Morning Lemmings and welcome to a brand new rule I’m instigating for all further Post Match Reports: Scotland, you are getting your word count cut, mainly because I haven’t got a clue what you’re talking about. Granted, you’re not as bad as the episodes from Northern Ireland where I really don’t have the slightest inkling about who’s who but since you seem to love making Question Time into a ‘Scotland this’ and ‘Scotland that’ circlejerk, I’m cutting back on how much I write as any attempt to give you the full treatment is pretty much an exercise in ignorance on my part (for all I know, the rumours are true and all that lies north of the border is a barren landscape inhabited by a wild rabble of straggly haired men who hunt wild Mars Bars while the womenfolk raise crops of super strength lager, but if it came to the crunch, I wouldn’t really be able to tell you one way or another). In short, I’m keeping this short.
Excuses made, let us plough on and get stuck into our first victim who this week takes the spectral form of Lord Forsyth, the back-in-the-day Secretary of State for Scotland under John Major. Now, I have absolutely no recollection of this guy as a) he was Secretary of State for Scotland and b) I was 17 when he left government but I thought I had a pretty good idea of what I was in for and not in a good way given his background. However, what I was not banking on was just how spooky his presentation is. Some of this down to his slow, halting and low-key verbal delivery but in the main it’s a by-product of this haunted look that is forever stricken across his face. It’s the look of a man who has passed through some terrible night of the soul, seen things that no man should see and now lives a life tormented by the daemons he encountered. Still, things started to take on a more familiar form with the first question (the VAT cut/economy number) and he was soon going through the standard motions of blaming Labour, banging on about debt and generally playing to type. “Phew” thought I, “I know all this stuff is a very tired and boring but at least I know where I am with this guy”. And so I did until it got the question about the right to die. Now, I usually hate it when questions of an ethical nature appear on Question Time as a) it usually ends up with everyone in back slapping agreement and b) matters of this nature are much better suited to Sunday morning’s The Big Question (especially when that old lady with the crazy beehive hairdo is on. She’s like a Daily Mail article composed entirely out of quotes from the Old Testament). However, I was totally blindsided by Forsyth’s response and in a very good way as when it came to his turn to speak he responded by saying “I really don’t know what to think about this”. Come again? Was that a politician claiming not to have an opinion on something? I have a sneaking suspicion it was and if so, kudos to him as I tire of the fact that politicians are pretty much allowed to do anything except admit that don’t have a position on a particular subject.
So that cheered me up and after a thoughtful and well put together amble around the ins and outs of right to die he then cranked it up another couple of notches by stating that Osborne was wrong for taxing the oil sector. The crowd loved it, Margaret Curran loved it, I loved it (primarily because it’s rare to see a panelist so wantonly break the party line) and Michael Moore hated it. In short, jobs a good ‘un and Lord Forsyth has made a bloody good fist of confounding my expectations, even if I couldn’t give a monkeys about the level of taxation in the Scottish oil industry.
Sticking with the slightly Halloweeny theme we now move on to Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland and a man who is probably best portrayed by a leering pumpkin in our sepulchral scene. In many ways you’ve got to hand it to Salmond and not only for being the only man in Scotland if Question Time is anything to go by. No, I also give him props for being an epic chancer who has a knack for pulling one out of the bag, even if it’s by the skin of his teeth. This being his first QT outing since he crushed Labour in the recent election, Salmond had every right to bear his jagged, pumpkin teeth and he made some early gains by more or less promising to shower Scotland with cold, hard cash. However, as the show moved on and got to the question about a referendum, the smile appeared on closer inspection to be a little gappy, a little crooked and slightly yellowing as the audience called his bluff on the subject. Now, I personally couldn’t give two hoots about Scottish independence as it has no great bearing on my life. Sure, the Union Flag would look a little odd without the blue bits but providing that the whiskey keeps heading south and no-one with the intention of invading daubs themselves with blue paint then we’re golden. However, I do understand that it is a big deal on the other side of the border and Salmond probably found himself at the wrong end of the issue last night. So was it a showstopper? In short, no. Salmond may have got flustered but he’s nothing if not dogged and took his licks before cleaning up on the oil question. And that’s why I do have a certain level of admiration for him: Whatever he’s selling, it’s probably a little hooky but he still gets people to buy it even if they themselves are aware that the goods are tainted. I also admire him for this photo of him pretending to be a rabbit (see Fig. 1).
Ok, so we’ve got a ghoul, we’ve got a pumpkin, how about a witch? On the face of it, Margaret Curran should fill this slot rather well, given that she has a somewhat witchy face but in actual fact she seemed quite nice. I can’t really remember that much of what she said and none of it was especially brilliant but she does deserve credit for having a sense of humour and generally being quite reasonable on most matters. So yes, not your classic nasty witch, just a fairly nice person with slightly witchy features. However, the same cannot be said for Michael Moore as he did a bang up job of providing us with a Lurch like character, mainly through dint of being the most boring man to listen to in the entire world. Seriously, I checked my notes earlier as I have no recollection of what he was droning on about and all I found were random scribbles by his initials like “DON’T KNOW WHAT HE’S SAYING”, “CAN’T CONCENTRATE ON THIS PILLOCK” and “DEAR SWEET JESUS, KILL ME NOW”. What was apparent was that no-one liked him, Forsyth certainly wasn’t in the market for helping him out and he copped pretty much all of the flak directed at the coalition. Basically, he was powerfully boring and we probably would have had a better performance out of a reanimated corpse. Is that quite a harsh assessment? Yes. Is it also a fair assessment? Absolutely.
So that was the politicos and all we have left is Tom Hunter, a Scottish businessman who I’ve never come across before and is in possession of a very sinister set of eyebrows, thus completing our spooky line-up with some aplomb. Now, I’m not usually a fan of entrepreneurs and their ilk on QT as they usually tend to be a bit rabid and mental in a Tax Payers Alliance sort of way. However, I’ve got to say that I liked Hunter as while he did bang the business drum a fair bit, at least he did it in a jaunty and pleasant fashion. He also seems to be a little more rounded than your standard money types and although he didn’t get much of a look in last night, when he did it was usually with fairly reasonable stuff and with the odd bit of humour here and there. The eyebrows are still scary though and when they’re combined with that bald head he looks a little like a cross between Ming the Merciless and Colonel Kurtz. Jesus, that is scary.
Right, so that’s them and all that remains is the crowd, most of whom appeared to be Scottish, interested in oil and all for offing themselves as soon as they hit 60 (if the right to die question was anything to go by). Actually, I tell a partial lie as bizarrely enough, the member of the audience who made the most passionate appeal for Scottish independence was also the most English sounding person in the whole show. Don’t ask me, I just work here. A special mention also goes out to the doctor and nurse who had a running to-do over assisted suicide. Personally, I’m with the doctor although not through any major point of principle but mainly because he had a very natty jacket.
The Crowd: 5/10
So there you go, an Ok-ish show, littered with a bunch of people who can’t quite make their minds up about issues I have zero interest/stake in. Still, it could have been worse. It could have been Glasgow. At least I could physically decipher what these guys were saying and I didn’t have to hide behind the sofa for fear that the drunken mob may break through the television screen and smash-up my living room. Ok, after offending an entire nation, I’m off to enjoy not moving house.
Next week Lemmings, next week…