great deal of substance in it all and that he may just be the latest honours student from the Alex Salmond School of Jiggery-Pokery. Then he said something that suddenly joined all the dots together in one fell swoop: “I was 16 when we went into Afghanistan”. ‘Come again? 16? And you’re a… politician? No wonder you’re a little rash and over-exuberant! 22 year-olds are rash and over-exuberant by their very nature!’. Then another penny dropped: ‘Wait a second, if you were 16 in 2001, that means you’re now 26 which in turn means we’ve been in Afghanistan for over 10 years!’. Now, don’t get me wrong, I already knew this to be true in the semantic sense but it’s only at times like this that a fact creeps up on you takes you off guard that it really begins to sink in. 10 years. We’re going head-to-head with Vietnam for the accolade of Most Long-Winded Tragedy of Modern Times here and that’s not the sort of accolade you proudly display on your mantelpiece. Anyhoo, where does all this leave young(ish) Humza? Well neither here-nor-there really. On the one hand, he should be old enough to realise that operating on pure bluster will only get you so far but on the other hand I do find his lean and hungry disposition to be rather fun to watch and he does possess more than a smidgen of charisma. In light of this, I’m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt…. For now.
Talking of charisma, lets say hello to our other Scottish panelists – the Conservative’s Ruth Davidson and the Lib Dems last-minute stand-in Willie Rennie - as this seems to be a department in which they are both lacking. In the case of Davidson I think this stems from the fact that she looks like the third Krankie who somehow managed to escape and is now doing her level best to lead a relatively ordinary life, even if this involves constantly repressing the brutal memories of being forced to dress as a little boy in the name of ‘comedy’. As a result she just seems a little nervous, a little wary and despite not messing anything up too spectacularly, I must confess that I was left feeling a little nonplussed. Similarly, Rennie also failed to set the night ablaze and that’s because he seems like a nice, reasonable man who enjoys outdoorsy things and would just like everyone to get along. Is that a bad thing? Not particularly. Does it make for good QT-ing? Again, not particularly.
So that’s the natives dealt with, now we come on to the one person who did fully hold my attention for the entire show, Frank Field. Now, Field’s a funny character, sort of like a weird mash-up between Eeyore and Dr. Strangelove (an observation rendered doubly valid by his outpouring of love for nuclear power at the end of the show) who exists only to cause sullen trouble for his nominal party from time-to-time and that makes him fascinating to watch. True to form, Field spent the best part of last night lining up sacred lefty cows before unceremoniously massacring them one by one. Youth unemployment? The kids need a clip around the ear. Wind turbines? The greatest swindle in history. The audience? “Scrubbing about on the floor”. Now, at face value that sounds like the sort of pugnacious hucksterism that we’d expect from the likes of Melanie Phillips but somehow Field manages to deliver these sentiments in a way that doesn’t make my skin crawl. It’s not the fact that he clearly believes these things to be true as I’m pretty sure that Phillips also fully believes in whatever she’s ranting about it, it’s the fact that these things make him so self-evidently sad and sadness is a very human quality. So yes, well done Frank. I can’t say I agree with much of what you say but I do admire the fact that you voluntarily live in thicket of ideological brambles. Good stuff.
And Janet Street-Porter? Yeah, still like sticking scrunched up balls of sandpaper into your ears and vigorously rotating them back and forth…
(Jesus Christ) O’Reilly
The Crowd: 6/10
Aaaaaaaand we’re done. Nearly. The one thing I forgot to mention was the lack of topical photoshops in this week’s Questionable Time. Well, I had a great Charles Kennedy one all set up and ready to go but ‘he missed his plane’ so that will just have to bide its time in the holding pattern. However, as luck would have it my brother Tom has sent me this little gem: Behold, a God-awful painting of David Dimbleby as an Eastern European peasant woman.
Next week Lemmings, next week…