Morning Lemmings. Before getting stuck into this week’s action, a few brief points on Wednesday night’s ‘First Time Voter’s Question Time’ on BBC3:
- First time voters are divs.
- Jamelia really doesn’t have a clue about politics (“Thatcher was for the working classes”. O rly?)
- Dermot is very nice, but no Dimbers.
- Throwing in a couple of off-beats to make the QT theme tune all ‘down wiv da kids’ is a very bad idea.
- According to the audience “Obama smokes weed, yeah?”
Enough of this sorry effort and on to Canary Wharf, scene of this week’s proper, grown up Question Time. No offbeats here, thank you very much.
In The Red Corner: Lord Andrew Adonis, Secretary of State for Transport, Minister for Nerds and possessor of a highly incongruous name.
Geek alert! Lock up you’re slide rules and airband radios because Lord Adonis is in the house! To the uninitiated, the cry of “Lord Adonis in the house!” should be met with the swoons of women, prostrating themselves before a heavenly vision of male perfection while the men scurry for cover, powerless against the radiance of his beauty. As it turns out, this is not the case and what you actually get is a wonky little man who never, ever got picked first for anything in PE and probably has a large collection of 1/72 scale Airfix kits (still in the shrink wrap). A man of my own heart then. I’m actually pretty pleased Lord Adonis is about as geeks are thoroughly under represented in government and although he looked at one point to be a bit of a Blairite nut, he’s actually turned out to be a very able, if understated, Transport Secretary who’s deeply, deeply into trains (I come from a family of unrepentant trainspotters and consequently feel very much at ease with them… they may be a little odd, but they are a people absolutely without malice). This week’s QT was quite a tall order for him as it was quite the gobby panel in attendance and for the most part he tended to stay in the background, fending off the odd jab here and there but very rarely venturing out of cover. He did have an early pop at the Ashcroft issue, doing his best to look shocked and indignant at the whole bloody mess, but there wasn’t any real fire there and he looked like a man going through the motions, fearful of what the rough lads from Millbank would do if he didn’t at least give it a crack. Most of the other questions were similarly muted affairs with some half-hearted parroting of the party line (plus a small outburst of squirming when pressed about why Alan Johnson had gone off message on the Venables case) and lots of staying out of the numerous Boris centred scraps that erupted throughout the show. However, something changed on the last question, the one about whether televised leaders debates are a good idea. Personally, I’m having trouble getting fired up about this issue but Adonis suddenly came to life, gripped by an enthusiasm that seemingly came from nowhere. And this is why I like Lord Adonis: He knows what he likes and when he does he’s positively evangelistic about it. While most QT fodder are willing to have a crack about things they know precious little about, Adonis isn’t, preferring to keep his powder dry and marshal his reserves for an all out push on stuff he thinks does matter. In today’s increasingly gladiatorial political arena, this is virtue that should be cherished as it belies a mind that’s not going to be sullied by the screams and clamour of the playground. Does it make for incendiary viewing? No. Does it give me much needed reassurance that Westminster isn’t entirely populated by dicks? Yes. And for that reason he gets points.
A mostly avoidant but occasionally irrepressible 6/10.
In The Blue Corner: Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, Unreconstructed Shambles and Perennial Wildcard.
Oh Boris, has it really been 12 years since you first graced our TV screens? Shockingly, it has, but that just makes it all the more impressive that he can still be counted on to put his foot in whatever ‘it’ is, despite having had such long and extensive practice in trying not to. Anyhoo, it’s always nice to see Boris on. He may produce a lot more heat than light and his ‘jovial buffoon’ act is wearing gossima thin now, but the randomness that always follows him is something to be encouraged and he’s a bastion of hope to men with unconventional haircuts everywhere. On this week’s show, he was as phlegmatic as ever, seemingly unable to reel in his mouth and constantly being put on the naughty step by Dimbers. Rather than go too far into the nuts and bolts of what he said, I’ve picked out some of his choice phrases from the episode, handily displayed below…
- Accused Labour and the Libs of being falsely “bathed in the odour of sanctity” on the Ashcroft question (a phrase that seemed to be in danger of becoming a full blown meme after it infected Williams and Dimbers).
- Went on to call “Rhubarb!” on the issue (inducing a counter “Rhubarb!” from Williams).
- Accused Dimbers of being “very rude” to him during the televised mayoral debates (a very risky move considering that Dimbleby was spoiling for a fight with him).
- Let out this little gem: “Elucidate the vacuity at the heart of Labour”
- Further threw caution to the wind by jabbing fingers at Dimbleby and sweatily highlighting the Big Man’s Bullingdon past.
- Got into a fight with pretty much everyone.
In terms of substance, it was an uninspired and muddled affair, ticking compulsory Old Tory boxes (choppers for the boys in Afghanistan, banging on about debt, pot/kettle accusations on Ashcroft) mixed with some ill advised bluffs and messy little skirmishes (with Shirley Williams and Will Self providing excellent breakwaters against the Great Blonde Tsunami). He did manage to sound semi-rational around the Venables questions, but on most issues he just ended up being steadfastly incoherent. And that’s the trouble with Boris. On the one hand, he represents much that ‘real Tories’ hanker for: Deep seated scepticism on anything related to the state (minus defence and law and order), a devil-may-care approach to most things dear to the left and above all, a personality. However, with all this comes a mind that’s averse to detail, easily bored and rarely thinking more than two steps ahead (pretty much the polar opposite of Lord Adonis). His presence in politics is generally a good thing (if only for the fact that his barely disguised desire for the Tory leadership and unabashed popularity amongst the Conservative rank-and-file is a complete headfuck for Cameron) and he’s not a man to be written off, possessing a mildly Churchillian air about him (Churchill was oft ridiculed and derided in his earlier days), but right now he needs to tighten things up and learn when it’s prudent to just shut up. But he is good viewing. And good viewing means points.
A harebrained but entertaining 6/10.
In The Yellow Corner: Baroness Shirley Williams, Lib Dem Peer and QT Stalwart.
After being shunted off most this series’ episodes, the Libs are back and who better to lead the charge than Shirley Williams, the Libs’ only real contender for the title of Big Beast (what with Ashdown being way too involved in other peoples wars and Ming’s tragic downfall at the hands of The Young Meh’s). Apparently, Williams has been on QT more than any other panellist and it’s easy to see why. Although nearly 80, she has this alert and steely manner, backed up with lashings of principal that make her a favourite with the crowd and tonight was no exception. Kicking off with Ashcroft, she made short work of sticking it the Tories whilst ably countering any assaults on the Lib’s position, aided in no small part by Boris setting the bar very low. The ‘Brown at Chillcot’ question was an equally impressive affair as she brushed straight through the Snatch and Choppers bullshit and went straight for the heart of the meaty principals (which the audience were very much into). The Venables issue had her in a less forthright but more nuanced mode that again, went down impressively while the leaders debates bought out a well reasoned lament at the superficiality of modern politics. All good solid stuff. However, it is her general manner and the way in which she deals with other panellists that really win her points, displayed throughout the show in her dealings with Boris. Far from being cowed by the onslaught of blabber, Williams always stood her ground, gave him enough rope to hang himself and then switched to the offensive (exclaiming at one point “I want my one minute, dammit!”). With the others she was slightly more generous, but still, this is someone who is not going to pushed about or bullied (the fact that she pulled off wearing some sort of Chinese tunic that would appear on most 79 year olds as a little batty is testament to this). Gravitas, my boy. They call it gravitas.
A thoroughly robust and dignified 8/10
In The Independent/Brainy corner: Will Self, author, ‘commentator’ and generally concave looking man.
I have trouble with Will Self. On the face of it, he should be right my street. He’s a talented writer whose politics chime well with my own and I admire the fact that he’s no-one’s man nor has trouble with speaking the unspeakable. But there’s something about him that gets stuck in my throat and after tonight, I’m pretty sure it’s the disdain he has for everyone and everything. Although I agreed with pretty much everything he said and was into him playing Devil’s Advocate on the Venables case, it was the way he treated other people that made me loses sympathy. Calling politics “seedy” and politicians “poor sad folk” is all very true, but saying it in a way that makes no effort to disguise the malice lurking beneath the surface doesn’t really help matters. Not even the audience were safe from his ire and his digs at them made him come across as a man who is terribly impressed with the sound of his own voice and not terribly impressed with the sound of yours. Then again, I did like it when he snapped at Carol Vorderman when she was being especially mental and maybe there’s just a little jealousy involved on my part. Come on, how much fun would it be to totally not give a shit about anyone’s feelings?
A technically correct but practically wrong 5/10.
In The I’m The Funny One/Just Like You Corner: Carol Vorderman, Maths Nerd turned Maths Vamp turned Tory advisor.
OK, someone’s going to have to help me out here as something weird has been going on that I’m not privy to. One day you’re watching Countdown and there’s dowdy old Carol with her oversized glasses and book smarts. A couple of years down the line you switch over to Countdown again and Carol Vorderman is suddenly all sexed up although not entirely hot as it all just seemed a little wrong. I could cope with that change. I found it a little uncomfortable, but you know, she was doing her own thing so more power to her and all that. So anyway, I switch on QT last night and bugger me, there’s Carol Vorderman, still a little sexed up but now frothing with righteous indignation and kneejerk right wing posturing straight from The Daily Mail Field Manual. Now that’s just too much for my head to cope with and in future Carol, I’d like a little warning before you miraculous reinvent yourself.
Anyhoo, what’s the cut of Carol 3.0’s new jib? Fairly rabid and very confrontational. Right from the start she was leaping down people’s throats, looking sincerely pissed off and invoking the weary touchstones of ‘think of the children’, ‘more choppers’ and ‘paedo-correctness-gone-mad’. Firmly taking the offensive line, she managed to make the Ashcroft issue all about Peter Mandelson and spent quite some time earbashing the poor Lord Adonis for not thinking about “The Families” more. Luckily, she was up against some pretty steady competition who generally didn’t rise to the bait, but I’ve got to say that I was a little shocked by this latest incarnation of what was already quite an odd puppy. She did get a bit of love from the audience, but then again, the 5th panellists usually do (unless you happen to be Douglas Murray…. not that he cares) so I’m not chalking this up as any huge victory. Instead, I’m giving her a piss poor mark, largely for freaking me out.
A shrill and from the middle of fucking nowhere 3/10.
The Crowd: Canary Wharf
This is always an odd audience as no one really lives around Canary Wharf so everyone looks like they’ve just rocked up from a board meeting. Suits were the order of the day and could be divided into three categories: The Posh (you can tell by their lips and teeth), the Wouldn’t Mind Being But Aren’t Really Posh (who seemed to make up the bulk of the crowd) and the East End Boys Turned Good Who Made It To A Trading Desk (one of their number had clearly borrowed his jacket from Deckard in Blade Runner). What was left was comprised of a lippy Northerner, a stoned looking guy and some fellow with a goatee who made the Point Of The Evening (a concise and blistering attack on the Tories for “giving people enough news to make them angry, but not enough to make an informed decision”. Kudos Sir. You are tonight’s winner). Oh, and there was a very preppy looking girl who would have made a lovely companion for Lord Adonis. By and large, they were quite vocal, a bit pissed off and seemed to be enjoying the rolling rucks that continued to flare up throughout the show. With the exception of Goatee Man, no killer points were delivered but they were up to the job and made for a pretty good show. So well done Canary Wharf, you may be an odd demographic, but you didn’t cock it up.
A well rounded 7/10.
So that’s that. See you next week for Dewsbury’s all-fem shit fest. I can’t wait.