Morning Lemmings and apologies in advance for my mind is somewhat fractured today. Why? Well mainly because I spent all last night turning my 32-bit Windows into the slightly more splendid 64-bit version whilst sharing my living room with a cat who simply loves jumping on my computer’s on/off button (a process that’s not dissimilar to defusing a bomb in the presence of a curious toddler). As a result my sleep has been tormented by visions of my precious data howling in pain whilst if I close my eyes all I see is a giant progress bar that seems to be going backwards. In short, I’m feeling a little febrile right now. With this in mind, let us make haste and sally forth to what was a pretty good episode of Question Time, coming as it was from the hallowed innards of the Palace of Westminster.
Right, first up we have Home Secretary Theresa May who has been on something of a QT journey in the past couple of years and one which has mainly displayed an upward trajectory. Prior to being in government, May was pretty much a QT disaster on legs and it almost seemed as if her mouth were less a functional organ and more a portal into a world composed entirely of nonsense (see Fig. 1). However, upon assuming the mantle of Home Secretary she regained some of her composure and a new-found calmness started to peek through, something that I must say caught me off guard a little. Sure, she didn’t stop dressing like an astronaut and her capacity to get very Tory, very quickly was still much in evidence, but overall everything just seemed to be a little more measured. So that was then, but what of now? Well, to tell you the truth I think something’s really rattled May and what we saw last night was actually quite a faltering performance, almost as if she were walking on stilts whilst trying very hard to make it look like she wasn’t. Ok, so she didn’t do badly on the pensions question and largely held her own in the areas where she’d been properly briefed but there was still this lingering tinge of panic that coloured her responses, almost as if her mind was constantly telling her ‘Shit! They’re onto me!’. Her encounters with Balls were fairly instructive on this front and while she did get some claps for a pretty tawdry recital of ‘The Nation’s Credit Card’ you could still see her brain going like the clappers, trying to identify the myriad of threats she perceived to be bearing down on her. So yes, something has put the frighteners on her and if I were to take a wild shot stab in the dark, I may venture that this summer’s complete breakdown of everything law and order related may have something to do with it. I know, it’s a crazy theory but there you go.
Talking of Ed Balls, after watching him last night I found myself coming to the conclusion that he is the person I would least like to be my doctor. It’s not the fact that he has no medical training, nor that my partner has an inexplicable crush on him that puts me off, it’s just that his face is so innately implausible. Seriously, with that permanent Cheshire Cat grin he displays I really can’t fathom whether he’s flat-out lying to me or just a little pleased with himself and this doesn’t commend him to the role of my GP. “The test results are back Mr. Loudribs!” I can hear him say, “Everything is fine!”. “Oh my God, I must have cancer!” would be my response.
So yes, Balls is a slippery customer and as is par for his course he spent most of the show splitting hairs and sounding like a snake oil merchant. However, there was a brief moment in the middle of the show when he did something I’ve never witnessed before: He sounded like he was genuinely telling the truth. This occurred on the Europe question and following a dithering response from May he launched into a passionate and actually quite searing critique of the government’s position. This caused May to start lurching all over the place and, unable to help himself in the presence of a wounded foe, Balls lapsed back into his more familiar mode of point-scoring one-upmanship. But for a brief moment there, it did actual happen: I actually believed something that Ed Balls was saying. Either that, or the stress induced by reformatting my computer had finally sent me over the edge and the whole thing was an illusion conjured up by a brain that had lost its footing. I hope it’s the former, but I really can’t rule out the latter.
Our final party-political bod this week comes in the form of Shirley Williams and I must say how struck I was by the mellowness she displayed. Usually Shirley can be counted on to rhetorically bop various panelists on the nose whilst thundering away about something that sounds very worthy, but last night she seemed much more at peace with the world and tended to stay out of the bigger rucks. Having said that, she did at one point unilaterally call for the removal of Berlusconi, an act that doesn’t sit well under the heading ‘Mellow’ so I’m not overly concerned that she’s going to hang up her spurs any time soon.
All of which leaves us with our two civilians, Peter Hitchens and Benjamin Zephaniah. Now, I have a confession to make when it comes to Hitchens: I have a horrible feeling I might actually quite like the guy. Sure, our opinions couldn’t be further apart and he does have the capacity to freak me out (like when he said the biggest measure of wellbeing was “faith in God” whilst staring so intensely at the camera that I worried my TV would explode) but I need a Peter Hitchens in my life. I need him because I require a counterpoint to my opinions and he provides that whilst being slightly more tolerable than the likes Phillips and Heffer. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to charge off and join the Peter Hitchens Fan Club but I can co-exist with him quite happily, something which can’t be said for the bulk of his more rabid counterparts. Oh, and he does deserve an extra mark for his part in the magical little scene that unfolded when he declared that “the BBC don’t believe in God”.
“Have a care, Hitchens” came Dimbers response.
And what of Zaphaniah? Well, my fear was that his line would be a very ‘them and us’ sort of affair and there were times when his approach was a little too simplistic. However, he did have some good points in there and he made them well thanks to his generally pleasant manner. Ok, so he might not be up to speed on all the details and there’s only so many times you can invoke the name of “the people” before I get annoyed but he was never in any real danger of making a fool of himself and he generally came across as a pretty decent bloke who isn’t afraid to speak his mind.
Considering the above, it’s tempting to chalk this up as a bit of a damp squib of an episode as there were never any major fireworks and the questions failed to spark any incidents that held true drama, but there was plenty going on in the background that you could see from the corner of your eye. Granted, the audience weren’t the most exciting bunch (although I was into the young man who harangued Balls for making questionable gestures in the Commons) and the grand setting didn’t really live up to it’s billing but yes, I quietly enjoyed it.
Cobbled (together any old rubbish to advance his agenda)
Gobbled (too much Valium)
Nobbled (May on a few occasions)
The Crowd: 5/10
Right, that’s that done… I’m off to install the ten millionth update to my computer and get angry with drivers. My life: It’s a rollercoaster ride of action and adventure.
Next week Lemmings, next week…