Archive for February, 2010

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #5

I have a motorcycle. Your argument is irrelevant.

thanks to the dearth of funny image of tonight's panellist on Google Images, the motorbike theme inexplicably continues.....

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).

The face of grim inevitablity...

Fig. 1

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!


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.


Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #4

Conti. Semi-naked. Harsh.

Morning Lemmings and say hello to Middlesbrough. I had to say hello to Middlesbrough recently. It was on a stag do and we had, for convoluted reasons, ended up drinking in the town’s Walkabout at around lunchtime on a Saturday. It was a new low. As it is unwise to delve deeper into this traumatic episode, let us hasten on the action: QTime meets M-Bro.

In the Red Corner: Lord Roy Hattersley, former Labour Deputy Leader and Spitting Image mainstay.

Who’s this odd looking creature that has emerged from the depths of the oceans? Why, it’s Roy Hattersley! It’s easy to be mean to Roy as he has a face built for ridicule but he is also somewhat of a political oddity as well. Back in the day, poor old Roy was often pilloried in the Labour party for being far to right wing. Luckily for him, when Tony Blair came along the left of the party pretty much ceased to exist and many of those who had been calling him names made their way quietly into the night. Unluckily however, Tony Blair drove the party so far to the right that it wasn’t long before he had a brand new set of tormentors who were now wailing on him for being too far on the left, quietly tutting away as he ensconced himself on the backbenches. Fair play to him though, he has survived and in many ways he represents the conscience of the Labour party, not so much in a fire-and-brimstone, old testament way, the likes of which Tony Benn busts out now and again, but in a much more quietly naggy way, chiding it for not doing it’s homework or hanging out with bad lads from the City. From the party’s point of view, he was a good choice for the show as there was a lot of potential for trouble that night. Middlesbrough, it seems, is inches away from having it’s industrial guts wrenched out again and Labour are highly vulnerable on this front as there’s only so many times you can play the ‘global recession’ card. Damage limitation is pretty much the best you can hope for and you could do a lot worse than sending in a back bencher who people associate with Labour’s much more pro-industrial past. It was a nice little sidestep and one they nearly got away with.

OK, so down to the action. First question up was about Gordon Brown’s interview with Piers Morgan. As he’s not in the cabinet, Roy had a certain amount of leeway on this and got away with damning our fickle culture whilst also concluding that actually, Gordon came out of it looking alright. The crowd were into that and buoyed by this, he had a crack at a mild joke (which was so forgettable that I forgot to write it down). This was met with sympathy titters but he was later thrown a bone by Ruth Lee who got a bit excited about Brown tanking the economy. Spotting an easy point, he confidently threw down the ‘global recession’ card and basked in the glory of solid applause. So far, so good Roy. Things were about to get tricky though, as the next question was about the Corus ‘mothballing’ and the room was positively seething about this (they applauded the question, for Christ’s sake!). I must confess that I’m not particularly up together on the ins and outs of multinational steel shenanigans, so when both he and Ruth Lea started getting deeply involved in a lot of talk about complicated sounding steel stuff, I drifted off a little. However, what was clear was that the crowd were not exactly enthused about what he had to say and although he escaped without getting mauled, neither could he claim any sort of victory (although he did get a brief flurry of applause by chastising his own party for neglecting industry), which is probably as good as it’s going to get for Labour right now. Calmer waters prevailed later as he picked up some low hanging fruit on the Nicholas Winterton question (the Tory MP who effectively called anyone travelling by second class ‘scum’), calling the man an “ass” and telling tales about David Cameron, while the Afghanistan and Ray Gosling efforts were fairly steady affairs. Encouraged by this, he went for a late flourish by defending the right to offend and warning of (perhaps a little over dramatically) ‘totalitarianism’ if we didn’t. As with most Roy Hattersley performances, it wasn’t an earth shattering affair, but it did allow Labour to escape relatively unscathed from what could have been a nightmare evening.

An assured 6/10

In Blue Corner: Rory Stewart, prospective Conservative candidate, former Deputy Governor of Maysan province, Afghan rambler and generally interesting bod.

I like Rory Stewart. He’s got a backstory and manner that are from a completely different age and he tends to talk a great deal of sense when it comes our deranged foreign adventures. In the past, he’s absolutely run circles around MP’s on the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan and he can back up his impressive knowledge with equally impressive first hand experience. That sort of thing terrifies professional politicians Tonight though, was going to be interesting as I’m pretty sure this has been the first time he’s been on under the official Tory banner and that meant he was going to have to at least try and do the party line thing. So how did he fair? Well, on the Gordon Brown/Piers Morgan number, he was actually quite nice to the big man which was quite refreshing really and he too had a pop at a joke (about the ‘mile high’ club question) which went down better than Hattersley’s effort but failed to set the world aflame. However, the Corus question presented a much thornier problem as if Labour were in the dog house on the issue, then the Tory’s were even further up to their necks in it, particularly given some painful memories that are still very much alive in the North-East. Wisely, Stewart stayed well away from the whole mess, uttering a few sentences of not-a-great-deal before slinking back into cover and letting Hattersley and Lea fight it out. He did look out of his depth, but at least he resisted doing a Baroness Warsi by diving in straight at the deep end on matters he really wasn’t up together with. He even got some props from the audience later on when he ventured out for a quick dig at Mandelson. Let us not forget though that saying nasty stuff about Mandy is pretty much an assured win where ever you are, so let’s not get carried away. On Winterton, it was fairly easy as the Tory’s have pretty much disavowed him and he was free to bad mouth the guy. He also managed to see Dimbleby’s “would you go 2nd class?” raise by inviting him to go with him and that was duly rewarded by the audience. Afghanistan was the question that he really got to flex his muscles on and it was a tour de force, appearing grown up and yet far from patronising. His main strength on this front was that this guy does nuance in a big way and isn’t afraid to tell people that the reality of the situation is going to be long, difficult and messy. People appreciate being treated like adults and it is fair to say that he came across as totally devoid of bullshit. Saying that we need less troops rather than more is also a winner and while he wasn’t saturated in applause, you could see that the crowd took him seriously. A robust performance. The rest of his answers weren’t so steady and he got sidetracked by some Commandments quoting on the Ray Gosling question and a minor tiff with Hattersley on the same subject. Although he ended well on the freedom to offend question, you can tell he has some work to do when it comes to the whole politics deal and that when people start asking about things other than foreign policy, he has dangerously little to say. Take my advice Rory, stick with what you know and don’t get blagged into being a party man. No one will thank you for it.

A potential laden 7/10

In the Yellow Corner: Lynne Featherstone, Lib Dem Youth and Equality Issues Spokesperson and Stationary Hoarder.

I’m not overly familiar with Lynne Feathstone and can’t recall whether she’s been on before or not. Sadly, I’ll probably be saying the exact same thing next time she appears as she really didn’t stand out too much last night. She had a solid start by confessing that she actually quite liked “grumpy Gordon Brown” and that trying to rebrand him was a bit sad, which seemed to resonate with the audience, but she failed to really get stuck into the Corus question (which was a shame as she represented the only political party that could have possibly made some hay out of the issue) and simply concluded that investing in jobs is “good”. Well done there. She did pull it back a bit with an answer that sounded heartfelt on the Ray Gosling hot potato, but on everything else she was just a little flat. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a cock up by any measure but I couldn’t help thinking that if she was just a little quicker on her feet, she could have scored some big points for the Lib Dems.

A ‘Must Try Harder’ 4/10

In the Independent/Brainy Corner: Ruth Lea, Right Wing Economics Fruit and Nut Bar and Perennial Spinster.

I only noticed yesterday quite how much Ruth Lea resembles that odd little boy who was an antiques expert on Wogan when he was 12 and then grew up and had a sex change (see Fig, 1).

Separated at weird birth?

Fig. 1

Anyhoo, Ruth Lea occupies a similar place in my heart to Douglas Murray: I couldn’t disagree with her more on pretty much everything, but I have all the time in the world for people who really don’t give a shit about what everyone else thinks. In the past, Ruth Lea has demonstrated this complete lack of social fear with considerable aplomb, but tonight I felt there was something lacking, that some vital spark simply wasn’t there. I think this was partly to do with who she was up against as there’s usually a culpable frontbencher for her to sink her teeth into. On this week’s show, she had to make do with a back bencher who hasn’t been anywhere near the levers of power for nearly 20 years and although she did get into a fair few scuffles with him, it failed to draw out her usually torrent of blood and stomach pills. The only other people who seemed to be up for a scrap were the audience and although she had a good crack at defending the indefensible, even she sensed she was out numbered and outgunned. On the non-economic questions, she was unable to get into her stride and adopted a position of minor belligerence that failed to provoke any decent outrage and much to my disappointment, she failed to wind me up. Come on Ruth, I’ve grown accustomed to your rabid free market tirades and I won’t settle for anything less. Next time I demand to see at least a little bit of foam around your chops.

An Unduly Moderate 5/10

In the I’m The Funny One/Just Like You Corner: Tom Conti, actor and thesp.

It seems that Tom Conti is largely famous on account of being in Shirley Valentine. Considering I was 9 when it came out and thought that it definitely needed more explosions to be watchable, you’ll forgive me for having no string recollections of him (although I am into his daughter’s awesome ventriloquist act). Having said that, he was pretty entertaining tonight, coming across as a slightly drunk uncle who thinks he’s just found the answer to some pressing issue and gets wildly evangelistic about it over dinner, even though it’s as clear as day that his idea is totally shit. He started off by completely blind siding everyone by simple refusing to answer the first question as it involved the death of a child and could not be coaxed to comment further on the matter. However, he roared back to life for the Corus question and lost no time in making a full blown economic recovery plan on the fly. It went a little like this:

Cars → Made of steel → Tarta make steel and cars → Tarta make cars out of steel → Corus is owned by Tarta → Blah!

I have a feeling the audience was aware that it was probably slightly more complicated than this, but his slightly lopsided enthusiasm was hard to resist and he picked up a fair bit of applause. He then heard someone mention something about “orders” and seized on this as the crux of the whole issue. Looking gravely concerned about these “orders” he demanded to know why no one was getting any of them and then seemed drift off, consumed by vision of invoices and stock ledgers. Snapping back to life in time for the Winterton chunter he then took the deeply unorthodox position of saying that MP’s lived “a hand to mouth existence.” and that they “need” to travel first class. “Need”. That’s a brave man right there. Afghanistan was a similar cocktail of bat shit crazy as he pointed out that we were way “too nice” to win, the logic being that the Soviets were well nasty and even they lost. Continuing this reductive path, he ended the question with a call to “help women!” and that was the end of that. Talk of murder and Ray Gosling bought lead him into some feverish speculation about his “motives” while the right to offend drew out a Braveheartesque “Freedom!” outburst followed by a less Braveheartesque “Society is crumbling!” eruption. I’m not sure if he himself entirely understood what he was going on about but he said it all with such conviction that I’d happily go along with it.

A random but enthralling 8/10

The Crowd: Middlesbrough

I felt so sorry for the audience tonight. Over the last 30 years, the North East has been consistently dealt a shitty hand and within that hand, most of the worst cards ended up in Middlesbrough. With very fresh, bad news, steaming away on their front door, it’s understandable that people would want to lash out a little. However, on tonight’s show, there really wasn’t a suitable target. Sure, Ruth Lea got herself into hot water a few times but she doesn’t really have that much blood on her hands and in the place of the real baddies (i.e. a frontbencher from either Labour of the Tories) were a guy who’s too old, reasonable and too far removed from power to be implicated and a new boy who simply wasn’t going to get in a fight. They did succeed in making their anger very visible and the best point of the night was made by a guy who pointed the grim truth that it would be the BNP and UKIP who would clean up on this, but they certainly didn’t get there pound of flesh and that’s unfair. Having said that, there were some notable individuals in the crowd including the most awesome moustache I’ve seen in a long while on QTime, a guy with a sore face and my mate Laura’s mum (who had the good fortune of sitting behind the guy with the awesome moustache). Middlesbrough, it was a valiant effort that was not without dignity, but I’m afraid the major parties managed to do a number on you this time. Gutted on your behalf.

A brave endeavour, sadly stymied. 8/10

So there we have it, our first tie. Congrats to the audience for their justified anger and well done Tom Conti for being off your tits. Come back next week for further nerding out.

Loudrib’s Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #3

All the other pshop ideas for this risked inadvertently derailing the peace process. For this reason, you'll have to put up with this rather pedestrian effort.

Morning Lemmings. OK, before we get cracking I have a confession to make. I know bugger all about Northern Ireland. Like many of my English brethren, watching news about Northern Ireland is a lot like watching the weather forecast. You start with good intentions (“I’m out and about tomorrow so I must check to see of it’s going to rain”/”Northern Ireland is an important part of the UK that has only just tentatively emerged from generations of bloodshed so I’d better pay attention to what’s going on”) but quickly find yourself drifting off, caught up in some daydream about whether there are more socks or people in the world and only come round in time to hear the presenter sign off. It’s shameful, but unfortunately true. In our defence however, Northern Irish politics does not make it easy. We can cram it in to our heads that there are two sides: One lot who want Ireland to be British and one lot who want it to be Irish, but after that it starts getting complicated (a fact that is not helped by most of the Unionist parties simply conjuring their names out of the same sets of letters, usually a ‘U’ and a ‘P’) and unless something has been blown up, Gerry Adam’s is having his voice dubbed or Dr. Paisley is ranting with flecks of spittle showering the audience, it doesn’t really grab us (and let’s face it, Gerry Adam’s hasn’t had his voice dubbed for a very long time). Even our grasp of the history of events is pretty shaky and usually boils down to the conclusion that those who may have once filled their days plotting death and carnage are not very good at painting murals. I’m not trying to justify this lapse of mass-cognition, I’m just saying that’s how it generally is. Oh and the format has gone completely to the dogs this week thanks to QTime playing fast and loose with the rules. Six panellists? Madness.

In the Red Corner: Shaun Woodward, Labour MP. Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and Floor Crosser of Note.

Conventional wisdom has it that turncoats are deeply unpopular and should be spurned lest they infect others with their underhand ways. Surprisingly, given that Shaun Woodward also ticks some other pet-peeve boxes (ex-Tory parachuted into safe Labour seat, dyed-in-the-wool Blairite), I always end up being quite into him. Part of it comes down to a careful balancing act he’s perfected that involves projecting an air of pervasive calm whilst occasionally dropping softly spoken ‘don’t mess with me’ shots across the bow. It’s a surprisingly potent battle-plan that he put to good effect this week. First up was the ‘did the government cover up torture’ question that should, by rights, be a sticky wicket for him. True to the Woodward Tactical Field Manual he lulled us with a spot of “firmly against torture” (repeated for effect) and some standard issue “people are concerned” before busting some “put at risk the lives of of many people” posturing. It worked and he emerged unboo-ed which is not bad going for a ‘no-win’ question. The next question (can Sinn Fein ex-terrorist really be involved in policing) was much easier, largely thanks to Jim Allister being a complete shit moments before and totally alienating the audience. All that was left for Shaun to do was imply that Jim Allister’s a twat, give props to crowd and then suck up the applause. Not bad going for a Labour minister in this day and age. It wasn’t all plain sailing though as the next, tediously inevitable question was about expenses and Dimbleby was sharking for some action by asking him why he claimed for his mortgage, even though he’s rich. A brief kerfuffle ensued with Woodward doing a ‘right back attcha!’ on also-rich-Dimbleby and seemed to come out as the nominal victor with an ‘Equality, innit?’ beatdown. Again, impressive work. The rest was pretty standard fare with some fairly sensible sounding stuff on the Greece crisis and a late outburst of ‘I love the Beeb!’ in the final lap, all of which ensured that he came out looking pretty rosy, Whether he is or not is a matter that’s beyond my knowledge, but in the QTime stakes he amounts to a very steady pair of hands, unflustered by rough and tumble.

A steady-as-she-goes 7/10

In the Blue Corner: Baron Trimble, Tory peer, former First Minister of NI, Bizarro World Nicholas Parsons counterpart.

You know when you just don’t like someone for absolutely no good reason? Well I get that a lot with Trimble. I think it’s because he strikes me as some bigwig from the local Rotary Club who won’t sell his raffle tickets to regular people for fear that might turn up and scuzz up whatever Competitive Jam Making malarkey they had planned. He’s also shared much screen-time with Iain Paisley and that association inevitably becomes engrained in our fickle, ignorant English minds. Having said that, he didn’t exactly do a great deal to endear himself to me tonight. Going down the ‘it’s down to the Yanks’ road on torture resulted in no palpable gains whilst being pulled up for claiming expenses for some “gentleman’s club” by Dimbleby really didn’t help the cause (note to all future panellists: Laughing nervously when Dimbleby calls bullshit on you is not a good defensive strategy. It just encourages him). On the Euro he said nothing of consequence although he did did try and trump everyone on the BBC question by not only calling for transparency (which pretty much everyone else had said), but also GOVERNANCE . That probably made him feel a little better, but was left unrewarded. To be fair to the Baron Trimble, he could have said something of great wisdom and import on the Sinn Fein/Police question but I must confess to have lost the plot at that point, largely for the reasons described at the top of this report. With this in mind, please allow for certain margin of error in his final score.

A buttoned down 4/10

In the Green Corner: Gerry Kelly, former Provo, current MLA Member for North Belfast.

Now here’s a rare thing in UK politics: A bonefide convicted terrorist turned legit politician with a ton of history behind him. In terms of performance, he’s largely got the politician angle covered, displaying a good ear for the audience and not straying too far into Controversy Land, but every now and then he does get this far-away look that serves to remind you that this guy has done some really bad shit. Tonight however, he managed to largely play it down the line. On torture he quite obviously condemned it (having probably been at the sharp out of some highly nefarious counter-bullshit) and got a steady clap for pointing out that intel based on torture is pretty shonky. However, it was the policing question where he really got the chance to get amongst it thanks, once again, to a sudden outburst of unrestrained rage from Jim Allister. After the short angry guy got a bit personal and said that Kelly was “not fit to be involved” with politics, Gerry came straight back at him with “I’ve got a HUGE mandate!” (big applause) and a “political dinosaur” bitch slap (huge applause). The rest of the show was a much more restrained affair for him with no real stand-out moments, but it was clear that he had the crowd behind him and scored the biggest point of the game. That’s quite a feat for a guy who bombed the Old Bailey, escaped from the Maze prison and was later arrested with a shitload of guns and ammo. QTime is a forgiving god.

A rousing 7/10

In the [insert corresponding colour…..look, I really know nothing about NI politics] Corner: Sammy Wilson, MLA Member for East Belfast, Minister of Finance and Personnel, MP, DUP bod and a whole shed load of other stuff.

I don’t know much about this guy, but fuck me does he have a lot of jobs. Anyhoo, Sammy Wilson didn’t come across too great. He reminds me of a nerdy secondary school teacher who’s secretly terrified by the students and never gives out detentions, just in case they wait for him at the school gates. He started inauspiciously enough with a lacklustre ‘MI5 have a very hard job’ response to the terror question but did manage to garner some solid applause on policing by taking the ‘us all mucking along is best for NI line’….which was nice. However the rest was pretty piss poor as his expenses answer was pretty much a long, drawn out “blah” (he probably feared being called on why exactly did he have ten million jobs) and a little bash at “Europhiles” on Greece achieved precisely fuck all. He tried to pull it back at the end with some joke about TV or something, but it floundered with only a few kind souls tittering out of sympathy. On the face of it, he didn’t say anything too stupid or drop any massive clangers, but the image he presented was one of a man who was terrified that something awful was going to happen to him. QTime seldom rewards the timid and this is doubly true when you’re sitting next a guy who has actually blown stuff up.

A best forgotten 3/10

In the I Really Haven’t Got A Clue Any More Corner: Margaret Ritchie, Minister of Social Development, Leader of SDLP.

OK, I really have no idea who she is, but she was good! The atmosphere seemed pretty male that night, but Ritchie seemed completely unperturbed, answered solidly on torture and got a highly impressive string of big applause by issuing a series of ‘deal with it, stoopids!’ on the policing issue. Greece and ‘spenses were both steady away and she got some last minute points by calling top BBC pay as “disproportionate”. All in all, it was a solid effort and she came across as a grounded and likeable person. If I knew a little more about her, I might find something to take the piss out of, but right now she’s a cleanskin in my book. Enjoy it while it lasts.

A robust 7/10

In the WTF Corner: Jim Allister, General Blowhard and Angry Man.

Save the best to last, eh? Again, I didn’t have much prior knowledge about this panellist but luckily I had no call for it as he pegged his colours to the mast from the get go. So what of these colours? Well, by the look of it they are mainly, blood drenched red and hate filled bile green. I’m betting he buys his shirts with collars a size too big so he doesn’t asphyxiate every time his gripped by an incandescent urge to kill everything and his neck swells up to twice its size under the sheer pressure of bitterness. On torture he was thoroughly unconcerned, but he didn’t really get going until the policing question where he got the first pop and went straight for a personally denunciation of Gerry Kelly. When this failed spectacularly, the crowd and a few of the other panellists declared open season and he ended up being kicked all over the room. On the no-brainer of ‘spenses he decried the whole nasty business, but it was too late. Fatally wounded, he limped on, implying the Greeks were wimps and just about summoned the energy to gasp “transparency!” for the Beeb before the whole ordeal ended and he crawled back to whatever bunker he hailed from. The sad part about watching him was that you could see that somewhere, deep down, he knew that he was yesterdays man and that the world had left him behind. However, admitting that would be to admit defeat, so he carries on, lashing out blindly and hoping that none of this is true. Not a pretty thing to watch.

A queasy 2/10

The Crowd: Belfast

After last week’s rather tepid affair I was thoroughly heartened by tonight’s audience. As I mentioned early, Northern Ireland is something of a mystery to me, but watching QTime tonight was like catching a soap you haven’t watched for years. You have a rough idea about the characters, can vaguely remember who did what to who five years back and once it all kicks off you can’t quite remember why you stopped watching in the first place. I thought this report was going to be bastard to write up and that it would be full of local stuff that I didn’t understand, but it actually turned out to be quite dramatic and most of that was down to the crowd. OK, some of the questions were a bit ‘meh’ but what really struck me was people actually having very clear cut views on something other than ‘spenses. These days, most QTimes involve a rush to the middle and huge blurrings of traditional boundaries. Tonight however, you could tell that people felt incredibly strongly about the Peace Process and that this was a priority that trumped more mundane divisions. That’s good, positive stuff that gives me a great deal of hope for the future there. Also, a vicar got to ask a question. I love it when vicars ask questions on QTime as politicians have no idea how to react to them. More vicars plz.

An uplifting 8/10

So there we have it, a first win for the crowd and an epic fail for a shouty man. See you next week for more QTime nerdiness.

Loudrib’s Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #2

Leotards ftw

10 - Print "Lickspittle", 20 - Goto 10

Morning Lemmings. It’s been a week and I’ve received no booze so I can only assume that this charade must continue. You bought it on yourselves. Right, let’s get this thing under way.

The Line Up

In the Red Corner: Lord Falconer, erstwhile Lord Chancellor and noted chum of Tony Blair.

I don’t like Lord Falconer. It’s nothing personal, it’s just that I have an instinctive dislike to lawyers and people who have been Tony Blair’s flatmate. The problem is that he’s a hard target to hit by dint of being a really good lawyer and this was on full display tonight. Kicking off with the expenses question, he deftly tacked straight down the middle, acknowledged people’s anger and softly imparted some eminently sensible stuff. Mild applause ensued, no one went mental and the world carried on. That’s not bad going considering the country think about the expenses issue in the same way they think about genocide and I must say I was mildly miffed at the way he got off the hook. However, I was heartened by the next question, the “was the cabinet mislead about the war?” one. Now surely, he’s going to get absolutely decimated on this one, right?. He’s one of Blair’s most prominent cheerleaders, is utterly unrepentant about the war and is sitting in between Claire Short and George Galloway. Surely, there’ll be blood, right? Well no (or at least not as much as I hoped) and here’s how he did it. He started by saying Robin Cook had loads of information to knock the government with, so we must have been open or honest as otherwise he wouldn’t have been able to have a pop at us. When he said that, I struggled to make sense of it, but he said it in such away that it sounded right. That’s a talent he’s got there and a bloody dangerous talent at that. Luckily, Dimbleby started getting mischievous and pointed out that Falconer and Blair are bessies and there were stories of him pinning Lord Goldsmith to a wall. Falconer, who must have seen this coming retreated into a “It wasn’t me guv, we was all in it together” defence and somehow managed to escape un-booed. However, the respite was brief as Claire Short charged on in, calling shenanigans on the whole shebang and was reward with robust applause. Undaunted by this turn of events, Falconer refuted all allegations of ‘Charlie and Tony, up the tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G’ and then went on the offensive by saying (in a mildly threatening manner) that all MP’s knew the score and that they should STFU. To cap it all off, he crowned his late rally with a very lawyerly statement: “It was a decision, not dishonesty”. I wouldn’t be surprised if Blair gets that scrawled on his headstone. The argument reignited a few minutes later when the crowd got their tuppence worth and accused him of arm twisting to which he did some courtroom acrobatics by saying that because some MP’s voted against the war, it’s all legit and kosher. The crowd didn’t buy this, but I must admit I was disappointed that he got away with it so lightly. There seems to be something fundamentally wrong about that. The rest of his performance was much blander but no less plastered in legalese, chuntering about privacy on John Terry and not criminalising people for assisted suicide (which, to be fair, did garner a moderate ripple of applause). A lucky escape in a show that could have been a complete trainwreck for him.

The votes are in: A shifty 5/10, awarded for proficiency in the dark arts alone.

In the Blue Corner: Theresa May, Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Minister of State for Shoes.

I have a feeling that Theresa May is the Tories go-to MP for potentially ominous situations. It’s not that she’s a great debater or rhetorical wizard, in fact it’s for quite the opposite reason: She’s so on-the-fence about everything that you forget she’s talking. Whenever confronted with pretty much any issue, she goes down the “well it’s a bit of this, a bit of that” line followed by a brief affirmation that she does like Tory type things like “stable families are important, you know?”. In short, she’s good at hiding in the long grass. Given that it’s not been the best week for the Tories (minor poll wobbles, backtracking and the dreaded ‘spenses) and that they know they’re vulnerable on Iraq (the “we voted on what we knew” line can only hold so long) she was a pretty clever choice and wasted no time in diluting issues with half hearted platitudes. On expenses she bemoaned what a horrid business it all is and something really must be done about it, dodged the Iraq issue entirely by saying something like she ‘wasn’t in the cabinet so I couldn’t possibly comment, you know?’ and confessed to not give two hoots about John Terry. She did nearly get as far as an opinion with assisted suicide by saying she liked Terry Pratchett but what about all the poor vulnerable people playing mind tennis in MRI scanners, but nothing of any substance really passed her lips. In that respect it was mission accomplished, a no-score draw for Tory HQ but from the viewers point of view it was like browsing the internet on dial up: Only just-adequate and very much annoying.

The Numbers in the Boxes: A weak handshake of a performance…3/10

In the Yellow Corner (wait a second, there is no Yellow!. Great, a week in and the format’s already shot to pieces. Cheers, Auntie): Claire Short, Labour MP for Birmingham Ladywood, Overly Trusting Dissenter in Chief.

I always have trouble making my mind up on Claire Short. On the one hand, her ‘will-she-won’t-she’ act in 2003 wound me up, but when I see her on TV, I end up quite liking her. Her evidence at the Iraq Inquiry was belting and stopped the whole thing looking like a complete waste of time, but her past still vexes me. Clearly it also still vexes her. On the show, she muddled around the expenses issue, not quite making sense and generally seeming unenthused by the whole issue. However, that changed when Iraq come up and she was soon in back her stride, lambasting Blair, pointing the finger at Falconer and generally bemoaning the sorry mess that had transpired. Despite mounting a pretty robust offensive, she didn’t seem to have the same level of anger that she’s displayed in the past and if anything, her whole discourse was tinged with melancholy and regret. This was particularly apparent when an audience member asked her why she hadn’t resigned and she seemed to crumple a little. She explained how Blair had promised her this and that and how she believed him but she looked like someone who knew she’s been played. While she came came across as very genuine, she also looked a little haunted and I couldn’t help feeling a little sad about that. She was also clearly pissed off with Falconer and did mange to rough him up some, but she didn’t quite have it in her to press home the advantage and really take him apart. Later, she briefly flickered back to life by having a jab at the press for the John Terry question and delivered a quite firm “grow up” to all and sundry on the assisted suicide issue but I was left feeling like there was still some unfinished business and that justice hadn’t been done. However, there was some dignity in it.

What it all adds up to: A slightly unsettling 7/10

In the Independent/Brainy Corner: George Galloway, Respect MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, Champion of the Oppressed, Scourge of Tyrants.

Yay! Gorgeous George is back in the house! Ok, Ok, I know he’s a one trick pony blowhard who’s never too far from from something a little fishy, but I like the guy. He called the war right, tried to do something about it, has bought the word ‘lickspittle’ back to popular parlance and is exceedingly good value for money. Oh, and his evidence at Senate Committee was showmanship of the highest order. Anyhoo, I had high hopes for George. Iraq was bound to come up and Falconer amply filled the role of baddy/whipping boy. However, first he had to trundle through the expenses question during which he went off on one about some phone bill of his that sounded dubious but swiftly concluded that he was still awesome and that we should halve the number of MP’s. So far, so so. But then came Iraq and he kicked off by bad mouthing Falconer for his Blairlust, calling the Chilcot Inquiry “a bunch of establishment flunkies” and giving props to Claire Short. Following a small Phillips shaped interlude, George was back, berating Falconer once more, blaming the war for enabling terrorism to start “spreading like topsy” and asking why we hadn’t bombed North Korea. “Great!” I thought, “He’s winding up a full on frontal assault involving the use of arcane and cool sounding words!”. But I was wrong. He managed to make one more brief point in which he confused the old ‘for/against war’ divide and then shut up. No rousing demagoguery, no naming of “popinjays” and no calls to arms. Colour me highly disappointed. He got a few points later with the football crowd by defending John Terry as a player but quickly lost them by siding with Melanie Phillips on assisted suicide, over-flogging the ‘thin end of the wedge’ angle and muttering dire warnings of the “panel of Dr. Death’s”. Come on George, one-trick pony’s are only fun when they’re doing their trick. Do you trick George! Do your trick!

In the cold light of day: A left-wanting 6/10

Melanie Phillips hair is a weird swimming cap.

Fig. 1

In the Funny/I’m Just Like You Corner: Melanie Phillips, Daily Mail Columnist, Poster girl For The Hyperventilating Middle England Crowd.

Oh Question Time, with this helping of moral panic on legs, you are really spoiling us. Say what you will about Melanie Phillips (such as the fact that her hair looks like those weird old floral swimming caps that my gran used to wear…see Fig. 1) she also presents that most sought after value for money that Galloway does, but from completely the opposite end of the spectrum. True to form she got off to a racing start by decrying the whole “flipping business” as “disgusting” and wailing about “trust” as if none of us had ever stolen a biro from work. It was an easy point, duly rewarded with satisfactory clapping. However, she soon found herself on the other side of the fence when it came to Iraq, wearily invoking the spectre of 9-11 for the n-th time and reminding us that Saddam really was a cad. As is usually the case when trying to defend the indefensible, she was met with stony silence from the crowd and a brief outburst from George Galloway. So no surprises there then. Even fewer surprises emerged moments later when she got the first crack at Terrygate and launched into a sweaty rant about “This John Terry character” being “a mass public debaucher” who has been photographed “urinating into beer glasses”. Persisting down the ‘someone think of the children!’ line she wound it up by calling the England captain a “creep” and the obligatory call to “throw him out!”. Well done. Have an applause biscuit. However, the plan became a little unstuck when Falconer and Short had a few digs at the Daily Mail for being as much a part of anti-privacy brigade as anyone else and was forced to stage a ‘but they’re all at!’ defence and trying to make out that this was somehow in “the public interest”. The crowd must have got bored at this point and no more applause biscuits were offered. Unbowed by the waning mood, she saved her biggest guns for last and cranked the Sodom and Gomorrah-o-tron to max by rechristening ‘right to die’ to ‘right to kill’, hypothesisinging that we’ll be killing the mentally ill next and speculating at the emergence of shadowy “Death Panels”. She even managed to get the last word of the show in and warned in that ‘if only you knew what I knew’ way she has that if we decriminalised assisted suicide, we would be hurtling towards a “brutalised society”. Job done then. All-in-all, it was a fairly sedate performance by her standards, particularly considering the company she was keeping that night and I was disappointed that there wasn’t a single cry for someone to hung or tarred and feathered.

When all is said and done: An ambivalent 5/10

The Crowd: Coventry

I’ve only ever been to Coventry once. I was getting a lift with a friend of mine from Manchester to London and she wanted to stop off there to call in on someone she knew. The experience was most noteworthy for the trip itself as my friend has a form of narcolepsy where she falls asleep when bored. As the M6 is not noted for being a thrill ride we were forced to listen to the soundtrack of West Side Story at full blast whilst singing along lest she fall asleep and send us careening under the wheels of a death lorry. It was an odd four hours. The other only point of interest during that trip was that we stopped at a ‘Balti Pub’ in Coventry for lunch and were both thrilled by the possibilities that such an establish could potentially offer. Think about, a curry house that’s a pub, what’s not to like? As it was, the Balti Pub turned out to be crap, being a weird chimera of uninspiring pub and tepid curry house that ticked neither box with sufficient gusto to have either been exciting or worth the two and a half hours of Broadway-show-meets-plot-line-for-weird-low-budget-thriller terror we had just been through. I bring this up because the Balti Pub was this show. When I looked on the Qtime website on Thursday morning I was thrilled. The line up and the events of the past week seemed to conspire to make for an epic dust up and I was certain that it would be a complete hecklefest. As it turned out, it was just borderline OK. No-one totally lost their shit, most of the questions were mundane, softball affairs and the audience just didn’t seem to be able to get itself going. Even the known volatility of the panellists seemed to be cancelled out by the sloppy fug that seemed to shroud the place and what should have been an A plus barney slowly decomposed into a D minus wet play time. Sorry Coventry, I know it’s not the greatest lot in life being a city that’s only famous for being bombed and ugly, but your Balti Pub Qtime just didn’t cut the mustard.

As the clouds gather: A fully skimmed 4/10

Ok, so that’s it. Claire Short gets the Queen of Coventry crown while the rest of ’em should seriously think about bucking their ideas up. The beer offer still stands although I’m now lowering the bar to offers of cigarettes as well as it turns out that this is bloody hard work. Check back next week for more post-QTime banter.

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February 2010

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