Archive for May, 2011

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #45


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).

louise bagshawe desire bollocks

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).

hilary benn defecates in the open

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?

Tl;dr

Browne: Zzzzzzzz

4/10

Bagshawe: Zzzz

5/10

Benn: Zzzzzzzz

4/10

Meyer: Zzz

6/10

Harris: Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

3/10

The Crowd: Zzzzzzzz

4/10

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…

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Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #44


question time david dimbleby jail 44Morning Lemmings and welcome to Bizarro Time, a strange twilight netherworld of exterior opening shots, audience members wearing wristbands that made the whole affair look like a giant, penal Glasto, Dimbers referring to the venue as ‘The Scrubs’ (has he served time there?) and a complete lack of the Yellow Team. That’s right, this week’s Question Time comes to us from the bowls of the prison system and given the topical backdrop and panel, a right old to-do was to be expected. However, as I mentioned at the start this wasn’t so much Question Time as Bizarro Time and all is not quite what it seems. So Lemmings, let us firmly grasp the soap, strip down and head to the showers.

Ok, first up is Ken Clarke who has taken a break from his busy schedule of sticking his foot in his mouth to take his licks in public and try to remove said foot from said mouth. Actually, I must confess to feel quite sorry for Ken on this one. Yes, it probably wasn’t the most sensitive use of words but let’s face it, a 17-year-old and a 15-year-old having consensual sex is a different kettle of fish from someone actually forcing themselves on another. That’s not to say that rape isn’t the most serious of crimes, but there are different shades of severity just as there are different shades of Ken (see Fig. 1).

ken clarke rape

Anyhoo, a vocal and belligerent segment of the population took umbrage with Ken’s less than perfect choice of words and a media shitstorm unfolded on Wednesday with a speed and rapidity that defied belief. Worse still, the outrage wasn’t confined to the group who had the strongest claim to a legitimate beef and soon Ken was getting it in the neck from pretty much everyone: The right (for being Ken and soft on crims), No. 10 (for being Ken and switching his phone off), feminists (for being Ken and looking like the sort of bloke who says ‘wimmin’) and Labour (purely for laughs and the fact that they’ve been down on their luck for last few weeks). So yes, the stakes were high for the old boy and anything other than some heavy-duty contrition would inevitably lead to him having to slum it on the naughty step with the likes of Laws, Huhne and Fox (although I get the feeling that Fox actually feels quite at home on the naughty step).

To this end, Ken did pretty well by fully admitting he was a bit of a klutz for saying things in the way he did and that he compounded this by allowing the media to run rings round him, but he didn’t back down on his original point and the crowd were largely with him (although not cheering. I think everyone was a little nervous about how that response would go down). Eventually he settled down into a policy argument with Straw and the rest of his performance was fairly standard Ken fare, but he does seem to have got himself off the hook and that is something I’m largely glad about. For one, I think that this was a pretty wanky “media brouhaha” (to use Ken’s turn of phrase) and he was a victim of people looking for a fight but the second reason is slightly more important: Ken is a flawed character and politics needs flawed characters. One of the reasons we seem to have lost so much trust in politicians is that they spend so much time trying to impress us with how trustworthy they are and that is something that sets alarm bells ringing. By contrast, Ken’s never really pretended to be anything other than he is: A boozy semi-rogue who listens to jazz, nods off in the Commons and can’t really be arsed with the managerialism of modern politics. There are many aspects of him that I’m not too keen on (being knee-deep in Big Tobacco for one), but that’s the thing about human beings in general, they are not perfect and that’s not necessarily a bad thing (on a very tenuously related point, if you too happen to be a fan of flawed character’s, I highly recommend boning up on the American Civil War. I’m reading this utterly fantastic book on it at the moment and rough diamonds/tragically doomed characters are two-a-penny in that conflict, especially on the Union side. Seriously, check it out if you’re a fan of human frailty and the beauty of our failings).

Right, next up we have Jack Straw who has taken a break from his busy schedule of being a too-wiley-by-half, hard-bitten New Labour ex-Home Sec who might as well have been a proper Tory ex-Home Sec to, erh, carry on doing just that. As I mentioned last week, I have a real problem with previous Labour Home Office bods as this particular ministry seemed to do crazy things to their brains and I’ve never been a fan of Straw in particular. Having said that, I do have to admit that while the cloak of nefarious cunning he wraps himself in isn’t the most becoming of garments, it does suit him down to the ground and fits like a glove. Say what you want about his views and motives, at least he has the decency to look the part. The Demon Headmaster’s main contribution to last night’s show was to send my understanding of where everyone should be on the political spectrum into a flat spin as he embarked on a flanking march so far to the right that he nearly fell of the map and at times made common cause with Melanie Phillips, thus conjuring up the possibility of a love that dare not speak its name. That was one mental image I really didn’t need to see.

For the most part, Straw’s line of attack was pretty much based on the ‘I’LL SHOW YOU HOW TOUGH I AM!’ blueprint so beloved by New Labour but that didn’t seem to have as much traction with the crowd as it may have had in the past. However Straw is no dummy and in-between bouts of pounding his chest he found the time to chip away at the rich little seam of Justice on the Cheap. That proved far more effective, especially with the prison officers and went a little way to negating the excesses of his more truculent episodes. Also, he did mellow a little when it came to the matter of foreign aid and I must confess to being mightily relieved as there was an outside chance that he and Phillips may just start rutting like deranged elk had their opinions not diverged at that point. So yes, it was a pretty standard affair from Straw and while I still don’t particular like the guy, I do have to give grudging respect for his talent for survival and other related dark arts. My one piece of advice? Maybe it’s time to update your glasses Jack… I mean c’mon, Lennon’s been dead for 30 years now. Just sayin…

Ok, Panelist #3 coming up and this week it’s Shami Chakrabarti who has taken a break from her busy schedule of appearing on Question Time at least 200 times a year to appear on Question Time. Naturally, this was an opportunity for Shami to do what she does best (i.e. clip politicians round the ear in a firm but reasonable manner) in a very appropriate environment. Now, Shami’s been done to death in these Post Question Time Match Report’s (mainly by dint of appearing on Question Time 200 times a year) so I won’t go into too much detail other than to say that this was a solid performance that balanced the practical (giving life sentences to rapists means that they are more likely to kill people) with the ethical (telling Phillips to STFU on overseas aid because it’s the right thing to do), all delivered by a charming little boy with lovely manners. Very good Shami, see you next week.

Finally we have Melanie Phillips who has taken time out of her busy schedule of calling the Moon an Islamic conspiracy and accusing the Nanny State of making children drink monkey milk to give a bunch of lags what-for and generally spread the hate. I came up with that line earlier in the week and I must admit that I was a little worried I wouldn’t be able to use it as she was fairly (by her standards) restrained when it came to the first question on rape. Like all the other panelists, she gingerly picked her way round the subject as if the monolith from 2001 had just risen from the studio floor and no-one was quite sure whether to fear or worship it. “Bugger” thought I, “this is going to make the write-up a little tricky”. Happily though, this new-found sensitivity was short-lived and she proceeded to crank up the Bile-o-Tronand let slip the dogs of crazy on both the ‘does prison work’ and foreign aid questions (“Close down the Department of International Aid!” Nice one Mel). Overall, it was your standard outpouring of wide-eyed monkeyshine but this time with added weird thanks to the temporary blossoming of romance between her and Straw. However, I will bung her an extra mark for exercising a smidgen of restraint in the first 20 minutes.

By the way, I discovered this week that Phillips tweets. Since my day job as a mental health worker doesn’t quite provide the levels of insanity I need to sustain me, I’ve signed up as a follower and now have the luxury of being assaulted by 140 tiny little fists of madness every couple of days. Seriously, I’m impressed by the density of the derangement she is capable of generating. It’s like mental plutonium.

So that was panel and bully for them. However, the main reason why this was going to be a Bizarro Episode was that it was in prison and prisoners were part of the audience (well done to Dimbers for saying “thanks for coming”. It’s not like a three-hour journey or anything). On the whole, they were fairly tame (although the guy who asked for more money for cons and guards was quite entertaining) but one did stand out. This was the guy at the end with the plumby accent and suit. To be honest, I can’t quite remember what he said (although everyone seemed to like it) mainly because my mind was doing somersaults trying to figure out a)what he was in for (ram-raiding Laura Ashley?) and b) whether he walked about the prison wearing that suit. That provided a brief respite (or “respit” as Straw pronounces it) from some fairly dense stuff so I doff my cap to thee, O Lord of D-Wing. As for the rest of the crowd, well they partially restored my faith in my fellow-man. For one, I was glad that most people seemed on board with the idea that justice needs to be about rehabilitation as much as it is about punishment but also because they showed that they completely saw through the media’s (and Labour’s… to shame, Ed. You’re better than that) attempts to make something out of not very much at all. I also liked the fact that the guy who was most vocal in support for Clarke was wearing a shirt so pink that if it were shade of paint, it would be called ‘FUCKING PINK’ (Caps-lock mandatory).

Clarke: 7/10

Redeemed

Straw: 5/10

Schemed

Chakrabarti: 7/10

Beamed

Phillips: 3/10

Screamed

The Crowd: 7/10

Esteemed

So there you go. A good, if slightly weird show that probably vexed everyone who hoped Clarke would break down like a turd in the rain. Next week Question Time will be in Exeter and I (oddly enough) will be writing it on a Megabus to Exeter. I suffer for my art.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #43


question time david dimbleby43 pulp

Morning Lemmings and let’s make this quick, a) because this week’s Question Time wasn’t quite up to the high standards set by last week’s pitched battle and b) our Clown Thumbed guitarist is on his way over to help me blow up virtual stuff on my non-virtual computer (which, by the way, now has wheels. I bought a graphics card that was so big it necessitated a wheeled case. That’s well cool).

Ok, so this show didn’t exactly have the most exciting panel in the world but it did kind of make up for it by having a crowd who had a very clear agenda, but more on that later. To kick off though let’s start with the main event which is in this case was Vince Cable, a man who presently seems to be in the grips of a fairly substantial identity crisis and appears to have several separate media incarnations that manifest at random. Sometimes it’s Troublemaking Agit-Vince who appears to be inches away from jacking it all in and going out in a ball of flames while at other times we get Nervous Breakdown Cable who seems to be vying with Simon Hughes for the Samaritan’s Most Frequent Caller of the Year award. As it happens, we got Glutton For Punishment Vince who basically spent the first twenty minutes getting an utterly relentless pummeling from anyone who cared to have a go. He tried all the routine maneuvers such as the “save the country from economic disaster” and “Labour spendthrifts” plays but there were no takers and by the looks of it, he didn’t really care. In fact although I wouldn’t go as far as to say he was actually enjoying the experience, he did seem strangely inured to the pain, as if his nervous system had simply called it a day and redefined constant agony as the norm. Luckily for him, the crowd either realised that actively ragging on someone for such a sustained period is actually quite knackering or got frustrated by the fact that he wasn’t breaking down in tears and he managed to sneak off to the Hidey-Hole of Irrellevance to lay low for the rest of the show. My theory is that either the Business Secretary has somehow managed to temporarily amputate his soul from his body in order to survive or that he’s addicted to some pretty heavy-duty pain killers. I’m no doctor but take your pick…

Next up we have David Blunkett, local boy come good/bad (depending on your opinion) and someone who is rarely flavour of the month with me. I’m like this with all ex-New Labour Home Secretaries because there was something about that post at that particular point in time that just seemed to turn its incumbents into utter, utter divs. Even Alan Johnson (who I’ve always had a soft spot for) couldn’t manage to do his stint without engaging in some very suspect chest puffing and ‘check out my guns’ swinging-dickery, although his efforts were not a patch on those of the likes of Smith and Straw. Neither did Blunkett’s post-governmental career do much to commend him to me as he managed to segue himself into one of the least likable for-profit-yet-doing-state-work chimeras that were spawned in the wake of New Labour. So yes, I’m not a fan. Having said that, I must say that he didn’t do too badly last night and I was largely without rage for most of the show. Some of this is down to circumstance, like being with a friendly crowd on home turf and enjoying a fairly benevolent political backdrop but yeah, it was mostly a fairly mundane and straight-forward affair.

Oh no wait! I tell a lie… There was something that really ticked me off and that was when he reached new heights of hyperbole by claiming that the internet was a hotbed of “mad, free-for-all Libertarianism that will bring society to its knees”. Now, I totally agree that Mad, Free-For-All Libertarians are two-a-penny on the internet but the whole “bringing society to its knees bit?” A little shrill, methinks. Oh, and before I forget, there is one thing I like about Blunkett (or more accurately, liked): Back in the mists of time, before his beard had turned grey, Blunkett appeared to have a fully reversible head (see Fig. 1)

blunket reversable head

Fig. 1

See?! Look at that bad boy! You can flip it a full 180 degrees and he still looks the same!

Right, next we have a bona-fide Question Time n00b, Anna Soubry. Now, this may well have been her first time on QT but it all honesty, it definitely wasn’t a n00bish performance and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a fair bit more of her. The first thing I noticed is that she’s pretty tough, but not that “I’LL SHOW YOU HOW TOUGH I AM BY JUMPING DOWN YOUR THROAT” tough that the likes of Warsi are wont to indulge in. No, Soubry seems more clued up and opted for a fairly measured yet resolute line while still managing to get the odd dig in at Labour from time to time. Understandably (considering she was in Sheffield at a time when the Tories are slaughtering Northern Holy Cows on an industrial scale), it didn’t all go her way and she came off for the worse in a scrap with Blunkett on the NHS (as well as rightly being told off by Dimbers for going straight into Blame Labour mode right for the get go) but it could have been a lot worse. I have also discovered that she’s got some pretty interesting views for a Tory so yes, she shall be added to my Watch With Interest List.

Ok, so that’s the politco’s done with, time for the civilians. First up we have James o’Brien, a presenter with LBC radio who I know absolutely nothing about but found to be alright. I’m totally guessing here, but he seems to be one of those middle-brow, daytime/telly radio types who’s opinions are just at the margins of what that particular genre allow (which is no further to the left than a Back-in-the-Day Social Democrat and no further to the right than Marshal Petain) a la Matthew Wright and Nick Ferarri and if last night was anything to go by, he’s quite good at it. O’Brien had some nice turns here and there, such as a hefty broadside on the coalition at the start (“Osborne will take the credit and the LibDems will take the blame”) and the bit where he got the whole audience to denounce Andrew Lansley en masse but it must be said that it wasn’t all plain sailing and at one point he became the victim of a genius little audience ambush. This occurred just after he’d given David Laws the all-clear and a crowd member manage to sneak in this question: “What if he was a Housing Benefit claimant?”. For a split second you could see the voltage in his brain spike to dangerous levels as he tried to grapple with just how in the hell he was going to deal this Monster Question before some automated safety system kicked in and tripped the circuit breakers: “Brilliant question!” he said (with some humility), but you could tell that it totally floored him for a moment. But yeah, not bad.

Finally, we have Max Mosely, a man who has been quietly growing on me for a while. To be honest, I wasn’t that familiar with him prior to the whole Jackboots Unt Kallfraus Ja? affair but what’s really struck me since then is how he somehow has this air of unimpeachable dignity, despite having his whiplashed and leather-thonged bum plastered all over the papers. Say what you will about his private habits but that is quite a trick to pull. However, I can’t really say he was great last night, partly because I just don’t find the whole Super Injunction issue that interesting (I like the gossip bit… That’s pretty good. But the legal in’s and out’s? Sorry, that just doesn’t light my fag) but also because he didn’t really seem with it, particularly when he inadvertently referred to homosexuality as a “problem”. I think (and hope) that was a genuine mistake but it was a costly one and I think it knocked his confidence a bit. Never mind Max, just carry on doing that dignity thing. You’re good at the dignity thing.

So that’s the panelists and in honesty they weren’t exactly all fireworks and ice cream. However, there was one interesting thing about the show and that was the audience, all of whom were absolutely hellbent on braying seven bells out of the LibDems. Now, that’s not exactly unusual behaviour on Question Time these days but what set this lot apart was just how visceral they were about it. Seriously, for the first twenty minutes it was all one way traffic with the crowd only pausing briefly to occasionally harangue a passing Tory whilst spending every other available second sticking the boot into the Yellow Team. “So what?” you may say and on the face of it ‘so what indeed’: Sheffield’s a thoroughly Red city (barring Clegg’s Sheffield Halham which is partly rural and has a fairly insane concentration of wealthy people in it) where the Miners Strike is still the defining political event of many people’s lives and voting Labour is just ‘what you do’. Well it matters because this was the sort of place the LibDems could have been contenders in and had already made some serious inroads. Granted, it was a narrow brand of LibDemmery that was on offer in these parts (the Chat Show Charlie, left-of-Labour brand) and the party was always going to have trouble reconciling this with the Orange Book brand of liberalism they were peddling in the south, but it was doable and large numbers of people were voting for them. What made this show important was that it slammed the door on that alternate reality and confirmed that the LibDems are pretty much dead to Sheffield. Sure, that could change in time but I think it’ll probably take a generation for the party to be taken seriously in the Metropolitan North again and that if the near future is anywhere near as bad as it’s shaping up to be, they may never be forgiven. If I was Clegg, I’d start thinking about tapping up Cable for some of that co-codamol.

Cable: Numb

4/10

Blunkett: Umm

5/10

Soubry: Rum

6/10

o’Brien: Some

6/10

Mosely: (whipped) Bum

5/10

The Crowd: Scrum

7/10

So there we go… Another day, another ritualised slaughter of junior coalition partners. Enough already, I’m off to blow virtual stuff up and maybe wheel my computer around the living room. Can you wheel your computer around the living room? Didn’t think so.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #42


question-time-david-dimbleby-paddy-ashdown-yasmin-alibhai-brown-andy-burnham-beardsGood morning Lemmings and welcome the hell back. Before we get stuck in, let me take this opportunity to offer my sincere apologies for the recent lack of Post Question Time activity. After unilaterally declaring Easter and buggering off on tour it never quite crossed my mind that Question Time itself might take a couple of weeks off so sorry for the absence but rest assured that regular service has now resumed.

Anyhoo, it’s a good job that I’m all refreshed as it was a feverish episode last night that at times seemed more akin to a middle class version of the Jeremy Kyle Show and was all the better for it. Basically, it can be summed up as a game of two halves, both of which featured large doses of Paddy Ashdown and also contained within it one of the most dramatic reversals of fortune I have seen on Question Time to date. It started like this: After a small bout of Yasmin Alibhai-Brown sounding very concerned (she always sounds very concerned. It’s her thing) about the legality of Bin Laden’s killing, Douglas Murray nonchalantly stepped forth and instantly polarised the crowd by declaring in a very gleeful way that he was “elated” by the death of Bin Laden and that Yasmin should really just STFU. That on its own is a pretty bold statement, but when coupled with the fact that he looked like he’d only just sobered up from a week-long ‘Bin Laden’s Dead’ pub crawl (what do you wear to a ‘Bin Laden’s Dead’ pub crawl? A Bin Laden costume? Special Forces garb? Black tie? I have no idea what would be appropriate), it becomes positively incendiary and stunned Alibhai-Brown into some very concerned sounding “goodness me”-ing. This however, was just the beginning as waiting in the wings was Paddy Ashdown and not just any old Paddy Ashdown but Hard Bitten Ex-Instrument of Foreign Policy With Blood On His Hands Paddy Ashdown.

How old are you Douglas?” he asked, “because YOU SEEM TO YOUNG TO DECIDE ON AN EXECUTION!”.

ZING! The crowd loved that, but he didn’t stop to soak up the applause. Oh no, he had yet even more of the beat down to deploy and deploy it he did by striking a 1000 yard gaze (which is very impressive for a man who doesn’t actually have any eyes) and following it up with this little gem:

I have seen people killed. Some of them my friends, some of them my enemies… I cannot rejoice in the killing of anyone.”

BOOM! He might as well have just screamed “YOU DON’T KNOW CUZ YOU WEREN’T THERE, MAN!” at Murray and the crowd went totally bonkers (to be fair to Paddy, he really doesn’t pull the whole ‘I’ve killed men with my bare hands’ thing out of the bag often enough. Hell, if it was me I think I’d finish just about every sentence with “and by the way, did I ever tell you that killed a man with my bare hands?”. More tea Mr Loudribs? “Yes please and by the way, did I ever tell you that killed a man with my bare hands?” You see what I’m getting at.)

So yes, from that point on, the tone was set. This was going to be a fight to the death affair and one in which only the strong would survive. Sensing that things were getting pretty hairy, Philip Hammond and Andy Burnham quickly went to ground and ventured out only to big up the Arab Spring while Armando Iannucci correctly guessed that comic intervention probably wasn’t called for at this point and found a foxhole of his own to cower in. By now the whole show had swung to focus exclusively on the running battle between Ashdown and Murray and what a battle it was. For his part, Ashdown would start every sentence with some reference to his days as a shadowy bringer of death (“I’ve been interrogated/fighting terrorism most of my life”) and finish it with a reference to “the rule of law”. This certainly proved to be a very potent weapon and one which the crowd loved, but lets not forget who he was up against: Douglas Murray, The Mentalist Bastard In Town.

It’s easy (and often entirely appropriate) to bash Murray given that he has fashioned an entire career from simply blabbing the most intensely crazy brand of ultra right-wing interventionism, but the man does deserve some credit for being utterly, utterly fearless. Sure, Paddy may well have had the monopoly on harrowing war stories but as powerful as they are, they are still given a run for their money by Murray’s insane capacity to soak up punishment and carry on as if nothing had happened. So it went that for every haymaker that Ashdown landed, Murray simply got straight back up, dusted himself off and then went on to say something even more potty than the last thing that left his mouth (“Killing terrorists is a good way to keep us safe” springs to mind). Neither would it be fair to say that he was without support from the crowd because he also had some fairly vocal cheerleaders, a few of whom also decide to get stuck into the ruck themselves (a special mention is warranted for the guy who objected very strongly to Paddy Ashdown referring to Bin Laden as a ‘man’. He was a special type of crazy, that guy). Anyway, whilst these two slugged it out and the other male panelists did their best not to soil themselves in the heat of combat we were also treated to the spectacle of Yasmin Alibhai-Brown wandering in an out of the Danger Zone like a hippy who had inadvertently stumbled into a riot police convention. In a way, I feel slightly sorry for her because she did make some valid points but in the face of such sustained firepower, it was pretty much impossible for her to stand her ground without being beaten to a bloody pulp. Sorry Yasmin, but this ain’t the Wright Stuff (which, by the way, is totally the best thing about sick days).

So that was the first half: An almighty clash of arms in which the crowd decreed Ashdown the winner while Murray never seems to have received this message and just carried on regardless. Emboldened by this triumph in the face of insanity, Ashdown thought himself to be in the perfect position to drive his offensive home and marched on to the sound of gunfire (which actually turned out to be a question about the coalition) with his back ramrod straight. Little did he know of the calamity that was to befall him and what appeared to be the Wide Open Plains of Imminent Victory actually turned out be the Hellish Quagmire of Crushing Defeat, but for the most unexpected of reasons: Andy Burnham. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s unexpected because I think Andy Burnham’s a crap politician. He’s not, but by the same token I wouldn’t exactly describe him as the world’s greatest orator AND he’s never killed anyone before. However, he is quite canny and while the whole Ashdown/Murray bunfight was going on, he had the nouce to find a place of relative safety and keep his powder dry for a fight he was more suited to. His opportunity came with the ‘will Clegg be blamed for the AV defeat’ question. After being given the first bite of the cherry by Dimbers, he moved into a more offensive disposition and warmed up with a hearty round of Lib Dem baiting that made much use of the word “betrayal”. At this point he was joined by Iannucchi who had been also waiting for more benign circumstances to prevail and lost no time in unleashing Teh Funneh along with a further side dish of “betrayal”. Sensing that this new alliance could quite possibly harbour the seeds of his destruction Ashdown attempted to defuse the situation with a light-hearted appeal to talk about torture some more, but the crowd didn’t bite. Worse still, those audience members who had only minutes earlier been cheering him as if he were the Second Coming now started to hurumph and appear positively restive. Faced with a heckler calling him a “sell-out”, Ashdown retreated to the only place coalition members seem to know when the going gets tough: The Bunker of Blame Labour. That really didn’t work and Burnham was right back in there, giving him what-for with regards the NHS, fees and anything else he could find to be semi-convincingly outraged about. A kerfuffle ensued but this time the action was very much one-sided as Ashdown kept tripping up as he tried to retreat and mangled his account of the coalition negotiations. The result was pretty ugly and despite a fairly spirited (if misguided) attempt at a last stand it all ended up with the hero of the Bin Laden question becoming the Bin Laden of the coalition question. Oh London, how fickle you are.

So that was that: Paddy Ashdown was Icarus, Murray was mental, Alibhai-Brown pained yet impotent, Iannucci had his moments and Burnham was a bolt from the blue. But wait! Aren’t we forgetting someone? Oh yes, there was Philip Hammond as well. You may be wondering how we’ve got so far with his name barely being mentioned but in actual fact, the explanation is pretty straight forward: The man is so intrinsically dull that he could well have been replaced with a stack of Readers Digests and no one would have noticed. Take for example this picture (see Fig. 1).

philip hammond grey

Fig. 1

Here we have Philip Hammond in front of Monet’s Venice Twilight. As we can see, the power of Hammond’s congenital greyness is actually leaching the colour out of the painting and rendering the area immediately around him devoid of hue (although interestingly, his tie appears impervious to this effect. I hear it was crafted from materials as yet unknown to science). Such is the power of his all-pervading insipidness that it actually has the power to cancel out excitement. Sure, he has a reputation as a steady pair of hands but in this episode he appeared like a supply teacher who had given up trying to actually teach anything years ago and instead just reads out loud from a textbook as the class run amuck and set fire to each others hair. Even when he was being quite spitefully needled by Dimbers (who had props in the form of posters Hammond had given the OK to) I still found it hard to muster any emotion beyond pure ambivalence and if I hadn’t spent a fair bit of time knocking up that photoshop on Thursday, I doubt I’d have anything to say about him at all. I never thought I’d say this but thank god for Douglas Murray.

Tl; dr

Hammond: 100% Grey

3/10

Ashdown: 50% Man of the Hour, 50% Whipping Boy.

6/10

Burnham: 25% Shirker, 25% Politician Trying to Sound Convincingly Angry, 50% Smiter of Ashdown.

7/10

Iannucci: 50% Sidelined, 50% Funny.

6/10

Alibhai-Brown: 33% Bleeding Heart Peacenik Commie, 33% “Dear Sir, Imagine My Concern”, 33% First Casualty of War.

5/10

Murray: 110% Sectionable.

7/10

The Crowd: 25% Andy McNabb Wannabes, 25% Well Rounded Individuals, 1000% Not Fans of the Lib Dems.

8/10

So there you go… An absolute belter of an episode that satisfied some deep-seated lust for blood that has haunted me for years. Now, as is customary from time-to-time, here’s a quick reminder that you can follow these reports on Facebook and Twitter and if you’re into these reports, do us a favour and pass ’em on to people who might like them. Oh, and just in case anyone was remotely interested in how the tour went, let me tell you that it was bloody ruddy great… until our other guitarist trapped his thumb in a taxi door and we had to cancel half the dates. Here’s the thumb in question:

'That' thumb...

I hate that thumb.

Next week Lemmings, next week…


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