Morning Lemmings and don’t say I didn’t warn you. That’s right, a couple of weeks back I mentioned that the photoshops were going to become progressively weirder and this week I am coming good on that promise. Actually, there is some method behind the madness as they didn’t announce the lineup until very late, by which time I’d had to crack on and with no subject material at hand, I plumped for sticking a massive Mr. Whippy on Dimbleby’s head. Don’t ask me why, I just work here. Silliness aside, we find ourselves in Newport this week and also sporting a very busy six seat lineup, largely on account of its Welshness and the obligatory need to shoehorn in the Plaid brigade. So without further ado let us saddle up and march towards the sound gunfire.
Ok, so in theory the headline act of this week should be the Welsh Secretaries of Past and Present Face Off Extraordinaire, what with Cheryl Gillan (famous mainly for claiming dog food on parliamentary expenses) representing the Conservatives and convincing Umpa Lumpa impersonator (see Fig.1) Peter Hain propping up the Labour end of things. On paper, this should have been a good match up as both should have plenty of material with which to smite the other, but in actual fact it turned out to be terminally dull as neither participant really knows where they are at the moment. In the case of Gillan this is largely due to the fact that nobody’s really got a clue who she is despite years of lingering on the peripheries of power and that her very matronly, ‘look of disapproval’ manner endears her to precisely no-one. On top of this, she’s super clumsy (like when she admitted that she doesn’t live in Wales. You might not, but for god sake don’t volunteer that information for free) and appears to only be able to hold one line of attack in her brain at one time. That’s usually excusable but when that line of attack happens to be the hackneyed ‘blame the previous Labour government/deficit for everything including the Great Fire of London, Spanish Influenza, the disappearance of the Lindbergh baby and the Fall of Singapore’ it’s just lame. Naturally, given this method’s wanton overuse (or abuse as some may say) over the past nine months, there was little love for her in Newport and rightly so as frankly she was bollocks (especially when she just flat-out refused to answer a question about the number of jobs going in the NHS).
Having said that, it’s worth pointing out that Peter Hain didn’t exactly cover himself in glory either but I do have a little more sympathy for his plight as I don’t think it was due to any pathological personality flaw, but more a by-product of not knowing who he is at the moment. Ok, so he is in the shadow cabinet but the feeling you get from him is that he’s not quite sure what side he’s batting for: Does he defend Blair despite their frequent fall outs or does he hitch his wagon to the new boys in town despite the fact that they really don’t seem to give two hoots about him? A conundrum indeed. On the show, he tried to straddle both these positions but the upshot of all this was a very jerky and skittish performance where he kept tripping himself up and being lured into entirely avoidable ambushes (like the ludicrous ‘we wouldn’t sell them weapons again’ line. Sorry Peter, but you deserved your licks on that one) that made him look like a right kipper. Granted, he wasn’t as awful as Gillan and I do have a slight soft spot for him but his finest hour this was not. So Peter, I’m sorry to say that you are destined to continue wandering in the political wilderness like a lost antelope just waiting to be mauled by a pack of lions. How tragic nature is….
Completing our Westminster trio we have the ever elemental Shirley Williams who at her best is like one of those majestic autumn gales that sweeps in from the south west in a dramatic and not-to-be-messed with fashion. However, now that she’s got to pay lip service (or at least-biting-her-lip service) to the coalition she seems much less like a thunder laden force 9 and more like a damp squall which can’t work out which way she’s supposed to be blowing. You could see that there were times when she really wanted to let rip and batter some sea walls with a good old-fashioned 6 foot swell (like when she looked like she might have a proper go at the NHS reforms), but the circumstances of her situation seemed to make her pull her punches and we were left with a drizzly mélange of worthy intentions nixed by an unhappy reality, all of which is a shame because I do like it when she cranks that Beaufort to scale up to the double figures.
Our final political candidate this week is the ever avuncular and reassuringly ordinary Elfyn Llwyd whose name is still causing me to use google autocomplete as a spellchecker despite repeated appearances on Question Time. Out of all the party bods on the show, Elfyn clearly carried the day, largely by being the only voice of dissent that didn’t sound like a rat being rubbed against a cheese grater (JSP, I’m looking at you) and generally holding positions that are a million miles away from Westminster. Ok, so I kind of zoned out when it all got very Welsh but by and large he was like an old but well maintained diesel locomotive: Reliable, endearing and with the ability to conjure up memories of a simpler and happier time. Also like a locomotive, he’s utterly relentless but without being arsey with it and that’s quite a trick to pull. So well done Elfyn, this might not have been your best performance to date but it certainly blew the competition out of the water.
All of which leaves us with the two non-politicals, Fraser Nelson and Janet Street-Porter. The first thing that struck me about Nelson was how much he looks like the product of a diabolic and probably drunken one night stand between Douglas Murray and Niall Ferguson. Luckily for him, he seems to have escaped inheriting Ferguson’s arrogance or Murray’s flat-out madness and generally speaking, he seemed OK-ish, even if his politics aren’t my cup of tea. Also, kudos to him for being honest about not giving a toss when it comes to a Welsh referendum and further plaudits for his line about teenagers, car keys and bottles of whiskey. That was pretty good for an otherwise generally humourless episode. Speaking of humourless, next up is JSP who sets my nerves a-jangling the moment I lay eyes on her. While I’m inclined to put some of this down to the fact that her answers were all over the place (one minute she’s spitting feathers at possible NHS cuts, the next she’s tilting at the windmills of local government pay scales) the truth is that just listening to her is akin to being assaulted by an army of drunken cats wielding bagpipes and angle grinders. I’d like to write a bit more about what she actually said I can’t because every time she opened her mouth I found myself too busy fighting the urge to tear my own ears off to take any notes. So let us not dwell on this unhappy interlude and move swiftly on to the crowd who at least managed to make the Libya question slightly more exciting than the one on Egypt a few weeks back. They also got fairly boisterous at the end when Gillan tried (and failed spectacularly) at dodging the jobs cut question and I’m more than happy to award an extra mark for the name of the poser of the child poverty question, Sarah Chicken. Admittedly, they could have garnered a full extra 10 points if she had looked and acted a little more like a chicken but still, a point’s a point right?
Right, that’s all you’re getting. Sorry it seems a little rushed this week but there was a lot of them on the show and I’m supposed to be at a works do so time has been of the essence. However, I can just about find the time to engage in my bi-annual and largely futile plea to follow my Post Question Time Reports on either Twitter or Facebook (or both if you’re a true masochist). I can pretty much promise you now that you won’t get much of a return on your investment as I still harbour a visceral hatred for Twitter (what with all it’s #’s and @’s and general sense of smugness) but what the hell, it’ll pad out the numbers a bit. Oh, and before I forget, there will be no Match Report next week as I’m going on holiday (properly this time…. unlike last weeks flaky ‘lets call it a holiday and hope no-one notices’ stunt). That’s right, I got fed up with sub-zero temperatures, brutalistic concrete architecture and a pervading sense of grimness so I booked a flight to… Poland! Say what you want about me but I sure know how to holiday.
Next week Lemmings, next week…