Good morning Lemmings and by ‘good morning’ I mean ‘Holy Jesus, it’s 5.30am and I’m on a Megabus’. Yup, tis the time of year again when I crowbar all 6’2” of me into the cheapest form of transport known to man and try to retain a semblance of sanity for 7 odd hours. Good times indeed. What’s even more fun about this particular trip is that I’ve so far had a grand total of 4 hours sleep with which to make good the wear and tear of a pretty epic week that was largely characterised by me having to pursue a belligerent schizophrenic across Leeds and other such related matters. In short, I’m fairly strung out right now.
Normally, this wouldn’t bode too well for the business of trying to make something semi-interesting out of a current affairs show but it might actually be an outright advantage right now because let’s be honest here, last night’s Question Time was pretty rubbish. In fact scrub that, last night’s Question Time was just flat-out crap, no two ways about it.
First up in the panel who seemed hellbent on putting the ‘lack’ into ‘lustre’ is Jeremy Browne who apparently works in the Foreign Office and who’s performance was mostly characterised by looking/sounding confused whilst talking in a very loud and forceful manner so as not to look/sound confused. As you can probably gather, that didn’t really work and with the exception of a brief rally at the end, he spent most of his time either trying to fence-sit his way out of trouble or when something hairy came up (like whether we’re sending Apaches to Libya), deploying a mixture of clumsy footwork and Ben Swainery that made me wonder if he hadn’t downed a bottle of cough medicine before going on. I think someone might also have to sit him down and explain what exactly Twitter is as I’m not sure just how realistic the threat of “medical records being tweeted” is given that it’s fairly hard to cram an extensive history of affliction into 140 characters (unless they happened to be repeatedly dogged by very concise ailments such as ‘flu’ and ‘AIDS’).
Ok, ok, I know I’m being wantonly cruel to Jeremy but it’s only just gone 6, we’ve just pulled up in Manchester and there’s all sorts of craziness dancing around in my peripheral vision. Time to move swiftly on I think.
Next up is Louise Bagshawe, chick-lit author turned Tory MP who has a fairly impressive track record of incoherent rantings but disappointingly managed to keep a lid on it for most of last night’s show. Here’s the cover of a book she wrote that may or may not have been tampered with (see Fig. 1).
I myself am not the biggest fan of Bagshawe for two main reasons: One, she doesn’t trade in any currency other than certainties and two, her posture. Now, I know that’s a seemingly minor thing to get het up about but I always have a fear of people do the whole ‘ramrod straight’ thing as they usually turn out to be people who love telling me what to do and if there was a competition for Straightest Ramrod of Them All then I think Bagshawe would be in with a fighting chance of a win (seriously, you could have balanced a book on her head for the entire duration of last night’s show). However, I must admit that despite the above, she did turn out to be the most engaging of the political panelists and at least had the good grace to venture such outlandish things as opinions. As it happens, those opinions weren’t exactly up my street but at least she had something going on, even if that did include a worryingly evangelical eulogy to American patriotism and a cackhanded attempt to make it sound like the coalition weren’t completely buggering up the NHS. Had the competition been any stronger then things may have panned out differently, but as it was I’m going to give her a grudging ‘Did OKish’.
Right, things are getting weird now… I just spent 10 minutes drifting in and out of sleep and trying to figure out what the rail network would be like if it was run by cats (fickle, I’m guessing) so I’m going to have plug-in the ipod in the hope that it might straighten me out a little. Ok Ribsy, choose wisely… There’s a lot riding on this. The Aquabats? Nah, things are silly enough as they are. Mr Bungle? No way. That’s just asking for trouble. Sigur Ros? Christ no, I’d be asleep in seconds. Ok, let’s play it safe and go for a bit of Fugazi.
Right, that’s better, let’s crack on. Next on the stump is Hilary Benn, a man I’ve always felt a little sorry for but only up to a point. In his defence, it must be hard to be the son of someone as polarising as Tony Benn as he will forever be the yardstick by which you are measured and no matter what you do, it will always be construed as either being too much/not enough like your father. He also does seem to genuinely care about some worthy issues, as illustrated by this picture which I can honestly say I have not buggered about with at all (see Fig. 2).
However, worthy as trying to stamp out outside defecation may be, I’ve always been left with the sense that Benn is very easy to talk round and his love for of all things New Labour (he voted for Iraq, ID cards, top fees and anti-terror laws) is just too jarring when he physically looks and sounds so much like his father. It’s sort of like listening to the spitting image of Bernard Manning praising the benefits of multiculturalism to the rafters or a Ted Nugent lookalike bigging up vegetarianism. In short, I’ve never been really comfortable with Hilary Benn and I don’t think this episode is in any way going to change that, given that I can’t remember a damn thing he said nor any opinion he ventured. Pretty much every answer was about as triangulated as you could get and he just left me with a sense of utter forgettabillity. Ohhhhh, hang on a second! There’s my favourite road sign in the whole country! The M6 exit for Congleton (see LCCPQTMR passim)! Now, what was I talking about again?
Right, the next victim, ex-diplomat Christopher Meyer, is in a similar category to Bagshawe in that while I’m not a massive fan of him personally, at least he had the good grace to occasionally go out on a limb and actually speak his mind. Unbound by any political constraint as he is, it was nice to finally see someone acknowledge that one of the reasons we are not intervening in Syria is simply because we can’t and his candour had the effect of making Browne look even more out of his depth as he skitted all over the place on the Libya question. However, Meyer’s finest hour came in the closing moment of the show when he suddenly got massively old-school and demanded that drunks be put in “horrible, smelly, urine soaked cells”. Now I’m not a subscriber to this particular approach but there is something deeply satisfying about watching an old man momentarily fly off the handle and you could tell he was enjoying it. So yes, given that this was a very small pond, Meyer had the distinction of being the big fish so well done to him and holy crap, I appear to be in Birmingham. Do I feel a fag break coming on? You bet your sweet ass I do!
Ok, we’re nearly there and trust me, this bit is not going to take long as next up is privacy lawyer Charlotte Harris. Bereft of any tangible memory of anything she said or did I’ve been forced to fall back on my notes, only to find that they too are nothing more than a yawning vacuum occasionally interspersed with “sounds lawyerly” here and there. She literally said nothing of any import whatsoever and therein lies the overarching problem with this show: The questions were crap. I think I mentioned a few weeks back that I find it very hard to get fired up about the whole super injunction issue and I have a horrible feeling that it’s turning into this year’s version of the dreaded expenses scandal: An issue that has minimal bearing on our day-to-day lives, commands a very limited number of stock responses (I like/don’t like celebs/MP’s), generates an awful amount of heat and rumbles on for bloody ages. In this episode the issue took up at least half the show while the rest of it fell into the sinkhole of foreign policy based queries. Now don’t get me wrong, Libya is an important issue but unless there’s a backdrop of domestic antagonism running alongside (as there was with Iraq) then Question Time just isn’t the best place to deal with it.
As a result, this was a really flat show that never really got off the ground and apart from Bagshawe’s brief flirtation with the Heckle Zone, there was nothing for anyone to get their teeth stuck into and the crowd just seemed to be surplus to requirement. Having said that, there was one entertaining interlude where a very posh looking young chap in a scarf thought it wise to demand that drinkers pay for hospital treatment which then earned him a stinging rebuke from a very earnest sounding bloke in glasses. Sensing that he might be in over his head Scarf Boy then modified his position to doing it on a case-by-case basis and everyone had a good laugh at just how twatty that sounded. Hardly a titanic epic but you’ve got to take what you can get. Oh and also, the poser of the last question looked a little like Hellboy. Gentle Jesus, has it come to this?
The Crowd: Zzzzzzzz
Alright, that’s me done and not a moment too soon as I’m not quite sure what’s real and what’s not at this precise moment in time. Sorry if it was all a little weird/dull but you play the hand your dealt and this was a pretty dull episode that happened to occur on an especially weird day. Should anyone in Exeter feel slighted by the low marks awarded today then you are more than welcome to meet at the bus station car park at 1.05pm and we can have a little fight or resolve the issue in whatever way you please. Of course, that is contingent on you reading this prior to my estimated time of arrival which is in turn contingent on me somehow magically finding some internetz in the back of a Megabus. I have a feeling that is not going to happen.
Next week Lemmings, next week…