Morning Lemmings and welcome to possible the highlight of the season so far, The Gurt Big Ruck In Cardiff. Gums were flapped, fools were made and blood was shed. So without further procrastination let us get amongst the action.
In The Red Corner: Peter Hain MP, Secretary of State for Wales and All Round Glutton For Punishment
Well well well, if it isn’t Labours favourite punchbag, the venerable Peter Hain. I say this because he seems to be some sort of shock absorber for Labour as a whole. Bad news week? Send Hain on QT. Getting trashed in the polls? Hain to QT, please. Major cock up has occurred and there’s no way on earth we can come out of this looking good? Get Hain to suck up. It’s not that he’s particularly good at defusing these situation (he usual does a good turn in righteous indignation but then gets his bluff comprehensively called), but more that he seems to have a very high pain threshold and a short memory loss for the mauling he will have undoubtedly received only a couple of weeks earlier. Credit where it’s due though, he is always game for it and seems to relish taking one for the team, even if the team have been utter shits to him in the past (what with being comprehensively hung out to dry by the party on expenses and those muttered accusations of Champagne Socialism). Tonight however, seemed to be a well earned respite for him, mainly thanks to Nigel Farage playing the role of bullet magnet with wild abandon and a general lack of love for the Tories in the crowd. Opening with the Bullygate Question (which has fast become my favourite pre-election-storm-in-a-teacup) he got off to a faltering start by trying his less than convincing ‘man-of-the-people’ act (many a leaden reference to “my surgery”… he always tries this approach and it always goes wrong), but quickly got back on track by blaming the media and got in on some moderate claps. To be honest, there wasn’t much scope for cock ups on this front as the public really don’t care if Brown is a bully (given that the last guy was all hugs and hanging out but still managed to get involved in a whole bunch of wars), but still, it must have been nice for him to start a show without the risk of an errant pitchfork taking an eye out. The next one was slightly more tricky (the “forces of hell” Darling/Brown hullabaloo) but after claiming that Chancellor and PM were “joined at the hip” (which no one a bought) and a quick jab at David Cameron/George Osborne (which pretty much everyone bought) he was again the recipient for some crowd love. Things looked a little shaky when he had to fend off a three way assault from Dimbers (who was generally up to no good all evening), Farage (who naturally managed to make the point somehow, very tenuously relate to Europe) and Janet Street-Porter (who naturally managed to make the point somehow, very tenuously relate to women), but he weathered the storm and entered Round 3 in robust order. Round 3, as it turned out, was an absolute gift to anyone who wasn’t Nigel Farage as it related to his somewhat bizarre and very ill conceived name calling incident at the European Parliament. This should have been an open goal as the audience got the first crack and made it abundantly clear that they thought Farage was a div. All that was required was a strong assertion that Farage is, indeed, a div and then just sit back and lap up the applause. Hain obviously reached this conclusion himself, but somehow managed to fumble the ball by saying he agreed with the audience. And that was it. The audience, expecting a thorough beat down to be administered to Farage, hadn’t really planned for this outcome this and suddenly looked confused and all ‘wtf?!’. Hain, sensing that things had gone badly awry made a disparate change of tack and blurted out some sort of ‘I like Wales’ platitude and received a small ripple of applause, mainly out of sympathy. Question 4, on RBS and their bonuses was much more familiar territory for Hain, a no win situation where the best you can do is not to lose too much blood. However, he’s had plenty of practice at this sort of rearguard action and managed to shimmy away (with much damning of bankers and playing the old ‘global recession’ card) relatively unscathed. That’s pretty impressive considering what an absolute clusterfuck for Labour this issue presents. The next question,the ‘sex-ed’ issue that I haven’t really been paying much attention to (and thus drifted off a bit during the show), seemed pretty straight forward with little of note except a geeky looking ginger guy who kept stroking his chin in a bond villain manner and made some weird point about Creationism. Only one hurdle remained in the form of the John Terry question and although it looked straight forward it turned out to be a booby trap, laid by an audience who couldn’t give a shit about football. Unaware of the impending danger, Hain proudly proclaimed to be a Chelsea support and was then mocked by the crowd who had to remind him that he was in Wales. It wasn’t massively damaging, but then again, it didn’t look great.
So that was him. Considering he’s usually against the ropes for the whole show, copping it big time for whatever epic shitstorm Labour have just presided over, Cardiff must have seemed like a holiday for the man. Sure, he didn’t really score any big points, but then again, goalkeepers don’t tend to score many goals. So enjoy your brief vacation Peter, as I’m sure that next time you’re on Gordon Brown will have been found eating children and wanking on piles of Credit Default Swaps. Or something like that.
A relatively sedate 6/10
In The Blue Corner, Dr Liam Fox MP , Shadow Secretary of State for Defence and generally shadowy guy.
Something deathly this week stirs from the bowels of Tory HQ. It must be the positively sepulchral Liam Fox! A few years back, a friend of mine pointed out that Fox is in possession of a pair of “dead eyes” (see Fig.1) and not in the crack marksman sense, but more in the ‘absence of a soul’ kind of way (much like Richard Hammond, post rocket car fiasco).
On the face of it, Fox should be a poster boy for the positives of equality of opportunity in that he’s scaled the ladder from Council Estate lad to the front benches in the only way the Tories allow (grammar school, innit). This should make him a testament to a ‘can do’ attitude and a system based on merit, but somehow this gets lost in the shroud of hushed morbidity that hangs over him. And quietly foreboding he is. You’re not going catch Dr. Fox screaming from the rooftops about the horror of it all and how we’re all destined to burn in a diabolical inferno of our own making (he’s seen the inferno. It holds no fear for him). Instead, he just quietly, relentless bums you out, like a pissed off glacier that knows far, far too much about the land of the dead and the futility of it all. Tonight was a hard deal for him as the Wales is not a noted Tory Heartland, Fox himself doesn’t do the New Tory ‘head for the middle ground’ thing and there was the threat of Farage eating into his flanks on the right. Question 1 (Bullygate) was pretty much the shape of things to come as his ‘bullying is bad’ shtick didn’t really cut the mustard (although he did somehow manage to slip in a reference about David Kelly) and he was soon on the defensive when Elfyn Llwyd (who has just broken my spellchecker) slipped a knife between his shoulder blades by bringing up the Andy Coulson angle (which is a massive vulnerability the Tories have on this one). What followed was a scrappy defence and a hasty retreat to his catacomb. The “forces of hell” number turned into a similar debarcle when his brief ‘Gordo always shoots the messenger’ splutter was met with this series’ Most Awkward Tumbleweed Moment Yet and the initiative passed from his hands and straight into Peter Hain’s. The man was heard to say no more on the matter. The next question (Farage’s tirade) should have presented an opportunity for some easy points, but Fox couldn’t quite bring himself to endorse something that could, in some convoluted way, be seen to endorse Europe. He briefly scolded Farage (to light claps) but simultaneously damned Europe and the resulting chimera didn’t really look too pretty in the light of day and the crowd were left underwhelmed. RBS was a similar affair of scrappy firefights and unsteady footing but he did manage to have a good stab at that sex-ed question. Unluckily for Liam, I’d zoned out at that point so whatever pearls of wisdom he did deliver were completely lost on me. Dems the breaks, son. Things did improve right at the end when he read the audience right, spotted the tripwire and proudly proclaimed not to give a monkey’s about football when the John Terry question came up. That went down pretty well and saved his performance from being entirely lacklustre. Having said that, he’s had far better outings and all that this episode served to confirm was that yes, he is in fact neither living or dead but inhabits a strange twilight world where the sun never rises but night never falls. Yikes.
A bone chilling 3/10
In The Yellow (not that Yellow, the other Yellow) Corner, Elfyn Llwyd MP, Plaid Cymru bod and Lovable Salt-of-the-Earth.
So long (once again) to the Lib Dems this week and hello to Elfyn LLwyd, purveyor of avuncular charm and heart warming homilies. I like Elfyn and secretly wish he was standing in Leeds West so he could be my MP and lull me off to a blissful sleep with his earthy wit and soothing tones. If that meant that Wales gains it’s independence, then so be it. It’s a price worth paying. He’s also pulled off the one-in-a-million trick of a wearing a moustache well in politics. That’s a path fraught with danger and is much harder to get away with than you would imagine. For example, if you don’t have enough moustache, you look a bit like a pervy spiv, a la Mandleson in the early 80’s. Too much and you end up looking like a Regimental Sergeant Major in the mould of Bob Ainsworth (note to Bob: Looking like a Warrant Officer does not a better Minister of Defence make). Elfyn looks like neither of these and always reminds me of the uncle who everyone likes and is the only one in the family who’s not been divorced. Furthermore, being a Plaid MP is always an advantage on QT as it means you only ever play to home crowd and Elfyn used this to produce perhaps a textbook case of QT Done Right. Observe if you will:
Question 1 (Bullygate)
Elfyn Llwyd: A health dose of ‘it’s pretty much bullshit spun by the other parties’.
Question 3 (Farage Tirade….he didn’t get much of a look in on Question 2)
Elfyn Llwyd: Heartwarming tale about how he and Peter Hain have had barney’s everyday for 18 years but it’s nothing personal followed by epic “Little Englander” slapdown to Farage.
Question 4 (RBS)
Elfyn Llwyd: Ridiculous.
Question 5 [I totally wasn’t paying attention so anything could have happened].
Question 6 (John Terry)
Elfyn Llwyd: RUGBY!
Audience: FFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCCCKKKKKKKKK YEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!!
Ok, so I may have wildly overstated the actual applause he got, but you get the picture. He could have told the entire audience that he tortures baby seals for laughs and they would have still lapped it up as it would have been delivered in such a comforting way. So hats off to Elfyn Llwyd. Your name is a nightmare to spell, but you’re one hell of a panellist.
A snug and unpretentious 9/10
In The Independent/Brainy Corner: Nigel Farage MEP, former UKIP Leader and Well Heeled Demagogue.
Did anyone order several hundredweight (Imperial….NOT METRIC!) of pure crazy? I’m only asking because Nigel Farage is at the door and he appears to be licking the windows. I’m always pleased to see Farage on QT. He represents much that I hate, but he’s pure gold to watch, unhindered by trifling concerns such as sanity and reason. One of the strange things about him (aside from the fact that he looks like a ventriloquists dummy) is that for someone so rabidly anti-Europe, he shares far more with our continental cousins than he would care to admit. For one there’s his fruity, French sounding name and on top of that it’s clear that he owes many of his tactics to Napoleon, namely the pint sized general’s maxim that the best form of attack is defence. And attack he did. In the eyes of Farage, anything that remotely has the taint of left hand drive about it is a legitimate target for a sustained onslaught of character assassination, ridicule and wordy put-downs. He even refuses to limit his ire to things specifically European and can happily concoct some Brussels based conspiracy out of the most innocuous materials. Worst winter for 30 years? It’s the Krouts doing. Pirates in Somalia? They’re probably Frenchmen disguised as East African Buccaneers. Your paper didn’t arrive this morning? Well that’s what you get when you’re in hock with Cheese Eating Surrender Monkey’s. The stakes were particularly high this week as Farage was fresh from slagging off the EU President to his face and despite the entirely inevitable backlash that ensued, he was wholly unrepentant and spoiling for a fight. So crazy, numerous and varied were his rantings that there simply isn’t space to provide a detailed account so I’m afraid you’ll have to settle with these highlights.
- Somehow managed to use the sentence “15 year old’s should be exposed” without a trace of irony.
- Defended bankers and bonuses. Possibly Most Suicidal Moment of this series.
- Made an utterly incomprehensible conspiracy theory on the hoof that had Belgium as some sort of blueprint for a dystopia EU nightmare.
- Incurs wrath of literally everyone within a 50 metre (not yard) radius
- Claims to be “more enlightened” than Janet Street Porter.
- Managed to turn every nearly every single question into something about Europe.
- Got most Comprehensive Booing of the series when Dimbers read back what he had said in the European Parliament.
That was just a fraction of utter lunacy that he had to offer that night but needless to say, he emerged looking like a weird, self important bigot of a man who clearly doesn’t garner much sympathy in Cardiff. Having said that though, he basically made the show. QT only works when there’s a goody and a baddy and Farage is a baddy par excellence. For that reason, he gets some points.
An inevitable ill-fated but highly spirited 7/10
In The I’m The Funny/Just Like You One Corner: Janet Street Porter, Celebrity Something and Hater Of All Things Male.
Can anyone else hear an angle grinder being taken to a new born foal? Oh no wait, it’s Janet Street Porter! Before writing this up I thought I’d better check her back story again as I’m usually clueless as to why she’s always on telly and truth be told, I still am. From what I gather, JSP is largely renowned for being involved in successive failed ventures and for simply having opinions. That strikes me as grossly unfair as I have failed at a great many things and also harbour numerous opinions but you don’t see me living it up on prime time telly. Nevermind. Anyway, JSP was on tonight’s show and made short work of displaying these vaunted opinions which we largely based around ‘men’ and their being ‘bad’. While I don’t really have a problem with people having a pop at men in general (we largely deserve it), there’s just something about the way she delivers it that makes me instantly lose all sympathy for her position. Maybe it’s her fingernails-on-blackboard voice or maybe it’s the fact she strikes me as a newly divorced step-aunt who fucks up Christmas for everyone by getting blathered at dinner, making unfounded accusations about your gran and then putting her Superkings out in the Christmas pud. Whatever it is, I find listening to her to be not unlike how I imagine eating a lightbulb would be: All jagged shards and the nasty taste of tungsten. And that pretty much sums how she was on the show. Without going in to too much detail she was basically spoiling for a fight with anyone she could get her hands on and more often than not, this would involve some sort of combination of ‘men’ and ‘bad’. The crowd weren’t having it (and took her task at one point), but she did manage to scrape a little bit of love together when she had a pop at Farage for being “a bloke” right at the end. Given that Hitler probably could have got away with having a go at Farage, this does not represent a massive achievement.
A shudder inducing 3/10
The Crowd: Cardiff
So we had the pleasure of Cardiff tonight and a pleasure it was. With the exception of Elfyn LLwyd, no one was truly safe tonight and this turned out to be one of the more vocal mobs that we’ve had in the last few months. The whole gamut was there, from mercilessly and rightfully jeering the at ever-belligerent Farage to the ghostly silences that followed Liam Fox’s brief forays into the world of the living. It was all on show tonight. Janet Street Porter even got called out by name, largely for being a twat and that is something that pleased me immensely. All in all, it was a very solid performance and the only thing I can really knock them for is that none of them had a moustache quite as awesome as the guy in Middlesbrough last week. So well done Cardiff, a valiant display that came very close to victory….if it just wasn’t for that pesky Elfyn Llwyd.
A rousing and playful 8/10
So there we go, best show in this series yet. There will be competition mind, as Dimbers announced that there’ll be an all-women audience in Dewsbury soon. I know Dewsbury. This will be epic.