Archive for June, 2010

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #20

Ye Gads!

Morning Lemmings and rejoice! Summer has finally started looking like summer ought to after what seems to be decades, we are still tentatively in the World Cup and Civ 5 is set for release in October. Enjoy that rejoicing? Good, because that’s all the rejoicing you’re going to get to from here to eternity according to our new masters. Remember that state you loved so much? Gone. Kaput. Can’t afford it any more. And that pesky VAT that you didn’t love? Well, it’s now gone meta and is all up in your face, raining on your parade. So kiss goodbye to all you hold dear and beckon forth that last remaining vestige of days gone by. Welcome, once more, to Question Time.

The Menu:

Q1. Is it right to describe the budget as ‘fair’ with the increase in VAT and whatnot?

Q2. If the cuts are ratified, is it the beginning of the end for the LibDems?

Q3. Will we have to work until 70 to protect someone else’s gold plated pension?

Q4. Is Obama’s ego dictating ISAF military policy?

Q5. In a week of cuts, do you think Free Schools are a wise use of funds?

In The Yellow Bit Of The Blue/Yellow Corner: Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and performer of epic U-turns.

The Heresy of St. Vince

And so it was that in the year of our Lord 2007, a great calamity befell the earth and the gold lenders rained hellfire upon the heads of men. Through the fire and smoke emerged a man of great wisdom and humility who said unto the people “Behold! Your market! It is knackered!”. His name (for it is the name of a man) was St. Vince of Cable (seeeth Figeth. 1eth) and although without power, he had the ears of the people.

Figeth. 1eth

“You’re banks. Give them unto me and I will make a heaven on earth!” said St Vince and the people cheered, for it was good.

“You’re taxes. Let me spendeth them on infrastructure and createth jobs!” said He, and this too was good… So good that even Jerramiah of Paxman could not harsheth his buzz.

And lo, it was that he laid out his vision in the Gospel of St Vince and the people cheered for in this Gospel they saw their salvation.

Yet dark forces were at play and in 2010AD he madeth a pact with his sworn enemies, The Toryites of Homecountia. The people, confused by this cruel twist of fate tugged at their forelocks and cried to the skies for they did not know the nature of the Chimera before them. Maddened and harried by Boy George of Osbonia’s Plague of Cuts, they knelt before St. Vince and beseeched him to temper Osbonia’s fury.

“Verily, I hath” said St Vince unto the huddled masses, but convinced they were not.
“I would protecteth you more so, but I have a terror over the plight of the Grecians and the Spaniards” spake St. Vince, but still, the people doubted his word and thusly did they turneth on him and ripeth up their membership scrolls for the Liberals of Democratia.

To be thusly continued…

So that was fun, but within lies a serious point: Does Vince Cable actually believe what he’s saying these days? He’s certainly struggled to look like he’s totally signed up to Osborne’s Brave New World and in recent media appearances, he’s been wearing this slightly guilty/hangdog expression like a puppy who’s just shat in your bed and is aware that this is a very bad thing to do. However, after this episode, I’m not so sure.

Q1 pretty much set the tone of the evening and after a by-the-numbers roughing up from Balls, St. Vince responded with a by-the-numbers defence (‘we are protecting everyone/Labour left everything in a bloody mess’). This earned mild applause, but not half as much as when Balls got very personal about his rather dramatic change of economic heart and forced Cable into a now weary “firestorm running through Southern Europe” defence. Pretty much everyone bundled in after that and in terms of audience response, he very much found himself on the wrong side of the fence. However, he did appear to look quite steadfast in his convictions and I got the sense that he either does genuinely believes this stuff, or that Osborne had a sniper watching him. Much the same followed in Q2 as he gingerly picked his way through the minefield that is Simon Hughes’ recent comments and then unfurled the banner of “national emergency” once more. But again, it failed to find much warmth from the crowd and he seemed to cut a lonely figure (although that Brent guy… more on him later… seemed to have his back). Q3 saw him scolding Balls’ “wilfully misleading answers” quite effectively, but it wasn’t long before he started muddling about and resorting to talk of ‘proposals’ and ‘consultations’ with regards to pensions, none of which was carried off that convincingly. However, there was a reversal of fortunes in Q4 as he cunningly sidestepped the issue by choosing to invoke the “illegal” Iraq war instead of Afghan war and did so with a very gruff looking face. That went down a treat and for a brief moment, he bathed in the fuzzy warmth of audience acclaim. However, it was not to last and he trailed off on Q5 by asking “what’s wrong with pushy middle class parents?” and then looked a little blank when nobody bothered dignifying that with an answer. All in all, a rather fraught affair.

Going back to the original point, is Vince being straight with us when he says he really has had a change of heart? Well, I have to say that I really don’t know. He certainly doesn’t look particularly comfortable in his new role as Bearer Of Shit News, but he seems less knackered and a little more resolute in his delivery than he was a few weeks back. Whether this is a byproduct of a genuine Damascene Conversion, or a fairly impressive turn of ‘needs must’ deception I honestly couldn’t tell you, but considering both outcomes are pretty bad news, I can’t say it fills me with hope. Watch this space for further developments in the Parable of St. Vince.

An unholy 4/10

In The Red Corner: Ed Balls, Shadow Secretary of State for Education, Labour leadership contender and electoral hemlock.
Ah Balls, still ploughing relentlessly on, eh? From his previous outings, we’ve already established that he’s pretty rubbish at telling convincing porkies, but now he’s in opposition (and thus might not have to lie with such regularity) has anything changed? In a word, ‘no’ and if this episode is anything to go by, he’s just as clumsy as he ever was, much like a burglar who dresses in black and white stripes, carries a bag that says ‘Swag’ and leaves signed photos of himself along with all his pertinent details at the scene of every crime he commits. Now I don’t mean to say that he’s stupid, as everything he did on the show was pretty much Politics 101 and if I was in his shoes, I’d be pressing the same buttons, but the way in which he does it is just so overt and blatant that it totally lacks finesse.

Take Q1: This pretty much added up to ‘divide and rule’ with a special focus on St. Vince and his new found belief system. This is the angle that any opposition MP worth their salts would take (after all, the Libs are the weak link in the coalition chain), but a more sophisticated operator would have at least indulged in a spot of Damning With Faint Praise. Not Balls, oh no. Instead, he just went for the sledgehammer approach and might as well have just started shouting “YOU’RE GOIN HOME IN FACKING AMBULANCE” at Cable. Q2 wasn’t quite as brutal and he did show some nouse in bringing up the Orange Book divide within the Libs without getting too rabid while Q3 failed to provoke any major scuffles. Later on, there was nearly an outbreak of nuance as he started off quite even handedly on the Afghan issue, but luckily for fans of Schoolyard Politics, he traded any intellectual high ground he might of gained for a grubby little swipe at Liam Fox. Finally, with the end in sight, he got very hot under the collar about Free Schools, called the Libs “stooges” and then completely overreached in his final sentence by calling the scheme “unfair, uncosted and deeply… deeply… erh”. That’s right Ed, you wanted to say ‘unfair’ again, but realised at the last minute that you’d already said it. n00b!!!111!

So yes, that was Balls and it was all pretty standard, given his past form: Thoroughly pugnacious and belligerent. However, I will give him this: He does have remarkable tenacity. Despite being one the most tainted politician in Britain and one who’s associated only with the bad bits of New Labour, he still seems to believe that he can pull it all back and finally get his hands on the leadership. Clearly, this is not going to happen, but I have to admire his either remarkable capacity for absorbing punishment and complete disconnection from reality.

A relentlessly average 5/10

In The Green Corner: Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavillion Leader of the Green Party and elfin soy champion.
So, it’s Caroline Lucas’ Major Label Début! No longer slumming it in the 4th panellist position, she’s now a fully paid up member of the political classes and thusly entitled a stab in Seat #3. Now, I know that I tend to hammer the music analogies rather frequently, but you’ll have to forgive me this time because a) it was just too hard to resist, b) coming up with different analogies every week is bloody hard work and c) I still think my New Labour/Weezer rant is the best damn thing I’ve ever written. Anyhoo, it’s her first time as a proper MP and with that comes risks. Will she be able to hold onto her indie cred and keep things subterranean enough to hold on to her fan base (a la Jawbreaker’s Dear You), or will the demands of mass marketing dilute her sound and lead to accusations of selling out (a la Against Me’s New Wave)?

Well, the first track in her new EP started promisingly enough with fierce attacks on both Labour and the Coalition (plus use of “a plague on both your houses”. I love that phrase) and an attack on the bankers to wrap it off (which is the political equivalent of a key change). A good opener and well received by all. However, as is often the case with new musical directions, tracks 2 through 4 didn’t really hit the spot and sounded distinctly like fillers. There was a bit of an uptick when she got in a fight with Brent Whatshisface, but generally speaking, it was pretty mediocre. Luckily, she had managed to save a little something for the last track, which had a great “it will further segregate the system” chorus, but I have to say that the verse could have been better. Still, not bad for what could have been a very tricky record.

So yes, Caroline did ok and when she did get in her stride, it was easy to get behind her. Next time though, a slightly more consistent record would be nice.

A Less Than Jake of a 6/10

In The Independent/Brainy Corner: Peter Hitchens, Mail columnist and general purpose sourpuss.

Peter Hitchens is a paeleoconservative and I bloody love the word ‘paeleoconservative’. Go on, say it out loud… ‘pay-lee-o-con-serv-ativ’. See how it positively slides off your tongue? That’s some good linguistic shit you’ve right got there. Aside from liking the word, I’ve also got a bit of a softspot for paeleoconservatives and this largely boils down to the fact that you can be completely sure where you are with them. Unlike neoconservatives (or ‘neos’ of any ilk…liberal, fascist, Marxist, whatever. All ‘neos’ tend to be dangerous nutters), paeleoconservatives wear their intentions on their sleeve, see the world in slightly more complex terms and are pretty forthright when it comes to being angry about pretty much everything. In a nutshell, their beliefs can be summed up thusly: If it’s new, it’s probably bad while if it’s old, it’s probably good. That’s somewhat of a simplification, but you get the gist.

So anyway, Hitchens is a paeleoconservative and as a result, he hated everything everybody else stood for and didn’t try to disguise this in anyway, shape or form. Right from the get-go, he laid into all the parties and mourned the fact there wasn’t an “exaggeration contest in the Olympics” because we’d win. Very drole Peter, very drole. Q’s 2 and 3 contained little of note, but he got very irate in Q4, frothing about the fact that neither Monty nor the Duke of Wellington knocked about with the dirty cotton hippies who write for Rolling Stone. Hot on the heels of this was some assorted humbuggery about the war in general, a bizarre little tangent about opium poppies in Oxfordshire and general ‘pull your socks up’ type rantings, all of which was very well received. Finally, he got to bash the “pushy middle class” and big-up grammar schools in Q5 and that was that… everyone got a telling off.

The slightly more tribal part of me always wants to mark Hitchens down, mainly because I rarely agree with a word he says. However, what separates him from the slightly more turgid contributors to The Mail is that he’s not shrill with it. Yes, he’s a grumpy, misanthropic dark cloud who hasn’t got a good thing to say about anything, but there seems to be a fatalistic acceptance in him that this is because people are shit and that you can’t really change them. The important bit in that sentence is the ‘change’ bit, because it means that people like Hitchens tend not to do anything too apocalyptic or completely batshit crazy, unlike their ‘neo’ brethren who are fully signed up to apocalyptic batshit (check out John Gray’s brilliant Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia if this sort of stuff sounds up your street It will twist your mind inside out). He’s also got a pretty good way with words, even if all the words are doom laden harbingers of woe and misery. For that, he gets a decent mark.

A hell in a handcart 7/10

In The I’m The Funny One/Just Like You Corner: Brent Hoberman, joint founder of and WhoTheFuckExactly.AreYou?

So this is Brent… Brent Hoberman to be precise and you know what? I don’t like him. Let’s start with the obvious: He’s called Brent. In my book, ‘Brent’ equates to one of three things: Some place in Essex, crude oil or geese and since I’m not a particular fan of any of these entities, that’s already a black mark against him. Apparently, Brent warrants a QT appearance because not only did he co-found with Martha Lane Fox (MLF, dontchaknow?), he also advises the Tory party on business type things. Now I know that you can end up in Seat #5 on the ropiest of pretexts, but for the above? Srsly? It’s not like he invented the bloody internet or anything. Finally, I don’t like him because he was rubbish. Pretty much every answer he gave during the show can be summed up as ‘Aren’t the Coalition a wonderful bunch?’ and ‘Isn’t the free market just so chuffing great?’. Fine. We get it. You’re one of these shiny New Tory types who knock about in Notting Hill and wax lyrical about how ‘totally amazing’ Glasto was but come on, get some more opinions man (other than “people love working when they’re older!”)! Enough. I’m getting annoyed just writing about him.

A failed start up of a 2/10

The Crowd: Canary Wharf

Yes! The game’s back on! After a fairly mixed bag of episodes where people were agreeing with each other far too much, the Budget has propelled Question Time back to it’s natural habitat: The dark, satanic jungle that’s red and tooth and claw. As always with the Canary Wharf audience, they were an odd, rootless bunch, but they were also pretty vocal and the weight of opinion seemed to just about fall on the ‘this Budget was unfair’ side of the line. That’s not to say it was all one-way traffic and the Coalition did find some friends in their ranks, but by and large, the mood was largely anti. Audience members of note include a guy with a beard who did some lovely chin stroking, the woman who set Brent straight by pointing out that most people really don’t want to work when they’re old and a goggle eyed Sting lookalike who rightly pointed out how weird it is to see St. Vince tacking to the right of Hitchens. Good show Canary Wharf, good show.

A return to form of a 7/10

Ok. I’m done. I hear it will be sunny this weekend. Enjoy it before it’s subjected to 25% cuts.


Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #19

Pay more, get more...

Morning Lemmings and rejoice, for Normal Service has resumed. Refreshed and reinvigorated from THE BEST NIGHT EVUR I return to you with renewed vim, pep and possibly ‘zing’. How long this state of affairs will persist however, is somewhat up for debate as most of this instalment will be brought to you from the back of the Leeds to Exeter Megabus and as most Megabus veterans will know, The Cheapskate’s Chariot is the sworn enemy of vim, pep and ‘zing’. Yes, that’s right, abandon all hope as you fold your 6’2” frame into the sweaty, mobile pressure cooker of low budget purgatory. Vim, pep and ‘zing’ won’t help you here, no siree. Only gumption, grit, and possibly ‘moxie’ will save you now. So with this in mind, let us trundle uncomfortably on to this week’s Question Time, bought to you by the denizens of Witney.

The Menu:

Q1: Following Saville, should further inquiries be started for victims on all sides?

Q2: Are today’s £2bn worth of cuts a tax on jobs and future industries?

Q3: Is David Cameron standing up for the national interest in the BP scandal?

Q4: In light of Ken Clarke saying that we should abolish short sentences, should we now send less people to jail?

In The Yellow Bit Of The Blue/Yellow Corner: Chris Huhne, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, one time LibDem leadership contender and strangely rodent-esque face possessor.

Oh, Chris, just when I was just beginning to like you, you have to go and wreck it all by renouncing the bulk of what you’ve been telling us for years in the space of a few weeks. It wasn’t always like this and back in the day, my feelings towards Huhne were largely in the ‘meh’ category in that I just couldn’t find an angle on him. I tried, time and time again, to form a cogent opinion about the man, but every time it seemed to be thwarted by his overpowering genericness. Sure, those chipmunk cheeks and that slightly jaundiced, John Redwood-esque hue his skin has gave me a few visual handles to cling onto, but apart from that, the only remarkable thing about him was the lack of anything remarkable about him.

However, that began to change over time and with prolonged exposure came the sense that there might be something going on under that very MOR exterior. He’d occasionally have the odd good turn in parliament, he seemed to be pretty consistent and there wasn’t anything that was particularly unlikable about him. Sure, his economics might be a little too liberal for my liking, but he was a million miles away from the nuttier side end of the spectrum and his stance on social policy was generally up my alley. So well done Chris Huhne, finally you made an (albeit delicate) impression on me and our future together looked reasonably sunny, although possibly interspersed with the odd shower here and there.

What I wasn’t banking on was seeing Huhne on the frontbenches and since then, it’s been pretty much wet playtimes all round. Perhaps the best way to illustrate this is to look at how he did last night. Have at you, sir!

OK, so it all started pretty well with Q1 and there wasn’t really much that could go wrong with his response, given that Cameron has genuinely handled the outcome of the Saville Inquiry very well. All that he really needed to do was damn Jeffrey Donaldson’s ‘this ain’t over’ posturings with faint praise, throw in some ‘need to move forward’ stuff and chuck a few props in the direction of his new patron. The result? Steady message, steady applause, Steady Old Chris. However, this eminently moderate state of affairs was not to last and along came Q2, resplendent in it’s potential to start throwing his stance wildly off kilter. Hain was given first crack at this one and immediately made it personal by saying he couldn’t “understand why Chris Huhne is in this government”, given the LibDems pre-election stance on the economy. Huhne played this by the numbers, tried to turn it into a debate about Labour’s legacy and invoked Liam Byrne’s now infamous “there’s no money left note” (which I still think is genuinely funny). Now, I don’t have a problem with this as it’s part of the game: As soon as you get into office, you have 3 month window where you can blame more or less anything on your predecessors folly. England lose the World Cup? Labour’s fault. Some damn fool has commissioned another series of Alan Carr:Chatty Man? Labours fault. The internet finally collapses under the weight of spammy Farmville updates? Labours fault. That’s cool with me. It’s simply the way it is. However, what annoyed the living crap out of me was how he then went on to play the Greece card not once, not twice, but six times. The first time (where he it spiced up with some ‘think of your mortgage’ bogymanery) was fair enough and he even got some moderate claps on it’s second outing, but six times? Come on Chris, that’s just weak, especially when you spent most of your pre-election working days calling bullshit on the Tories for exactly the same thing. Colour me unimpressed.

Next up was Q3 on the BP disaster and his response to this felt just a little incoherent. At the start, he had a prissy little tiff with Platell, then got a sustained needling from Dimbers and ultimately failed to deliver a message that really hung together. It wasn’t a disaster, but then it wasn’t really a triumph either. Q4 was a little better in that it sounded fairly reasonable, but still, hardly a seismic reversal of fortunes and my overriding memory of his performance come be summed up in one word: “Greece”.

Part of me is now saying “Go easy on Huhne. This is a coalition so of course he’s going to have to play ball with things he doesn’t agree with” and there’s a certain amount of truth in that. However, what riles me is how convincing he looks, parroting the new party line. Take a look at this video of Vince Cable being kicked about by Paxman: You can tell that St. Vince is having a huge amount of trouble justifying to himself and the world at large exactly why it is that he’s done a complete U-turn on his former views and seems deeply uneasy about the whole affair. Similarly, Simon Hughes’ last outing on Question Time was characterised by heavy doses of lip biting: He did his best to read from the new script, but he clearly felt awful doing it. I like that as it shows both of these men to be very human and aware that what they’re doing is going to piss a lot of people off (especially those who voted for them). You don’t get that with Huhne and he now comes across like one of those annoying ex-smokers who berate their former brethren and get very sanctimonious about the virtues of a vice-free life. I don’t like those people.

Credit rating downgraded to 3/10

In Red Corner: Peter Hain, MP for Neath and long term Labour survivor.

Another parliament, another four years of Hain. I make that sound like a bad thing, but it doesn’t actually upset me too much as I have a bit of time for him. What I can’t abide however, is his ‘Take that back Sir!’ face he pulls when someone has a go at him. It’s just all a little overplayed, overindignant and underwhelming. Cases in point are littered all over the show in Q2 where he was grappling with an overly zealous Huhne. The content was all fine as he gave him quite the bollocking for post-election change of heart, but the manner in which he said it was just a little too over the top (as well as getting busted by Dimbers over the difference between real, actual jobs and potential, maybe future jobs). That’s a shame, because a cooler approach could have resulted in a great deal of hay being made and I can’t help feeling that even though he emerged the victor, he still managed to throw away some easy points. Apart from that it was a pretty standard outing with some considered and entirely reasonable arguments put forward in Q1 and a bit of crowd pleasing ‘oil addiction’ (and none-too-subtle Ed Miliband namechecking) in Q3. Q4 looked dodgier as he made some point about women with mental health issues before lurching into a quick ‘paedos and rapists’ clamour. That didn’t look so great, but generally speaking, he did OK.

And that’s just as well because I have a feeling that Hain’s going to be in parliament long after I’m dead. I’m not predicting that I’m heading for an early grave, I just get this feeling that Hain is going to somehow cheat the laws of the natural world and outlast us all to be somewhat over-dramatic on the backbenches for ever more. Don’t ask me why, it’s just a feeling I have.

An alright but highly strung 5/10

In The Red, White And Blue Corner: Jeffrey Donaldson, MP for Lagan Valley and Trimble upsetter.

I had a lot riding on this guy’s performance tonight, mainly because I’d had real trouble doing the photoshops prior to the show (I’ve already done the only funny photo of Hain, Platell doesn’t look grumpy enough in any of her online shots and I couldn’t find a chipmunk that looked sufficiently like Huhne). However, I did find a shot of Donaldson looking like a 80’s stand-up comic that did appear to hold promise. I managed to hash that together into rudimentary 5 panel comic, but there was one problem: The punchline would only work if he dropped a real clanger on the show (or had a total tumbleweed moment) and as my little netbook isn’t exactly a high grade supercomputer, I wouldn’t be able to edit it after the event (at least not without klutzing about at one in the morning). However, I must say that the omens looked pretty good, considering he’s a hard bitten Unionist who’s not exactly been entirely enthusiastic about the peace process and that he’s not on his home turf. So did it work out for me or was my last ditch pshop effort a complete waste of time? Time to find out.

It started promisingly enough with Q1 and he wasted no time in pretty much ignoring the Saville verdict, making a few allegations about Martin McGuiness and submachineguns and then demanding inquiries for Unionist victims (providing they were cheap enquiries). There was a little love from the audience on this but some nice little scraps erupted between him and Kennedy later on and it looked as if my clanger moment might actually come to pass. As it was, it didn’t and he managed to rescue the situation by praising the British Army right at the end of the question. That got a lot of applause and with it went my best chance at getting some cheap laughs out of him. Dammit Donaldson! Do you think image based jokes grow on trees?

Things got worse for me in Q2 as he got a very positive response to how they reinvest tax revenue in Northern Ireland while some yank bashing in Q3 also won him some claps. Gah! One question left and still no absolute clanger! Luckily for me, he did come close enough to what could be construed as a tumbleweed moment on the last question, mainly by completely missing the point and making some bitter statement about victims. Silence ensued. Ok, so it wasn’t a major faceplant, but I reckon it was enough for me to get away with. Check out Fig. 1 but please don’t hold me responsible for any lack of laughter that transpires. I can only work with what I got.

This had so better work...

Fig. 1

Aside from my rather self absorbed concern for whether my pshop worked, how did he do? Well, not that great, truth be told. As I said at the beginning, he has a reputation as a dyed-in-the-wool Unionist who really can’t abide working with the enemy and these days, that just looks a little sad. I say this as someone who is old enough to remember the later years of the Troubles, but too young to have a good grasp of the overarching narrative, but still it does seem like the world has moved on while Donaldson remains resolutely the same. And that’s a bit of a shame.

A bygone 4/10

In The Independent/Brainy Corner: Baroness Helena Kennedy, Labour peer and ethics buff.

I didn’t know much about Kennedy prior to this show so I looked her up on wikipedia and bugger me if she hasn’t sat on every worthy sounding committee/group ever created in the history of mankind. Not only that, but she must also have enough letters after her name to make some pretty impressive swear words with and she is positively dripping with honours.

Anyhoo, how does this translate into real life? In a word, ‘hardcore’. She knows her stuff and is not to be messed with. This was pretty evident from Q1 as she made a big deal of the Army being ‘agents of the state’ and thus more accountable than most. This went down well and despite some resistance from Platell and Donaldson, she took home a lot of crowd love for her efforts. Q2 saw her decry the government spending cuts as “absolute folly” and “a madness” (not just any madness, ‘a’ madness) before opening both barrels on Huhne for being “sheep’s clothing” for a Tory government. That went down very well. Q3 was more sedate, although she did manage to needle Huhne some more while blaming everything on ‘oil addiction’ while Q4 saw her signing up to the Ken Clarke Fan Club with much gusto (whilst also ticking off Labour for their prison happy ways). All in all, a pretty assured outing.

So that was Helena Kennedy. I still don’t know a great deal about her, but I know that I’m not going to go out of my way to have a scrap with her as her brain alone would beat me to a bloody pulp.

A mentally forceful 7/10

In The I’m The Funny One/Just Like You Corner: Amanda Platell, Mail Columnist and general decrier of everything.

Gah. Platell. Let’s keep this short and sweet. Platell annoys me. She annoys me because she is constantly wearing a look of disapproval, is actually constantly disapproving of everything and generally pushes all the buttons that Mail Columnists tend to push. By and large, these aren’t good buttons and let’s just leave it at that, alright?

On last nights show, she started in a strangely consensual mood on Q1, before scuzzing that up by overemoting on this that and the other. Q2 boiled down to a visceral hatred of the Stonehenge Visitors Centre while Q3 presented her with an ideal opportunity to have a stab at the yanks (to be fair, her ‘if they hate us so much then send our troops home line’ did go down very well). Finally, she got to give David Cameron and Ken Clarke a knock for being bleeding heart softies when it came to crime, but not before an ill advised attempt to plug her column that she didn’t get away with. And that was that for her and do you know what, I think it might have been one notch above her usual level of dire crapness. Or maybe I’m just a bleeding heart softy like Ken Clarke and David Cameron. Enough of this! We’ve wasted enough time on her already!

A barely worth mentioning 3/10

The Crowd: Witney

I’ll level with you: This was a bit of a crap episode. Mostly this was to do with the questions as Q’s 1 and 3 were both pretty amiable affairs (Donaldson withstanding on Q1) and thus the only real bloodletting that could take place was in Q2 (which Hain didn’t make the most of) and Q4 (which was so late in the show that no one had the time to get stuck in to a proper bout of fisticuffs). As for the audience, the first thing that struck me was that there were three guys wearing exactly the same shirt (a red, white and blue checked number that looks just like my laundry bag). Speaking of shirts, there was also a guy in a screaming pink number with a black tie (not a great look, sir) and some YTS urchin in a suit that was too big for him (who chuntered something about ‘when will I be proud to be British?’ Never, if you’re going to wear clothes like that, Sunny Jim). However, the audience member of the night goes without doubt to the guy who pulled Chris Huhne up whilst wearing what appeared to be some sort of traditional African lion skin jerkin. That, young YTS urchin is what you must wear if you ever want to feel proud to be British. But apart from that, little to report I’m afraid. Damn these broad areas of agreement!

A tepid 4/10

Ok, that’s me done. I’m now stuck in traffic in just outside Manchester while some guy keeps looking like he’s going to doze off on my shoulder. I’m absolutely gagging for a fag, this bus is a hellish sweatbox, I’ve got at least 5 hours left to go and the chances are that I’m going to completely lose my shit at some point and just start screaming “KEYTONES! TURN THEM OFF! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD TURN THEM OFF!”. It sucks to be me right now. Next week, Lemmings, next week.

Loudribs is on holiday!

What? No blackboard?

I say 'holiday'. I mean 'Loudribs is wantonly geeking out for a day'.

Morning Lemmings. As the title picture suggests, I’m afraid you’re going to have to go without your customary post-QT wibbling as I have declared this week a Question Time Holiday. My reasons are as follows:

1. The thought of watching Katie Hopkins, let alone dwell on the spectacle long enough to hash together a tangled mass of copy filled me with such dread that I couldn’t bring myself to go through with it. As a consequence, I took the cowards way out and watched Big Brother instead… Which turned out to be just as nauseating.

2. Question Time has been utterly relentless for the last six months. It’s only in the last week that they’ve set a date for the next recess (prior to that, the website simply dished you a big, fat 403 if you had the temerity to check their timetable page) and my head is now so full of political drivel that I caught myself shouting at the cat for failing to identify £6bn of efficiency savings to the Whiskers bill (I say Whiskers. I mean Morrisons’ own brand). A brief respite is required.

3. Finally, and most importantly, tonight marks the culmination of efforts to realise a long held dream. For the last 6 months, myself and my trusted companion JalfResi have been quietly amassing the necessary hardware and software to facilitate our ascension to Geek Nirvana: Co-operative online play that requires neither of us to leave our respective houses. At last, all the pieces have fallen into place: Two suitably powerful PC’s? Check. A pair of Steam accounts loaded with Team Fortress 2 and Left For Dead? Check. Headsets? Check. Both of our partners out of town for the evening? Check check check (see Fig.1)! We even have our own sprays (see Fig.2)! You people may mock, but we say this unto you: At least it’s not World of Warcraft or competitive Live Action Role Play.

We're not proud of this. Well, actually, we are...


If you understand this picture, you are beyond redemption...


So that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. If you should find yourself rattling with Post Question Time Blathering withdrawal symptoms and need a hit of the good stuff, may I point you in the direction of the excellent Question Time Down The Pub. It’s a similar deal to LCCPQTMR and is fully funny. Alternatively, if you’re in the mood for paranoid, deadly serious, ‘THEY’VE GOT THEIR HANDS IN YOUR WALLET’ rantings, then feel free to check out the bile mill that is Biased BBC (it’s all in the name). I will warn you that I can’t be held responsible for any injuries caused by the inevitable facepalming it induces and you have to supply your own tin foil hat/green ink. On your head be it.

Enjoy, Lemmings and regular service will return next week. Until then, I have a kill/death ratio to improve and a dream to realise. THIS IS GOING TO BE THE BEST NIGHT EVER!

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #18


Mornings Lemmings. Ok, I have to confess that this was a weird episode of Question Time (for reasons that I will come on to later) and I must confess that I’m having a bit of trouble making much out of it. For that reason, this is probably going to be quite a brief affair, although I am aware that I’ve made similar threats in the past, only to waffle on for pages on end. Still, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Let us plough relentlessly on.

The Menu

Q1: Was David Laws right to resign?

Q2: Following the murders in Cumbria, should the gun laws be changed?

Q3: Is piracy on the high seas justifiable when Israel does it?

Q4: Should top civil servants be paid more than the Prime Minister?

Q5: Is Harriet Harman right to suggest that at least half of the Shadow Cabinet should be women?

In The Blue Bit Of The Blue/Yellow Corner: David Willetts, Minister of State For Universities and Science, noted Tory brainiac.

Ahhhhhhhh! The sun! It’s disappeared! End days are upon us! Oh, wait, my mistake. It’s simply been obscured by David Willetts’ enormous cranium that is rumoured to contain ‘Two Brains’. Considering that he’s the minister for both science and universities, I take quite a lot of comfort in this fact and it also marks him out as someone rather special on the Tory frontbench: A proper, no holds barred poindexter. Sure, Letwin and Gove get some wonk cred by virtue of coming up with the meatier aspects of policy, but by-and-large, towering intellect doesn’t appear to be compulsory.

So, it’s well established that Willetts’ is scholarly in the extreme, but what hasn’t been resolved is where he fits in the pantheon of brainy subspecies and to aid us in this endeavour, may I point you towards this informative Venn Diagram of  Geeks, Dorks, Nerds and Dweebs. I’m guessing that quite a few of you are thinking ‘does it really matter which brand of buff he is?’ and I say to you “Yes! In the utmost!”. Having been labelled with all the above at various points in my life, I and my dorky brethren are acutely aware of the distinctions. Bookworms have feelings too and this stuff matters, Ok?

Back to the question in hand:  Considering he’s already written ten books on very clever sounding matters, intelligence is an area that he clearly isn’t lacking in (although trying to get Neil Hamilton off the hook wasn’t exactly a moment of incandescent genius) so we can clearly cross ‘Dork’ off the list of possible charges, leaving us with the matters of Obsession and Social Ineptitude to investigate further. On the subject of Obsession, at least three of his books are about welfare reform and considering that welfare reform isn’t exactly an area that just casually fall into, I think we can safely say that we’ve narrowed down the search to a straight out fight between ‘Nerd’ and ‘Geek’, a tussle that can only be resolved on the battlefield on Social Ineptitude. And what better arena to stress test the Not Gud Wiv Peepol Hypothesis than the fight to the death that is Question Time? To the show, dear friends, to the show.

Right then: Q1. Had this question been asked three or four days ago, I would have envisaged a right ruck kicking off, but in the light of events over the last few days, it’s potency seems to have been somewhat diminished. In many ways, that was quite a luck escape for Willetts and he seemed perfectly content to whip out the old ‘Individual Decision’ ploy whilst invoking a ‘All Above Board/Standards Commission’ play. Not exactly a frontal assault on the Coalition’s critics, but serviceable enough. Q2 was pretty much a no-brainer: Acknowledge the tragedy and then follow up with a soothing ‘Let’s Not do Anything Too Rash Now’ call to inaction. Simples. The Israel question (Q3) was the one that looked like it could start a bit of a barny, but Willetts did pretty well at a well balanced response that implied that Israel had acted like dickheads without going as far as actually condemning it and that earned some moderate applause. More claps were to come when he pulled MacKenzie up by reminding him that Hamas had been democratically elected, but he wasn’t able to sustain it as fudged together a bunch of platitudes in response to Q4. Silence reigned. Finally, he stumbled around a bit on Q5, told us that he’d had an argument with a French woman and then got suspiciously chummy with Diane Abbott, extolling her to “Go for it!”… Which was weird.

So how does the above translate into our Geek or Nerd diagnosis? Well, it’s pretty hard to call. On the one hand, he’s not unlikable, does seem to genuinely think before speaking and is free from any majorly socially dysfunctional traits. However, he’s not exactly Mr Excitement either (you not going to find him swinging from chandeliers, shouting “Kegger! Kegger! Kegger!” and puking into pot plants… Unless it’s a party at Diane Abbott’s house) and although considered, balanced answers probably make for good government, they’re not going to put a song in the hearts of the world at large. As it’s a nice sunny evening, I’m feeling generous and am thusly conferring on him the status of Tenuous Geek. Be warned though David: Nerdiness is mere millimetres away and you may still have your dinner money stolen.

A just about socially acceptable 6/10

In The Red Corner: Diane Abbott, Labour Leadership Contender and Portillo’s on-screen other half.

She’s somewhat of a conundrum, Diane Abbott. On the one hand, she’s a genuine trailblazer, what with being the first black, female MP, she’s never had a problem with going against the party line if she thinks the party line is stupid and she is capable of some genuinely inspired and heartfelt oratory. However, the picture’s not entirely consistent and there are a few things that stick in my craw, such as sending her son to private school whilst simultaneously criticising others for doing the same thing and the ‘Finnish Nurse’ debarcle left a nasty taste in my mouth. Having said that, she does seem to know when she’s crossed the line and is prepared to admit when she’s wrong (quite a rare thing in Westminster) and let’s face it, The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name (although it does sometimes dare to) between her and Portillo on This Week is genuinely endearing (see Fig. 1).

Fig. 1

Speaking of This Week, I have a bone to pick with that show, namely WHAT’S GOING ON WITH THE SODDING VOLUME? I walk a tight rope on Thursday nights, trying to keep the volume loud enough so I can hear what’s going on Question Time, but not so loud that it wakes my better half and I get a telling off (she’s a saintly person, unless unduly woken up, in which case she’s quite the semi-conscious authoritarian). After years of experience, I totally know where the sweet spot on the volume knob is and Question Time always passes without incident. However, the plan, without fail, always falls apart when that pseudo-rave This Week theme kicks in at 120dB and is then followed up by Andrew Neil’s twat-of-a-face, a scramble to find the remote and an inevitable bollocking. So take warning This Week. You’re on thin ice. That is all.

Back to the point: She got off to a good start on Q1 by making the David Laws issue more about spending cuts rather than sexuality or money and that went down pretty well. Q2 was straight by the book and pretty much echoed everything Willetts said while Q3 saw her on more proactive footing, going out of her way to condemn Israel (as well as MacKenzie’s weird-as-you-like ‘Snickers’ gambit) and reaping much applause for her efforts. Q4 once again saw bankers and cuts in the frame (and was again roundly applauded) while Q5 saw her resist a Sisters Doin’ It For Themselves chorus. Not bad.

Looking at the above, you’d be forgiven for thinking we’ve got a genuine contender for the Labour leadership on our hands. However, there is one slight problem: We’re so used to her being matey and very honest on the This Week sofa that I think people would have real trouble getting their heads round her actual being leader, a position that requires high levels of non-mateyness and dishonesty. It’s like when a close colleague who you genuinely like gets a promotion and suddenly ends up in charge of you. You all try and maintain the charade that nothings really changed, but deep down, you both know things will never be the same again. I hope it doesn’t pan out like that because that’s a rubbish reason to lose, but I have a feeling it will. So sorry Diane, you’re great on the couch, but unfortunately you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube.

A generally well rounded 7/10

In The Orange-ish Corner: Leanne Wood, Plaid bod and generally unknown QT quantity.

Ok, this is the panellist I’m having real trouble with as nothing she did or said made any form of impact on me. All her responses were pretty standard Plaid lines, all tacking well to the left of the mainstream parties and which were generally well received, but that was more about the content than the delivery. Even after going through my notes, I can’t really find anything worth repeating so I’m going to wrap this up pretty quickly. Lustre: She lacked it.

An underwhelming 4/10

In The Independent/Brainy One Corner: Matthew Parris, former Tory MP, Times Columnist  and drowning dog rescuer.

I never quite know where I stand with Matthew Parris. I like the fact that he’s a former Conservative MP in the ‘Action Tory’ mould (what with the all the offers to be a spy, marathon running, living everywhere and dog rescuing) and that he’s capable of some pretty impressive bile laden writing, but there’s something that’s just too mercurial about him. Having said that, he did start off by tacking his colours firmly to the mast on Q1 by bashing the anti-gay media “lynch mob” whilst getting involved in many a (highly predictable) to-do with MacKenzie. I think most people didn’t entirely agree with him (the public seem way more concerned with the 40k than the sexuality aspect), but anyone who picks a fight with MacKenzie is on to a winner. Easy money. Q2 saw him largely sidestep the issues at hand, but he did go on a bit of one when he suddenly started ranting about “machets” (as opposed to ‘machete’s’), “petrol soaked rags” and “cyanide” which was both batty and entertaining. Not satisfied with Q2’s sidestep, he then pulled off the most epic dodge I’ve seen yet on Q3: When asked about his view on Israel’s actions, he simply told all and sundry that he had given up giving a shit and couldn’t give two hoots about the Middle East. That shut everyone up. It was downhill after that as Q4 offered little way in the excitement department, apart from the fact that it’s a “scandal” how little we pay the PM while Q5 had some wibbling about how we’re all “holding women back”.

So yes, quite an odd performance and one marked by a willful contrariness that is by turns quite fun and somewhat refreshing. However, there’s still something that’s gnawing at me about him and I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s that the contrariness is just a little too willful (although it’s presented as very casual) or maybe it’s just that he looks inexplicably young for a 60 year old but either way, there’s something stopping me from fully getting on board the train to Parris. Come back again and we’ll see if that changes, Matthew.

A solid but yet-to-convince me 6/10

In the I’m The Funny One/Just Like You Corner: Kelvin MacKenzie, abrasive ex-Sun editor and no friend to Scotland, Sheffield, Neil Kinnock, journalistic integrity, Freddie Starr, etc, etc, etc…

Why God, why? Why torment us on an otherwise pleasant day with this diabolical creature that sweats belligerence? Is the price we have pay for Lembit Opik losing his seat (an event which I found thoroughly humourous), because if it is, it’s not worth it. Yeah, Kelvin’s back and true to form, he’s a prat who’s pathologically contrary and not in a ‘I’m knocking on a bit so I don’t really care’ Matthew Paris kind of way but in a ‘whatever society deems to be acceptable/progressive I deem to be tantamount paedophilia’ kind of way. Straight out of the blocks he started to froth about David Laws and “our money”, used the term “reverse scamboli” and tried to imply that The Sun is bastion of gay friendly good intentions these days (a point that was aptly blown out of the water by Parris reminding him of recent Sun poll that asked whether gays should be MP’s). This was followed by some fuming about gun laws on Q2, a strange little rant about “strange places like Finland” and a rather hamfisted attempt at sensitivity when he branded the Cumbria murders as “a shocker”. Times and places, Kelvin. Times and places.

But wait! He’s barely in his stride and here comes Q3, the ideal vehicle to crash headlong into any notion of reasonableness. It started off pretty standard, with the usual invocations of Plucky Little Israel, dastardly Muslim martyrs and a barely relevant doff of the cap to Churchill, but he saved the best to last: Apparently, there’s an oversupply of Snickers in Gaza. So that’s ok then! No sanitation or reliable power source? Stop whining and get this peanut infested chocolate down your trap! House blown to pieces by IDF ordinance? Pull yourself together and count your confectionery blessings! Health and livelihood in grave peril thanks to collective punishment? STFU and start building a utopia made of Snickers! Seriously, I’m pretty much sure that this is stupidest point I have ever heard on Question Time outside of the Nick Griffin episode.

So yeah, I pretty much stopped listening to him after that and if he did say anything of merit in Q’s 4 and 5, it fell on deaf ears. I do make a point of playing Devil’s Advocate on LCCPQTMR from time to time, but this guy is so far gone that I can’t find it in myself to do such a thing and I hope he gets pelted to death with an excess of Snickers bars.

A new low of a 2/10

The Crowd: Brecon

I said at the start that this was a really weird episode and it’s pretty easy to see why: For the last three months, Question Time panellists and audiences have been slugging it out in the sweltering, oppressive heat of the Election Jungle. Every point, no matter how small or inconsequential has been bitterly fought over and every square inch of ground has mattered. Then suddenly, two things have happened: Israel has reminded us that there is an outside world that’s got an alarming tendency to go wrong and the Cumbria murders have genuinely shocked us back into remembering that stuff, sometimes very bad stuff can happen outside Westminster. Suddenly, the jungle warfare becomes entirely irrelevant and we’re all left looking rather dazed and only able to utter one appropriate answer: ‘Oh dear’. Don’t get me wrong, that response is entirely right and proper, but it makes for a very odd debate and leaves everyone feeling somewhat lost and stranded. That’s not to say that the audience didn’t find things to get heated about (although that might have something to do with MacKenzie) but I came away with the feeling at times, they we’re simply going through the motions and that gave the show a very odd quality. It’s not the crowds fault that it ended up like this, it’s just a consequence of being human and in that respect, it was nice to see a general consensus around the big events. However, gripping, it was not.

An understandably shaky 5/10

Right, that’s done. Oh look, nearly 3000 words. Told you I never come through with that ‘keeping it short threat’. See you next week.

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June 2010

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