Questionable Time #14


questionable time 14 david dimbleby

Good morning Lemmings and brace thyselves for I have a confession to make: I think I might be developing a strange affinity with Baroness Warsi. Now, before you all run away in horror (I can hear a thousand laptops clacking shut in my head right now) allow me to explain: This isn’t an affinity based on any sort of shared worldview or spiritual kinship. Instead, it’s entirely circumstantial and stems from the fact that the very first Question Time I ever covered also happened to be Warsi’s first outing on Grown Up QT (she had previously been on the panel for the 2007 schools edition) and as a result we have a shared history. It’s like starting a new job on the same day as someone else. You may well dislike them intensely but for better or worse, your fates are somehow bound up together and whatever latent animosity you may feel for the person in question is always tempered by the memories of that first day.

So yes, Warsi and I have a shared QT career and as a result I’ve had the dubious honour of watching her technique develop over the years. In the early days this worked heavily in my favour as the Baroness always came with a cast iron guarantee that she would say something stupid and provide me with plenty of material to poke fun at. Most of the time this would involve a scenario where she’d open with a point that the crowd seemed to agree with before utterly overplaying her hand and painting herself into a usually hilarious corner (‘doing a Warsi’ as it came to be known). However, judging by last night’s performance, this isn’t so much of a problem any more… Ok, so she did get tangled in the rigging of the Royal Yacht question and also managed to cancel out her own argument when she got cajoled into admitting that a weak opposition is bad for democracy, but we’re not talking about the Black Hawk Down-esque scenes that regularly accompanied her earlier appearances. In short, she’s finally learned to rein it in a bit.

So credit where credit’s due, this is an improvement but let’s not get too carried away for like Alan Greenspan I have found a flaw: She’s now started getting really personal. The main recipients of this new and frankly frightening tactic took the form of Stephen Twigg and Caroline Lucas, both of whom were treated to sustained assaults that usually started with Warsi invoking their name and following it up some form of ‘you of all people’ accusation. Now, when deployed sparingly this can be a fruitful avenue of attack but the important word in that sentence is ‘sparingly’ and it’s a word that appears to be largely lost on Warsi. Instead it became her go-to method and that just left her looking a little petty. True, ‘petty’ is preferable to ‘wildly out of control’, but it still took the sheen off an otherwise improved performance. So keep trying my little coincidental fellow traveller for the road is long. With many a winding turn. That leads us to where – oh enough already.

Moving swiftly on (as dwelling on my feelings towards Warsi is starting to feel a little weird) I think it’s fair to say that both Lucas and Twigg put in pretty solid performances last night but performances that were not without their blemishes. In Lucas’ case it appears that the Falklands was her downfall as she had a real problem with trying to shoehorn the circle of self-determination into the square of pacifism. However, I’m inclined towards leniency as she did put in the hours when it came to questions about the economy and she punches above her weight for a one-person-party. As for Twigg, well he proved to be pretty nimble but not nimble enough to outsmart the ‘what the hell are Labour for’ question. In fairness to him though I don’t think even Houdini could have escaped from that one as right now no-one knows what Labour is for, least of all their frontbench politicians. Apart from that though I can’t find much to quibble about as it was a generally proficient performance.

Next up are the civilians and I must say I was pleasantly surprised by Germaine Greer and Charles Moore, both of whom confounded my expectations. In the case of Greer I suspect that this is because she seemed to be in a very good mood last night and kept the finger wagging/scowling to a minimum. Ok, so she did try her usual trick of forcibly wrenching questions from their contextual habitat so that she could bang on about something only tenuously related but it wasn’t laden with the matronly hurumphing that she can be guilty of. And as for Moore? Well although he completely lost me towards the end with his love of all things regal I must say that he was a picture of fairness when it came to the Labour question and his outburst of mischief when he fingered Chris Huhne as the yacht leaker was pretty entertaining. It also reminded me that he wrote this article last year. If you have the time, give it a look because it knocked me sideways to hear an ex-editor of both The Telegraph and The Spectator talk so much sense.

Finally, we have the crowd and – much like the panel – I can’t find many sticks to beat them with as they displayed a level of buoyant vocality that served this episode very well. Oh wait, I’ve just remembered that I do have one crowd beating stick up my sleeve and that’s the tartan jacket worn by the Royalist lady. Man, that thing was so overpoweringly tartan that I hardly slept last night, wracked as I was by visions of intersecting black and red lines every time I shut my eyes. Post-Tartan Stress Disorder, it’s serious business.

Tl;dr

Warsi: 5/10

Learning

Twigg: 6/10

Earning (his dinner last night)

Lucas: 6/10

Turning (out to be pretty good)

Greer: 6/10

Churning (out her usual stuff, but in a very reasonable manner)

Moore: 7/10

Concerning(ly good)

The Crowd: 6/10

Gurning (from exposure to weapons grade tartan)

Oh and by the way, just before I go some of you may be wondering why you haven’t come across a tenuously funny/topical photoshops yet. Well, I’ll be straight with you, some weeks the photoshopping is a breeze and sometimes it’s a nightmare, mainly on account of the panel. For example, should Nigel Farage or Chris Bryant be on then you know it’s going to be a doddle as the internet is teeming with ridiculous photos of them. This lot however are not so forthcoming. Ok, so there are plenty of back-in-the-day shots of Greer looking counter-saucy but any resulting manipulation would just look bitter and all the good ideas I had involving the Royal Yacht were soon put off-limits by the Costa Concordia disaster. However, I am a martyr to my cause and I did manage to cobble something together. The problem is that it’s just so ridiculous that it didn’t really fit in anywhere so I’ve decided to bury it right at the bottom. Lemmings and Gentlemen, I give to you Stephen Twigg getting his sandwich stolen by a fishing rod wielding Caroline Lucas (see Fig. 1). I just work here, ok?

stephen-twigg-caroline-lucas-fishing-sandwich

Fig. 1

Next week Lemmings, next week…

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