Good morning Lemmings (or should I say ‘Ahoy there Sea Lemmings’) and welcome to a city that should hold a very dear place in your hearts, purely because it is the place of my birth. That’s right, you owe Portsmouth a big one because without it, what would you be doing right now? Well I’ll tell you one thing for sure, you wouldn’t be sitting here getting a hefty dose of post-Question Time nonsense and in all likelihood you’d actually be engaged in some sort panic buying, be it petrol, stamps or Steak Bakes. So three cheers for Pompey, that majestic beacon of brutalist architecture and warlike things that was kind enough to bring me into the world. Speaking of which, let’s also hear it for the very early onset of Silly Season this year as this has been the most ludicrously fun week in politics I can remember for some time and that’s even before we take into account Gorgeous George’s stunning little coup in the North. I heard him refer to it as the ‘the Bradford Spring’ this morning. Dammit George, you may be a self-aggrandising, cat-imitating, cranky-despot-in-the-making but boy are you value for money. Anyway, I digress… On to some Questionable Timing. Here’s what we learned last night:
1. Labour really need to get their act together, tout suite…
As I just mentioned, this week has been one of those magical moments in politics where absurdity reigns supreme and seeing how the Tories appear to be main purveyors of preposterousness, the chief beneficiaries of this febrile atmosphere should be none other than the Labour party, right? Well judging by last night’s show, maybe not. Why? Well, I’d hazard a guess at the following:
- Douglas Alexander was not the man for the job last night.
I’ve got nothing against Wee Dougie. He seems a nice (if somewhat bland) little chap who appears vaguely competent and tends to play things on the duller side of inoffensive. That’s all perfectly acceptable in my book as I have an innate respect for the mediocre and I also appreciate that as a defensive player, he can be rather canny. However, what Alexander is not is a balls-out, pedal-to-the-metal political hooligan and what was the one thing Labour needed last night? A balls-out, pedal-to-the-metal political hooligan. Seriously, I actually found it a little upsetting last night as there was so much potential for mischief from the Red Team yet Alexander simply didn’t have the pace, the instinct or the gumption to make any real hay from it. Ed Balls? As fatally compromised as he may be, he would have at least been able to harness those baser urges of his and would mostly likely have produced more hay than a Massey-Ferguson convention but no, instead we got a politician who although adept at identifying threats is simply not cut out to exploit opportunities. To shame Labour, to shame…
- By contrast, Anna Soubry was very much up for it.
Come on let’s face it, we were all secretly hoping that the Blue Team were going to send Francis Maude on last night. It would have been the crowning glory to a week of self-inflicted nonsense but alas, wiser heads prevailed at Conservative HQ and what we got instead was Anna Soubry, a politician whose stock has just gone up in my book. So why was she a good choice? Well for one, she is very much her own person who has no problem with taking positions that run contrary to the party line. Considering how the party line this week has been something along the lines of ‘whoopsie-titting-bollocks’, that can only be a good thing. The other key asset that Soubry has is that she doesn’t appear to be posh (a case in point being her stance on grammar schools) and considering how the whiff of privilege is fast becoming one of the most toxic odours emanating from the Tory party, this was also a thing of much goodness. So yes, in contrast to Wee Dougie, Soubry was the right person for the job and the Blue Team owe her big time for successfully navigating their rickety old sloop through such choppy waters.
- Labour are still incapable of making the political weather.
With the exception of Pastygate which seems to largely be the progeny of one very enterprising Labour MP, all of the open goals that have been presented to the Red Team this week have been entirely a result of the Conservatives own ineptitude and even then, Labour still find themselves vulnerable to counter-attacks (largely over the unions). Considering just how unpopular many of the measures this current government are taking are and just how much of a tin ear they have when it comes to communicating with people we would expect Labour to be heavily in the ascendant right now but they’re not. Why? Because aside from minor tinkering they still can’t articulate a plausible narrative as to what they would do differently and until they do we will continue to see them struggling to gain the initiative. Sort it out, Red Team.
2. Something horrible seems to have happened to Sarah Teather.
If I cast my mind back to the simpler times before the election I seem to recall that I actually grew rather fond of Sarah Teather. Ok, so I took the piss a bit when I insinuated that she was in fact made of interlocking circles but she did have a good line on the hopey-changey stuff and put in some very solid QT performances. However, it appears that all good things must come to an end and the Sarah Teather we got last night was a very different one from that of two years hence, one that appears to have been mentally ravaged by the experience of government. Take that awful moment in the first question when she failed to pick up on the actually quite funny joke made by an audience member about setting your house ablaze during a fire brigade strike. Now I’m a little torn as to whether she genuinely didn’t get it or was just being wilfully aloof but the result was terrible and made her come across like a really uptight school mistress who does not, repeat NOT, find the rudimentary schoolboy drawings of willies on the toilet walls to be funny. Admittedly things did pick up for her a little later on but I was constantly getting the impression that being in government is really hard for Teather and that it requires a considerable amount of self-censorship on her part. That in itself isn’t entirely unusual (in fact, lip biting appears to be the pastime of choice for left learning Lib Dems these days) but the way it manifests with Teather is because she appears to be troubled by an imaginary wagging finger that scolds her every time a non-government endorsed notion pops into her head. That’s a real pity because her appeal used to lay in the fact that she could be quite passionate when she was emotionally invested in a particular issue but now she just seems to have actively repressed her own beliefs to the point that she’s lost a part of herself and that’s a sad thing to witness. Maybe a pasty would cheer her up.
3. The Civilian Panelist were so-so.
Is it just me or could Alexei Sayle simply not be arsed with being on Question Time last night? Maybe it was the rambling answers (‘I don’t care’ → ‘Something about the North’ → ‘Capitalists and that’), maybe it was the fact that he looked like he had a raging hangover (nothing says ‘Oh God, just make it stop’ like sitting with your head in your hands for an hour) but yes, he didn’t exactly look like he had a song in his heart or a spring in his step. By contrast, Simon Jenkins was much more game but he never really got the opportunity to do what he does best: Be difficult for the sake of it. Ok, so he looked like he might get a little cantankerous on the matter of the Falklands and he had the odd moment of wit on the petrol crisis but there was nothing for him to get his teeth really stuck into. However, I am pleased to announce that I have finally obtained conclusive evidence that his face is in fact made of sandstone. Behold Fig. 1 (and really behold it because it is far and away the most technically mind bending thing I’ve ever done in Photoshop).
(Was as hushed as the Mary) Celeste
Suppressed (the urge to go absolutely batshit crazy)
The Crowd: 6/10
(Didn’t get) Undressed
So that’s, that… A good episode that could have been great had Labour put up someone with a little more vim, not to mention the luckiest of escapes for the Tories. Anyhoo, that’s enough from me until after Easter but I shall see you three weeks hence when Question Time will be coming to my home of the last 10 years, Leeds. Operation Try And Blag My Way Into The Audience is go! Let’s just hope it’s a little more successfully than the last two times I gave this little maneuver a whirl.
After Easter Lemmings, after Easter…