Archive for October, 2010

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #29


Morning Lemmings and welcome back to the land malfunctioning SCART leads and green hued televisions. That’s right, my technical problems persist but being the selfless hero that I am, I carry on regardless, taking it on the chin just so that you can kill ten minutes at work, reading whatever nonsense I’ve provided you with this week. And nonsense it will be this week as I must confess to have had a very odd day. Now, considering my day job is as a mental health worker, that shouldn’t come as much of surprise and after eight years of being in this trade, I have to say that the bar for what I consider to be ‘strange’ is set very high (you have to do something really weird for me to take notice these days. Arguing with trees? Phhhhht… doesn’t even touch the sides. Accusing traffic cones of plotting conspiracies? Not even close. Insisting that John Snow lives in your chest of drawers? Boring! You get the picture). However, today was one of those where even I had to stop and question my sanity and if this report sounds a little more spaced out than usual, I apologise… It’s merely a consequence of having spent seven hours with the inexplicable.

 

Right, excuses made, fair warning given, let’s go.

 

The Menu

Q1: Was Boris acting irresponsibly by saying the Housing Benefit reforms would lead to “Kosovo style cleansing”?

Q2: Should David Cameron wield a rhetorical handbag on the EU budget?

Q3: Does the news that the economy has grown 0.8% mean the Conservative led coalition are right on the economy?

Q4: Was the head of M16 right to say that we should avoid torture, even if it helps terrorists carry out attacks?

 

In The Yellow Bit of The Blue/Yellow Corner: Ed Davey, LibDem Chief of Staff and rescuer of damsels in distress.

Hmmmm… not quite sure what to make of this guy in that he’s got one of those faces that doesn’t really match his personality. Every time I look at him, I just hear the words “RUGGER BUGGER” repeating over and over again in my head and he also has this semi-vacant, middle distance stare that looks a little, well, thick. But none of this tallies with the way he presents which is actually pretty on the ball. I say ‘pretty on the ball’ because while he’s appears to be quite an accomplished offensive player, driving whatever point he’s making home in quite a forceful manner without crossing the line into belligerence, he’s not great at cornering and when plans start unravelling, that ‘Wayne Rooney with a multiplication problem to solve’ look involuntary spreads right across his face and he looks a little helpless. Still, it’s early days for Ed and the fundamentals seem to be there so let’s see how he did.

It was a fairly promising start as he looked convincingly cross whilst damning Johnson’s “appalling” behaviour, but then came unstuck as Sturgeon slapped him with a bunch of figures and Chris Bryant piled in with some pointed stuff about ‘progressiveness’ that sounded like an invitation to a duel. Q2 saw much waffling about not much at all followed by an admission that neither he nor Bryant had a clue about the real figures (which Bryant took in his stride whilst Davey looked a little out of sorts) and Q3 was basically a fighting retreat with a sudden out burst of wide-eyed Deficit Panic and a weaponised comparison of Scotland to Iceland. Last but not least was Q4’s no-brainer which he handled in the prescribed manner of ‘Torture = Bad’ and that was that. Home time.

Reading that back, it sounds quite unimpressive, but bear in mind that he was in Glasgow and on a week the coalition haven’t exactly been rolling in good news. Yes, it was a little dry and no, he’s not very quick on his feet, but given the circumstances, he did well to come away without any jeering and he even got a few good claps along the way. And that, in my opinion, is not bad going for someone who’s largely been a backroom boy with very little QT experience. Grant Shapps, take note.

A perfectly acceptable 5/10

In The Red Corner: Chris Bryant, Shadow Minister for Political and Constitution Reform and be-panted self photographer.

Now this guy is interesting. Really interesting. Not only does he have a suitably unorthodox background (former Anglican vicar and conservative student who came out as being gay and then went on to become a Labour MP), but his QT technique is also rather unique and out of the ordinary. For one thing, he’s incredibly nimble, spotting weak points in opponent’s arguments within the blink of an eye and then adjusting his tack very quickly to exploit these weaknesses to their full extent. He’s also one for close combat, not necessarily making things personal, but always ensuring that he’s all over whoever he’s up against and giving them very little space to manoeuvre. Now, this already sounds like a glowing report, but hold on: There are flies in the ointment, not the least being that he’s pretty much a flat-out gambler, taking some pretty hefty rhetorical risks that don’t always go his way (as this weeks “social cleansing” parliamentary jibber-jabber aptly illustrated). Still, credit where credit’s due, he doesn’t seem phased when these ventures go sour and you get the sense that he’s a hard man to rattle.

It all started inauspiciously enough as he spent the first part of Q1 defending his “cleansing” remarks, but he did get to lash out quite effectively at Davey later on and was given some crowd love for his efforts. Q2 turned into a right old scrap between him and Ed as he invoked the banker argument and they both accused each other of turning the debate into a “pantomime”, but he later found an exposed flank regarding Cameron’s lack of friends in Europe and he worked that in a quiet, effective manner. However, this more understated approach was fleeting as he decided to take on both Davey and Hendry simultaneously in Q3 (much shaking of the Bonus Stick ensued) and largely got away with it whilst Q4 saw some weird metaphor involving Anne Frank and some self referential ‘I used to live in Argentina’ stuff.

Now none of this sounds especially exciting and to be honest, he should have done better considering the territory and the political backdrop. However, it’s not really what Bryant says that fascinates me, it’s the way he moves. I’ve got a feeling that we’re going to be seeing much more of this guy as there’s something about his history and presentation that tells me he’s just different from a great many politicians. Is he destined for great things? I doubt it as although he’s a great tactical player, I’m not sure if the strategic reasoning’s all there and his penchant for risky moves could well derail him in the future. However, he does seem to have a remarkable ability to reinvent himself, his instincts seem pretty sharp and he’s tougher than he looks. With this in mind, I’m at a bit of a loss as to how to mark him. Part of me wants to give him big numbers for just generally intriguing me, but then it would be somewhat unfair to class his performance as any sort of victory. So with fairness in mind, I’m going to split the difference but keep an eye on this guy. I’ve a feeling he could be quite fun in the near future.

A potential laden 6/10

In The Other Yellow Corner: Nicola Sturgeon, Deputy First Minister of Scotland and Salmond sidekick.

So we’re in Glasgow tonight and that means that we’re going to see the SNP which in turn means that it’s either going to be Salmond or Sturgeon. Now, I must confess that I don’t really keep abreast of Scottish politics, mainly because it has absolutely no bearing on my day-to-day life in any way, shape or form, but c’mon! There’s got to more than two people in the whole bloody party! Anyhoo, minor chunter aside, it was Sturgeon’s turn tonight and I must say she did better than last time when she ended up embroiled in all sorts of Megrahi related bother. I’m not going to get to carried away in writing this up as it was a pretty much textbook regional party play: Have a go at whoever’s in power, stay well to the left of the mainstream and make damn sure you get some nationalist call-to-arms type stuff in the (something that she got told off by Dimber’s for in Q4 but went ahead with anyway). However, she did play these tactics quite well and she came close to knocking Davey right off-balance with a pretty well-reasoned argument about the Housing Benefit reforms in Q1. So yes, pretty solid Nicola. However, you do still look like a tomboy and I have a nasty feeling that you may be the person who keeps buying Sharleen Spiteri Albums. Please stop with that. It only encourages her.

A fairly standard but fairly good 7/10

In The Independent/Brainy One Corner: Simon Schama, history buff and flowerpot man incarnate.

Oh Jesus, I feel sick and not just because of the green shroud that has enveloped my telly. No, what’s got me all a chunder is trying to keep my eyes on Simon Schama as he gesticulates so wildly that he threatens to shake the earth loose from it’s orbit and cast us adrift into the depths of space. And it’s not just the possibility that his head might actually rotate a full 360 degrees that’s bringing me to the edge of motion sickness (see Fig. 1), it’s also the way he sends you on a verbal rollercoaster every time he answers a bloody question.

Fig. 1

Seriously, I pretty much gave up taking notes about Schama as it was like putting your head into a semantic tumble dryer and in the end I invented a new shorthand symbol for whenever he was waffling long tracts of wordy sounding bollocks (see Fig.2)

Fig. 2

However, I did manage to snatch a few choice nuggets, some of which include:

“Spitting fire in Johnson’s eye!”

“He needs a handbag full of knuckledusters!”

“The Duke of Wellington would be spinning in his grave!”

Something about vultures and Tolstoy

“Suicide bombers aren’t cowards!”

“WAKE UP PEOPLE!” [whilst violently slapping the table].

Alright, so I’m taking the piss now, but in the main he’s fun to watch (the crowd seem to think so as well), even if I haven’t the got faintest idea what he’s talking about. This in turn leads me to conclude that Simon Schama isn’t a genius. No, I think he’s just a very good blagger who hasn’t got any O-Levels and reads a dictionary on the toilet in order to chance his way through life by connecting long words together in random configuration and if that is the case, good luck to him. Come what may Simon, stay animated, stay wobbly and we’ll swallow any old tosh you throw in our direction.

An enjoyably inexplicable 7/10

In the I’m The Funny One/Just Like You Corner: Hugh Hendry, hedge fund manager and seemingly unrepentant bastard.

Oh wow. Never in the history of LCCPMQTR has there been someone so ill suited the title of ‘I’m The Funny One/Just Like You’ as much as Hugh Hendry and that’s even following in the footsteps of such luminaries as Vorderman, McKenzie and Phillips. Quite clearly, Hendry isn’t one for ‘funny’ unless it happens to be at the expense of one of the many people he seems to regard as a useless mouth (which I think covers around 99% of the population) and the ‘Just Like You’ bit could only ever apply if you happened to be a misanthropic supervillain who was in the business of creating complex derivatives out of human pain and suffering. In some ways I kind of knew what I was in for as I’d seem on Newsnight a few months back and was pretty shocked by his apparent lack of compassion for his fellow man then, but that didn’t even come close to preparing for what we witnessed last night.

 

In short, Hendry has three default positions which are as follows:

 

1. Whatever you’re talking about is bleeding heart nonsense that will drive humanity to extinction as it clearly doesn’t turn a profit. As a result, you are stupid and I mock you from my palace made of solid gold.

 

2. I couldn’t give a shit about what you’re talking about as it has no bearing on the making or not making of profits.

 

3. Whatever you’re talking about is more important than the air we breath as it has the potential to make me vast sums of money and as a result I will continue to tolerate your existence, at least until you stop 100% agreeing with me.

 

 

It really is as simple as that. Take Q1 for instance: The very notion of thinking about people on Housing Benefit seemed to be fathoms below his pay grade, as if it were a chore, but then he remembered that he might have to pay taxes for that sort of thing and branded the whole thing “insane!” (as well as “crazy!”, “out of control!” and once again “insane!”). I’ve put exclamation marks behind those quotes as I think they were intended to be exclaimed, but in practice, they were delivered in a tone that said “You bloody idiots. I can barely muster the energy to explain these things to you peasants because you’re all stupid bloody proles who aren’t making me money at this given moment in time”. Similarly with Q2, he had plenty of scorn to pour on the EU (include some weird little aside about bureaucrats not being “people”), all delivered in a manner of such resignation that you were left with no doubt that he does in fact dwell in a completely different reality from the rest of us. Q3 stirred some slightly more convincing interest as it appeared to be a subject that might have something to with whatever parallel universe he inhabits, but it pretty much ended up with him telling off the entire nation for not being very nice to bankers (although he did land a well-aimed slap on Bryant about Labour’s relationship with the City) and a strange little outburst where he said that “Nicola Sturgeon won’t employ your kids!” (of course she won’t. She’s in a party that only has two members). However, the real fireworks were in Q4 where he just came straight out and said that he liked the idea of torture being used to scare terrorists (all said whilst looking bored). Rightly concerned, an audience member picked him up on this a little later and asked whether he really was in favour of torture. Without batting an eyelid, he confirmed this, said he didn’t want the intelligence services hindered by such trifling things as morality and even managed to squeeze in a weird reference to himself in the 3rd person (“Hugh Hendry lives in London with three young children”).

 

WTF?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?11111111111

 

Truly, I was blown away by this guy. I knew he had a reputation as a bit of fundamentalist but I didn’t realise just how black and white his view of the world are and when it comes to marking, I’m at a total loss. In the past, I’ve always marked those who I disagree with but add something to show quite well (your Douglas Murray’s and Nigel Farage’s, for instance), but there was something just so otherworldly and actually quite frightening about this guy that it left me wondering whether Ayn Rand had risen from the dead, got a sex change and moved to Scotland. Ok, I’ve decided: Low marks, if only for making Ruth Lea look like a member of the Woodcraft Folk.

 

A fear inducing 3/10

 

The Crowd: Glasgow

Yet again, not as I expected. Given that Glasgow is usually pretty anti-Tory I was expecting pretty much one way traffic when it came to bashing the coalition but it wasn’t like that. Yes, generally opinion seemed mostly against the cuts, Sturgeon got the majority of claps and most people sounded very dubious about the plan for growth, but it was not a done deal and there was plenty of support in the opposite direction, especially when it came to Housing Benefit in London. Ok, so one guy managed to blame Thatcher, but this is Glasgow where Thatcher Blame is only marginally cheaper than heroin so yeah, colour me surprised with the general tone of the evening. Politically, I didn’t take much from this episode as it seemed to be a rather indecisive ding-dong but in terms of the characters involved, I thought it was interesting, especially watching Bryant and trying to figure out what he was up to. The crowd themselves were a pretty stock affair, but I can happily report that Question Time audience members have taken last week’s advise to heart and that there was a man there sporting a bow tie. For that, Glasgow, you get one mark above average.

 

Average score + 1 Bow Tie Modifier = 6/10

 

Right, we’re done. Actually, that ended up not being completely weird, a feat that is made all the more remarkable on account of the fact that I’ve been listening to the entire Man Or Astroman? discography on random whilst writing this. I remain sane. This is good news.

 

Next week Lemmings, next week.

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #28


Morning Lemmings and praise be: I finally feel better. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for my telly which has been afflicted by a nasty SCART (the most hateful connector ever devised by evil scientists) related disorder and consequently, everything I watch is now washed in an eery green hue, as if I’m peering through the sides of a dirty fishtank (I’ve rejigged this week’s title picture to try to convey just how unsettling this effect is). SCART related prattle aside, this week’s Question Time is somewhat of a biggy, what with all the Comprehensive Spending Review business going on and considering it was taking place in Middlesbrough (which I will from here on in refer to as MBro as I don’t like typing ‘Middlesbrough’… It makes me say ‘Middlesbruff’ in my head and that just sounds silly), I was expecting fireworks. Was this the case? Well, let’s just see.

The Menu

Q1: How can the government talk of fairness with cuts that’ll devastate the poor, the unemployed and the disabled?

Q2: Will the cuts push Mbro over the edge?

Q3: Britain used to rule the waves. Why are we now dependent on our NATO allies?

Q4: How come the banks are getting away with it when everyone else suffers?
In The Blue Bit Of The Blue/Yellow Corner: Phillip Hammond, Secretary of State for Transport and multimillionaire.
Man, does Phillip Hammond look washed out. Seriously, I feel about 60 years old every time I look at him, what with that grey suit, that dishwater tint that hangs on him and those sad-looking, downward slanting eyelids. Not only that, but the way he presents himself is equally as soul sapping as he appears to be running a pretty hefty charisma deficit and seems to approach politics in a rather mundane, by-the-numbers sort of way. Obviously, there must be something going for Hammond as he’s managed to climb pretty high up the ranks of the Conservative party and has amassed quite the private fortune along the way. But whatever ‘that’ is, it’s a mystery to me and I was quite surprised to see him on tonight, given that there was a fair chance it could turn into a bloodbath. Then I thought about the alternatives: Lansley? His department’s had some good news which would give him a veneer of protection, but that timeshare spiv look that he’s got is too much of a liability given the circumstances. Gove? Again, good news for his department, but he’s a true believer and true believers can sound quite mad, which isn’t exactly great at a time like this. IDS? He’s a pretty good performer these days, but circumstances rule him out, what with benefits taking such a big hit. May? Nah, she’s a QT liability and 20% cuts to the police force are hardly going to endear her to the public. And Clarke? Ha! Not a chance! He’s way too capable of independent thought. So with all that in mind, maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea to send Hammond on. After all, at least his department had some good news and while he’s hardly going to inspire the general public and put a song in their hearts, at least he’s dull enough to not cock anything up too majorly. So yes, I’m chalking him up as a counter intuitive canny pick.

Performance wise though, it was a really odd bag and one that can be largely summed as ‘Blame Labour’. Now, no one in their right mind would contest the fact that Labour did some pretty piss poor things in their time and it’s part of the game that any new government blames those that went before them. However, when it becomes the cornerstone of your narrative it starts to lose potency and very rapidly at that. This was clearly the case last night as every question Hammond answered on the night was loaded with huge quantities of ‘Blame Labour’ and at first, it worked, garnering some reasonable applause in the early stages. However, by Q2 it had started to sound like a mantra and there was even an outburst of booing when he wheeled it out again in Q3, making him look like a bit of a prat along the way. That said, he did have a few other tricks up his sleeve, notably his hammering of the ‘Fairness’ line in Q1 (describing the cuts as “the opposite of wicked”), but again, this didn’t hit the mark and felt much more like a regurgitation of spoon fed platitudes than any sort of heartfelt plea for understanding. Later attempts to highlight the positives of the North East’s economy in Q2 ended with mixed results as he got some crowdlove for mentioning Nissan, but this gain was later reversed when he said that Sunderland was growing strongly and everyone laughed at him (something which also happened in Q4 when he said in his ‘cross’ voice that the government were going to force the banks to sign the code of conduct). However, the real kicker for the night was when an enterprising member of the audience bought up the small subject of the Dispatches report that said he’d been a bit cheeky with his tax arrangements. Dismissing this as “unfounded inuendo”, he was then forced by Dimbers to admit that he had transferred shares to his wife. Jeering ensued and his dignity was the first casualty of the night.

Now, on paper, that looks terrible, but I have to admit that it could have been much, much worse. Yes, there was nothing to really commend his performance, but he did stick in there and there was some support for the Tory viewpoint, despite the fact that they’ve just announced cuts that sound even worse than the ones that originally gutted the North East in the first place. So, although I’m giving him a fairly crap mark for being generally nondescript and lacklustre, I’m also going to chuck one more on purely for the fact that anyone clapped him at all. Given the circumstance, that has to be worth something.

A dingy 4/10

In The Red Corner: John Denham, Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Iraq War resigner of note.
Whilst I was doing my prefunctory google of tonight’s panelists, it occurred to me that John Denham is something of a conundrum. On the one hand, he’s been about for ages, sitting in government (and heading up some pretty hefty departments) since 1997 and he’s also been a regular face on our TV’s. Yet for the life of me, I can’t remember a single thing that he has said or done and I even needed reminding about his resignation over the war (which is the sort of thing I would remember). So what’s going on here? Is he a forgettable person? Well no, not really. He speaks well, looks comfortable in his own skin and smiles rather a lot, although not in a disingenuous sort of way. Does he have a history of buggering things up? Not really. Sure, he was a member of a government that ended up being wildly unpopular, but his credentials are pretty clean, doubly so as he at least he had the gumption to resign over the Iraq. So what is it? Well, it might just be that he’s a congenital klutz. It’s not his fault, it’s just that whatever he does and no matter how hard he tries, it just ends up not working quite as expected.

This tendency was apparent right from the start last as he attempted quiet a deft little maneuver in Q1. Faced with Hammond’s ‘Blame Labour’ line of attack, he didn’t go straight for denial and tried to reframe the argument around the fact that things would be an awful lot worse if Labour hadn’t borrowed money. The execution seemed fine, but somehow a sneaky little line from Hammond about Labour borrowing before the crisis derailed it and he was suddenly on the defensive again, flailing about quite badly until he managed to cobble together a half-hearted stab about growth being downgraded. That seemed to knock his confidence and he then took a backseat for most of the show, although he did land a good Forgemasters related punch in Q2 and also came across as quite genuine in Q4 when he admitted Labour hadn’t exactly been angels.

In many ways, Denham represents the flip side to Hammond’s performance in that he should have done really quite well tonight, but only just about managed to hold it together. Like last week’s Red Team outing, some of this is down to Labour not really knowing where they are right now, but I also can’t help thinking that Denham is in some way cursed. In theory, he’s got all the attributes that were required to make last night an easy win, but yet he didn’t and I can’t for the life of me figure out why. Highly puzzling.

A strangely lacking 5/10
In The Green Corner: Caroline Lucas MP, leader of the Green party and Link (of Zelda fame) lookalike (see Fig. 1).

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

Poor old Caroline. The Greens have spent an eternity trying to get someone into parliament and were no doubt hoping to play on their novelty value to advance their agenda as best they could. Unfortunately for them though, they didn’t reckon on a coalition government sending the novelty ratings into outer space and as a consequence, the Greens are now even more of a sideshow than they were in the first place. Bad luck there Caroline, bad luck. However, she did get to cash in some of her hard-earned democratically elected chips tonight as the LibDems are nowhere to be seen. Whether this was by their design, I do not know, but they must be breathing a collective sigh of relief as I can hardly envisage an eager queue of yellow tied volunteers, champing at the bit to be bollocked by the general public.

Anyhoo, back to Lucas. As always, it was a very straight forward but largely good performance that I’m not going to dwell on too much as she’s already had plenty said of her in previous Match Reports. By and large, it was pretty textbook ‘to the left of [insert party here]’ stuff that was well received and harvested much applause. The one thing I did notice that was slightly different from usual was that she was really going at a rate of knots last night, reeling off huge lists of the potential harm in the cuts and even going so fast that her voice got squeaky at one point. Still, it was fairly assured sounding stuff and out of all the party political opponents, she clearly won. So good marks for you Caroline and I’ll see you the next time the LibDems can’t be bothered/aren’t allowed to show up.

The standard 6/10
In The Khaki Corner: General Sir Richard Dannatt, former Chief of the General Staff and meddlesome soldier.
I think it’s fair to say that as a breed, generals are pretty odd. Some of this I put down the fact that they spend most of their time devising ways to kill people, whilst the rest is probably due to having to spend your life in fancy dress, hardly something that promotes sanity. But yes, in the main they are an odd bunch. However, there is an even odder breed and those are political generals. Some countries absolutely beam off them, like America for example. They’ve had their Washingtons, their Grants, Eisenhowers and may someday have a Petraeus, but on the whole, we’ve spurned them as being simply too odd and even a little bit dangerous. Dannatt however, appears not to have received the memo stating these facts and last year, he made all sorts of noises about becoming a Tory advisor (with an eye towards a peerage and a seat in the cabinet) only to discover that Brown was going to everything in his power to stop this. And stop it he did, but Dannatt, although somewhat out on a limb, is still about and is pretty much the go-to guy for the media should they ever wish to indulge in some defence related mudraking… or Question Time appearances just after the Strategic Defence Review.

In actual fact, Dannatt turned out to be a bit of a damp squib, fudging his response to Q3 into an exercise in fence-sitting, whilst his response to all the other questions seemed well-meaning, but with a hint of unspoken paternalism that stopped people from getting behind him. And that’s the problem with political generals: They only really get anywhere if they win something big. As it stands, we’re as about as far away from a ‘win’ in Afghanistan as we ever were and trying to paint Iraq as any sort of victory is just self evidently wrong, so I’m afraid your out of luck on that front, General Sir Richard Dannett. I’d stick to the fancy dress and killing people if I was you.

A very middling 5/10

In The Brainy/Independent Corner: Polly Toynbee, Head Girl of the left leaning commentariat and bete noir of the right leaning commentariat.
Oh Polly, Polly, Polly… Back in 2007, everything was looking so good for you. Blair (who you warned us was up to no good) finally got the boot, your man Brown (who you told us was up to some very good things) got in and we could all look towards a gilded future of flying cars and Post Neo Classical Endogenous Growth Theory. Unfortunately, things started going very sideways, very quickly after that as it turned out that Brown wasn’t quite the political whizz you made him out to be and before long, you too were calling for his head on a plate. The unfortunate effect of this was that all that credibility you built up over the years started to ebb and it wasn’t long before you yourself were considered to be politically damaged goods. Sure, you never really had any fans on the right but after ‘Brown FTW!/Brown Sucks!’ saga, the left also began to turn on you and things started looking a little dicey.

Actually, I think that this turn of events is a bit of a shame as I do have time for Toynbee. She does genuinely care about fairness and while she’s been sort of bracketed as the left’s version of Melanie Phillips (albeit with a little more going on upstairs), I don’t think that’s entirely justified, as was in evidence last night. Take Q1: Here, she tried to get the point across that these cuts will be very damaging for Mbro but got ambushed by Dimbers asking whether it was Labours fault. When she said that this “wasn’t entirely true” the crowd turned on her and she started looking rattled, aware that she is seen as a cheerleader for the party and that this is not a good thing. This is where she’s different from the big name right-wing commentators because they would have ploughed on regardless, oblivious to the notion that they could be wrong. Toynbee sort of attempted that, but you could see doubt and hesitation in her, as if she knew and was bothered by the fact that people didn’t believe her. Would this happen to Phillips? Fuck no! Phillips would have barely broken a sweat and would be right back at the audience, shouting at them until they were too shell-shocked to offer any resistance and would then move on to call for someone (probably in the public sector) to be tarred and feathered. Toynbee though, is more vulnerable than that.

That’s not to say that she didn’t have good moments and points were made that the crowd liked, but when they were they took a long time to get going and any moves in the right direction always appeared slightly fraught and wobbly. As I said before, I think this is shame because there’s a lot to like in Toynbee’s views and I think she does what she does for the right reasons. But something is just not quite right with her at the moment. I don’t know if it’s that she feels genuinely haunted by her relationship with New Labour or that she’s just sick of always getting it in the neck, but yes, it’s an odd thing to witness. Then again, she has probably been exposed to quite toxic levels of Peter Mandelson back in the day and that really can’t be good for you.

A troubled 5/10
In The I’m The Funny One/Just Like You Corner: George Pascoe Watson: Former Murdoch man and ex of Kate Burley.
I don’t know much about Pascoe-Watson except for the fact that it’s nearly impossible to say his name without sounding really posh. Try it: “Hellooooooooo…. my name is George Pascooooooooooe-Watson”. See? Posh. You can, if you try quite hard and throw in a few words here and there, jiggle it over to an almost Westcountry type lilt (“A’right moi luver, George Pasco-Whaaaatson ‘ere!”) but it’s a bit of a stretch and there’s far more mileage to be had in ridiculing the rich. Anyhoo, George Pascoe-Watson. I don’t really know much about the guy except that he used to be political editor of The Sun and seems to hold News International approved views on most things in life. Consequently, most answers were along the lines of ‘private good/public bad ‘ and ‘stuff that could potentially hurt sun readers is bad’, but he did manage to sneak a little fib into Q1 by saying that our national debt was just basically paying foreigners (when actually 80% of it is held by British people and institutions). In terms of audience response, he did OK, getting a fair old portion of the crowd behind him, but you know what? I just got the feeling that I didn’t like him that much. In my mind’s eye, I can see us sitting next to each other on a plane, heavily engaged in an undeclared but very real battle for the armrest. Neither of us would back down, nor we utter a single word. Instead, we’d just sit there, quietly fuming under a tidal wave of rage that was building in us both. For 23 hours. We’re flying to Australia for some reason. I’ll shut up now.

A forgettable 5/10

The Crowd: MBro

As expected, this was a lively episode, but not for the reasons I had anticipated. I was pretty sure that given it’s location and scale of the cuts, there would have been a very heavy anti coalition feeling in the air. However, it wasn’t that clear-cut and if I had to sum up this episode in a word, it would be ‘messy’. Yes, arguments from the left did seem to go down a better than the ones from the right, but not by the margin I had predicted and no one got a free ride on the night. There was also a sense that Labour have an uphill battle in getting people to forgive the mistakes of the last 13 years and that the Tories are succeeding in framing the debate around Labour’s ‘deficit denial’ (a clever bit of politics and one that Ed Miliband really needs an effective counter to). However, the coalition also have a big problem with the plan for growth and if this episode was anything to go by, people are less than convinced that private sector is going to ride to the rescue and rather frightened by the seeming absence of a Plan B.

As for the crowd themselves, they were very vocal and there was some genuine anger in the room, especially from some guy with a side parting who looked like he’d spent the last 24 hours winding himself up so that he could be super angry on the show. Audience Member of the Week however, goes to the gentleman with the bow tie. I haven’t got a clue what he said as I was too busy writing down ‘OMG! GUY WITH BOW TIE!!!!!!!’ but he was a welcome addition to the show and I hope very much that others will emulate this look on future episodes. I like seeing guys with bow ties. I always think they’re either going to perform a magic trick, cure cancer or bring me something really nice to eat, all of which I approve of. More of this, plz.

A fractious 7/10

Ok, that’s you’re lot. Please feel free to get back to fearing for your jobs. Good times!

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #27


Morning Lemmings. Ok, so I’m sort of better, but ‘sort of’ in a way that means that it’s probably going to be quite a brief report tonight, which is just as well as it was quite a sedate and middling Question Time last night. However, I’m glad that in writing this I have some sort of distraction from the telly because if I hear another goddamn thing about the Chilean miners, I might just go over the edge. I was off work on Wednesday and Thursday this week and it was like they were being rescued from my basement. Seriously, I know it’s joyous news and all, but enough already. So anyway, buckle up and hunker down as we tear through this week’s episode, bought to you by the good people of Cheltenham.

The Menu

Q1: Have the LibDems sold out younger voters on tuition fees?

Q2: Does it smack of incompetence that we don’t know how much will be saved by cutting the Quango’s?

Q3: What is the point of the BBC getting rid of a deputy if they send 26 people to Chile?

Q4: Ed Miliband said he chose Alan Johnson because he’s the right man for the job. Will he live to regret this?

Q4: In light of Liverpool’s current problems, is foreign ownership bad for the game?

In The Blue Bit Of The Blue/Yellow Corner: David Willets MP, Minister of State for Science and Universities, Tory Brainiac of note.
I have to say that it was quite brave of old Two Brains to do come on QT last night, given that he and his partners in crime have pissed off pretty much everyone on university funding this week. Even more surprising is how relatively unscathed he emerged and a great deal of that is down to the fact that he’s quite good at not coming across as a politician. He does this by talking at around 75% of the speed of a regular politician and he also avoids getting too carried away with the histrionics if he does find himself in a tight spot. Warsiesque spitting of feathers? Oh no, not on Two Brains’ watch. Instead, he manages to get points across in a considered yet quietly persistent sort of way and the overall effect is to quietly lull the audience into a mood of passive acceptance. Granted, this approach isn’t great when you’re on the offensive. But in a week when he was on the hook for a pretty unpopular policy, it did the job.

Take Q1, for example. Now this could have gone very sideways, very quickly, but he did a good job of smothering it in studious mumblings of “complex stuff” and later even went on the offensive about the graduate tax, a move that knocked Jowell totally off-balance. Similar plays occurred on Q2 too much the same effect while Q3 saw a sudden outburst of geek love for Brain Cox’s The Solar System and A History of the World in 100 Objects, before then having a quiet go at the Beeb. Fired up by this, he then went on the offensive in Q4 (whilst making sure everyone knew that he “really likes” Alan Johnson), picked up a few claps and then quickly lost them in a past-it’s-sell-by Greece/Spain/Ireland rant.

So yes, Willets did good, all things considered and will be a handy man to have about, should his party have to break any really bad news in the not too distant future. But that’s not going to happen, right?

A scholarly 6/10

In The Red Corner: Tessa Jowell MP, Shadow Minister for the Olympics and Brass Eye hater.
I’m not a big fan of Tessa Jowell, but I take comfort in the fact that as she grows older, she looks increasingly jowelly and that this trend is likely to accelerate in time. There’s some sort of cosmic justice to be had in this. Anyhoo, it was a mighty odd performance from Jowell tonight and one in which there seemed to be a danger of her outflanking herself (let alone her party) on the right. I guess some of this is down to circumstance: The new shadow cabinet is barely a week old, no one’s quite pegged down the policies yet and the bets are off until Wednesday’s Impending Doom clobbers us all, but she could have at least tried to look like she was a Labour MP, rather than a gritted teeth uber-Blairite who’s not received the news that the game is up.

She appeared to get off to a good start with Q1, giving the tuition fees plan a resounding thumbs down to inevitable applause, but soon lost her way when pulled up on the matter of the graduate tax. Unwilling to state any firm opinion, she flapped about and evaded, making herself look like a bit of a tool in the process. Q2 saw her accusing Max Hastings of a “slur!” before garnering some tidy little claps on Q3 by sticking up for Auntie and then picking up a few more with some fairly standard ‘you knew about the numbers before you got in’ tomfoolery in Q4. On paper, that all sounds like a pretty reasonable performance but when I was watching it, I couldn’t help thinking that she didn’t believe a word that came out of her own mouth and was just grudgingly going through the motions, as if it was a chore. Never did I get the feeling that she was truly signed up to coherent agenda.

I guess the weirdest thing about Jowell is that despite a career that is memorable more for her ex-husband’s shenanigans with Berlusconni than any deed of her own, she somehow survives, even if only in very borderline jobs such as Minister for the Olympics. Whatever it is that keeps her hanging on, I must say that I hope it stops and soon. 13 years of mediocre is more than enough for me, thanks.

A suspicious 3/10
In The Yellow Bit Of The Blue/Yellow Corner: Lord Willis of Knaresborough, LibDem peer and very wooly looking man.
Ok, I confess. I had no idea who Phil Willis was until tonight. I still don’t have that much of an idea, but he seems reasonable enough, even if he looks like a rather tired St. Bernard. Like Willets (more so in fact), he was pretty vulnerable on the night, especially on the tuition fees question. His first move on this front was to bang on about the progressive elements in the plan, a move that sort of worked, but he later played a blinder by admitting that the government really didn’t have a clue about scholarships (“we haven’t cracked it yet”). Stunned by this sudden outburst of honesty, the crowd ended up clapping (possibly involuntarily, such was the surprise) and he walked away smelling of roses. Not bad, all things considered. The rest of his performance was pretty measured, sticking vaguely to the coalition line whilst making sure both feet were in LibDem territory while his rather impassioned tirade about big money “debasing” football went down a storm, capping things off nicely for him.

Much like Willets, this was all quite well thought out stuff that carefully avoided falling into traps or ambushes and while it will hardly set the world ablaze, is was good enough to see him through what could have been a very choppy passage. So yes, nice going, Ol’ Woolchops, you live to fight another day.

A sturdy 6/10.

In The I’m The Funny One/Just Like You Corner: Max Hastings, war bod and True Blue journo.
Poor old Max. Last year, everything seemed to be going so well. The Tories were set to romp home in a landslide, the wrongs of the last 13 years were due to be corrected and he’d even managed to blag the Guardian into printing opinion pieces that he’d written. What could possible go wrong? We’ll, what went wrong was that the landslide never materialised and instead of being in a position where he could triumphantly crow over his vanquished foes, Max had to instead face the reality that his side were now bumping uglies with dastardly LibDems and all of that good, honest, red meat Tory stuff he yearned for was now going to be diluted by a bunch of treehugging upstarts. For most right-wing commentators, this wasn’t too much of a problem as they could simply continue to be angry and turn their ire on the Cameroons for failing to clinch the deal without even breaking a sweat but for Hastings however, this was a problem. Why? Because Max Hastings is crap at getting angry. Actually, let me rephrase that: Max Hastings is crap at looking convincingly angry. Instead, he just looks out of sorts and a bit limp, like a frustrated lettuce.

In practice, this boiled down to the first good tumbleweed moment of this series when he sounded grumpy about universities (culminating in talk of ‘2.1’s in clubbing’ later on), extended whittering in Q2 (plus Slurgate), a brief reversal of fortunes in Q3 when he leapt to Radio 4’s defence before a terminal decline that spanned both Q’s 4 and 5 that plumed new depths is the field of irrelevancy.

Ultimately, it was a pretty shonky affair and one where he looked a man who really wanted to look mad as hell, but just didn’t know how to pull off. Oh, and on top of that, he looks a little like Droopy (see Fig. 1).

 

Fig. 1

 

A flaccid 3/10

In The Independent/Brainy Corner: Dr Maria Misra, lecturer in Modern History at Oxford and generally cerebral sort.
Gah! Another one I know nothing about! Well, that’s probably a good thing as it turns out that I’m really not as well as I thought I was and should probably be in bed by now. In short, Dr Maria won and quite convincingly at that. Basically, she capitalised her ‘at the coal face’ status on all things academic, did a much better job at being angry than Max did and utilised all the ground to the left that Jowell couldn’t be bothered to work. Oh, and she came right out and said that she knew nothing about football, a move that will always win marks from me. So well done Dr Maria, you did a good job at spicing up an otherwise bland episode and for that, I doff my cap to thee.

A redoubtable 7/10

The Crowd: Cheltenham

I think it’s fair to say that I couldn’t really get behind this episode, what with both the coalition members doing such a good job at defusing what could have potentially explosive issues and the general lack of fireworks. The crowd themselves weren’t bad and seemed to have some fight in them during the first half, but much of this capital was consequently squandered when some pillock bought up the expenses issue again. Cheers for that matey, I totally needed reminding about the most tedious story ever to have cluttered up an entire years worth of QT. Sadly, there’s no Audience Member of the Week given that no-one had a suitably outlandish appearance/vocal tic for me to mock. However, Dimbers does deserve a little praise for wibbling some epic claptrap about The Government Hospitality Advisory Committee for the Purchase of Wine. Thanks for that Dimbers. First class bollocks.

An inconsequential 4/10

Right, that’s it. I’m off to steam this damn cold out of me in the bath. After all, I want to be fighting fit to see Middlesbrough’s reaction to the Comprehensive Spending Review next week. I bet they’ll love it and that the coalition will be welcomed as liberators, much like the way the good people of Iraq greeted us in 2003. Next week Lemmings, next week.

Loudribs’ Lack of Gumption Corner #1


MS Paint ftw...

Morning Lemmings and holy crap, am I not well. That’s right, I’m currently in the grip of the Haunting Black Metal Sickness which has been stalking our office for some time and consequently, there’ll be no Post Match Report this week. Apologies.

In the meantime, should you find yourselves twiddling your thumbs I heartily recommend that you check out the latest exercise in Brain Porn that’s going on over at Adam Curtis’  blog. It’s got legs, this one.

Right, sorry for the absence, but I’m way too business trying to sustain an elevated level of grumpiness right now. Watching This Morning certainly got off me to a good start, propelling me into the Zone of the Grouchy but I reckon I can totally make it to the Realm of the Intensely Irritated if I put in a good few hours with Jeremy Kyle repeats on ITV2.

It’s good to have a goal. Next week Lemmings.

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #26


Awww crap.....

Good morning Lemmings and just what, may I ask, is that fishy odour, wafting it’s way from the Blue Corner this evening? Why, it’s hyperactive Tory foghorn Baroness Warsi’s non-appearance! That’s right Lemmings, after making some rather lurid allegations of electoral fraud in the New Statesman, way after the deadline had passed when anything could be done about it, Warsi is nowhere to be seen on this episode. According to BBC Look North, my local news and official mouthpiece of Yorkshire Nationalism, Warsi was unable to attend tonight on account of being “sick”. Hmmmmm, not wanting to sound like cynic or anything, but that does sound rather convenient, given her proven track record of biting off more than she can chew on Question Time. But hey, what do I know?

Right, enough of this green inkery and off to Manchester with us before I start fashioning elaborate headwear out of tin foil.

The Menu

Q1: Is Labour now in the pocket of the unions since they backed Ed Miliband?

Q2: Is Ed Miliband the Labour equivalent of IDS?

Q3: Does David Miliband’s decision not to return to front bench politics undermine his brother’s leadership?

Q4: Does the IMF’s approval of Osborne’s plan mean that Ed Miliband has lost the economic argument?

Q5: Should the UK and France share their nuclear deterrent?

In The Yellow Bit Of The Blue Yellow Corner: Simon Hughes, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats and potential troublemaker of note.
“Ah ha!” thought I. “This will be fun! Another left leaning Lib Dem who’s going to do a crap job at hiding his disdain for all things coalition and thus paint himself into multiple corners!”. Given that Vince Cable looked like a man with toothache trying to eat a gravel sandwich as he wearily tried to pretend he was deeply enamoured with The New Politics last week, I was pretty much sure that Hughes would make a complete botch of this, particularly as he’s been appointed de facto Head Boy of the Lib Dem Awkward Squad. In fact, I positively needed him to bugger this up because he’s quite hard to poke fun at. Ok, so he’s a bit wooly and ‘Right On, yeah?’ in a very Lib Dem sort of way, but this is somewhat offset by the fact that he’s very sincere and genuinely seems to care about stuff that matter. All of this is very good news for politics, but incredibly bad news if you write a blog about Question Time that has to include a certain compulsory level of ‘funny’. Even photoshopping in some ridicule is pretty hard with him and the best I could do was to merely caption this shot of him punching a pensioner in the chest whilst smiling in a caddish fashion (see Fig. 1).

Pow!

Fig. 1

Ok, so I did airbrush out the pensioner’s hand that he happened to be holding at the time, but even so, he’s a hard man to mock. With this backdrop, the crux of my plan was to hope that Hughes would do the same thing that Cable did: Try to pretend he was a convert to the new orthodoxy whilst sounding completely unconvincing and thus come across like a devil sick of sin and provide me with a whole bunch of stuff to take the piss out of. Unfortunately for me, Hughes didn’t and in fact sounded like a proper, pre-election LibDem who barely noticed that his party was in government with the Tories. There were a few exceptions here and there, such as when he got all IMF happy in Q4 and rattled off numbers whilst invoking ‘interest payments’ (and throwing an odd little reference to when he couldn’t get cash out of an ATM), but never did the word ‘Greece’ pass his lips. In fact, the vast bulk of his answer sounded like he properly meant them, such as actually admitting that he quite liked the unions in Q1 and his fairly level-headed assessment of Ed Miliband’s problems in Q2 (“He’s not new. He’s part of the old government”. Fair play). Some of his more familiar “Diversity FTW!” posturings where on display in Q3 where he relished the opportunity to list all the un-PC things he was against, but it was in Q5 where he decisively hammered his Lib Dem colours to the mast. Rather than engage in the de rigueur coalition talk of ‘compromise’ and such, he went straight in for the kill, damning Trident for being dependent on American support and urging the country to lobby against it. After swimming in a sea of fudged boundaries and fuzzy borders since the coalition came about, this was like music to my ears: Politics I understand.

In pure performance terms, Hughes was neither here nor there on this episode. It was generally good, decent stuff but nothing that earth shattering and if the context was different, I’d probably chuck him some fairly average marks. However, it was impossible for me to watch Hughes without inevitably comparing him to Cable the week before and in this respect, it was a triumph. So well done Baldy, you’ve proved there still is such a thing as the Liberal Democrat party.

A welcome return of old certainties: 7/10
In The Red Corner: Dianne Abbott, MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington and eternal backbencher.
OK, I admit it, I’m all Abbotted out. Appearing twice in the space of seven shows was bad enough, but three times in the space of nine is just too much, especially after five solid months of exposure after the leadership contest. I realise that it would have been pretty hard for Labour to decide who to send on, given that they haven’t got a clue who’s in any given job right now, but come on, it would have at least been more entertaining if they’d sent David Miliband on, even if only to weep uncontrollably and tell people off for clapping throughout the show. So here we are today and the well is dry. My stockpile of funny is depleted and google images yields little of use. You’ve beaten me Dianne, beaten me to a bloody pulp by dint of your repeat QT offending. You win, I lose, let’s make this quick.

On the whole, it was textbook Abbott with plenty of New Labour condemning and Tory scolding frontal assaults, all wrapped in the maternity dress of casual informality. Her support for Ed Miliband sounded genuine throughout, her bouts of slapping Starkey went down well and it’s fair to say that the crowd were generally on board with her for most of her responses. All of which is pretty much exactly what happened when she was on two weeks ago (apart from the Ed Miliband bit. That would have been really stupid) and to be honest, I can’t quite muster the energy to go over the same old ground again.

So that’s it, Abbott. No offence to you, but I think we need to stop seeing each other for a while, hang out with other people, that sort of thing. In the meantime, I suggest that you get some photos of yourself pulling silly faces circulated around the web as there’s only so many times I can face-switch you with Marx.

A very familiar 6/10

In The Blue Bit Of The Blue/Yellow Corner: Grant Shapps, Minister of State for Housing and Local Government, QT Lamb to the Slaughter and JustWhoInTheHellExactly?
OK, so Warsi couldn’t attend, but seriously, who is this guy? Visually speaking, he seems like some genetic experiment that went horribly wrong as mad scientists tried to splice the DNA of Clegg, Cameron and Blair whilst tweaking his facially genes so that the only expression his face is capable of rendering is an intensely annoying smirk. OK, so maybe that’s a little a harsh and a trawl through his Wikipedia page does show that he might not be such as bad guy as he spent Christmas Eve 2008 sleeping rough in order to highlight the plight of homeless (something I have yet to see from any of his genetic donors) and he is the cousin of the sainted Mick Jones. But this is Question Time so past good deeds count for nothing while performance on the night counts for everything. So what of his performance? Well, the words ‘depth’, ‘his’ and ‘out of’ are the first ones that spring to mind and it has been quite some time since I’ve observed such a cruel hazing on the show. Observe, if you will.

Q1 started inauspiciously enough as he tried some preliminary skirmishing on the union front, but he quickly ended up in a sticky situation as he said that Ed Miliband would totally swing to the left. “What?” said Dimbers and Cox in commanding unison, knocking him right off-balance and he retreated in a babble of wibbled guff. Q2 contained little worth repeating while Q3 saw him squirming again as he proudly affirmed his Jewishness before getting into a right old tangle when Dimbers enquired whether he practices on not. Unsure as to what the best sounding answer would be, he flapped about before changing the subject and then excitedly claiming that he had “backed Ed Miliband’s campaign”. Whatever works for you, Grant. Coming into the finishing stretch, he made up for Simon Hughes’ unforgivable failure to mention Greece when the deficit issue arose and he lost little time in doing exactly that in Q4 before finally blathering something about the coalition agreement in Q5. In a word, ‘n00bish’.

Alright, so it was the guy’s first time on and he had been called in at short notice, so I do have some sympathy for his plight, but the enduring image I am left with of his performance is of Cox and Abbott shoving his head down a toilet and demanding him to surrender his dinner money. Grant, you need to wise up. Question Time is a rough school and unless you want to spend the rest of your days walking around with ‘Kick Me’ signs stuck to your back, I’d start seriously thinking about learning how to kick people in the knackers.

A decidedly Year 7 3/10

In The Independent/Brainy One Corner: Brian Cox, perenial movie bad guy and avowed Labour supporter.
My first reaction to seeing Brian Cox on tonight’s show was one of “Fuck! FUUUUUUUUUUUUCK!”. It’s not that I’ve got anything against the guy, it’s just that when I did the photoshops for this episode it was Wednesday evening and I was expecting Brian Cox, particle physics heart-throb and ex-keyboard player of D:Ream to be on instead. As a result, this week’s title picture looks somewhat bizarre as I didn’t have time to take that Brian Cox out and had to slap the other one in at very short notice. I can only work with what I’ve got, OK? Anyhoo, if I had known it was the actor Brian Cox, I wouldn’t have had any strong opinions either way as all I know about him is that he’s a bit of a thesp who tends to play Nasty Brits in Hollywood films. That though, was before I saw the magical chemistry between him and Starkey and by ‘magical chemistry’, I’m not talking about the ‘love at first sight’ kind. I’m talking about the ‘Uranium 235’ kind.

Take Q2, for example. After a fairly rabid outpouring from Starkey about Ed Miliband, Cox was right up in his grill, calling him “corrupt” and telling him that his “sense of theatre is ridiculous”. The crowd loved that and despite numerous counters from Starkey, he emerged the victor. He also gave him a clip round the ear hole in Q4, reminding him that it wasn’t “the 50’s any more” before having a final nuke related to-do on Q5. So that was all good fun, knockabout stuff, although it has to be said that both of them looked genuinely pissed off with each other. The rest of Cox’s input was pretty good as well, leaning heavily to the left, but done with enough gravitas to not sound overly zealous. I did get a little annoyed when he sounded a little too high and mighty on one poverty related line, but yeah, by and large, it was good stuff.

So well done Brian, good job there. Now to arrange a five way between him, Starkey, Farage, Douglas Murray and Vorderman. A man can dream.

A pleasingly anti-Starkey 7/10

In The I’m The Funny One/Just Like You Corner: David Starkey, flambouent Tudorphile and avowed Tory supporter.
Hooray! Starkey’s back! Part shrieking Grande Dame, part petulant teenager, Starkey is simultaneously one of the most irritating people on earth and one of the most entertaining, the balance of which depends heavily on the company he’s keeping at the time. Noted for disagreeing with anything that doesn’t smack of full-blown autocracy/return to the Days of Empire, Starkey really needs someone else on the show to be able to stand up to him, otherwise he just looks like a nutter shouting at the sky for being too fat or accusing the moon of stealing his newspaper. Luckily for all involved, Brian Cox filled this role amply well and made a whole stack of hay by calling bullshit on Queen Starkey’s (see Fig. 2) many and varied accusations, a few of which I have listed below.

quees

Queen Starkey

Fig. 2

The Miliband/Kinnock Axis of Evil will be the “kiss of death” for Labour. “I adore it” proclaims Queen Starkey.

Ed Miliband is guilty of “fratricide”, New Labour are like “Richard III murdering his nephews” and Brian Cox is “naive”.

The unions will inflict “profound strife” on us all and Miliband has already shown “astonishing personal brutality”.

Cuts should be “fast and ruthless” and he really doesn’t like Ed Balls (he even told off the audience for clapping him as he still had more bile to pour on him).

The French are self-centred, selfish bastards who shouldn’t be trusted.

So there we go. Another restrained show of reason and subtlety from the ever moderate Professor Starkey. And I wouldn’t have it any other way as although he may be completely off his tits, it is a deeply engrossing display of high camp, spat dummies and frothy outbursts. Neither was he without support and he did manage to coin in quite a bit of applause on Q4, much though this quietly worries me. I guess the bottom line is that you know where you are with Starkey. He comes in a tin that says “Caution: Product contains dangerous levels of absurdity” and providing you’re in the right company, that can be kind of fun.

A blathering, incoherent 7/10

The Crowd: Manchester

I was totally into this episode. Politically speaking it was no great shakes, but in terms of pantomime action, especially at the Cox/Starkey end of the spectrum, it was delightfully unhinged. The crowd also did well, mucking in and adding to a fairly raucous atmosphere where it was hard to pick out who was cheering for what. Furthermore, there were quite a few audience members who stood out, including a very young man in a waist coat and bow tie (which captivated me so much that I didn’t hear what he said), a fully decked out member of the clergy and a girl with the loudest voice in the world. However, Audience Member of Note goes to the poser of the first question, purely on account of his name: Roman Fox Hunter. Here it is again in bold. Roman Fox Hunter. That’s made my week.

A giddy 8/10

Right. All done. Good show. Just enough time to squeeze in a few turns of Civ 5? There’s always enough time to squeeze in a few turns of Civ 5. Laters, Lemmings.


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