Questionable Time #20

questionable time 20 david dimbleby mona lisa

Good morning Lemmings oh God, this is going to be a little trickier than I anticipated. You see, the problem I’ve got is that is that I spent my whole week lulling myself into a false sense of security for the following reasons:

      1. Dewsbury is just down the road from me, I’ve covered it before and was pretty confident that things would pan out in a certain way.
      2. Whilst I didn’t (despite strenuous efforts) manage to get on the show myself, I did manage to insert a spy into the audience in the form of the redoubtable @smokethiscity. After a week of intensive QT coaching and espionage training I deployed my little Manchurian Candidate to Dewsbury with a clutch of pre-prepared questions and a communication device (see Fig. 1). Advantage Loudribs.
      3. Thanks to my new-found knack for subterfuge I also gained valuable prior knowledge with regards to the composition of the panel. Given that they were all repeat offenders whose foibles are well documented I was now supremely confident that I had the drop on this week’s episode.

Fig. 1

So yes, I had it all figured out. Starkey would be insufferable, Clarke would flounder but everyone would be very kind to him whilst the politicians would provide me with the regular meat and potatoes I need to make a decent Questionable Time. For once I was holding all the cards and I’ve spent most of this week looking forward to a nice, easy Friday write-up that would call for very little effort on my part. So why am I sitting here right now feeling like my brain’s about to explode? Here’s why:

1. Bloody Starkey

I think I can be forgiven for simply assuming that David Starkey was going to be a breeze to write-up this week given that the man’s a vortex of absurdity who seems to grab every opportunity to get a little repellent and theatrical with both hands. In fact, I could pretty much get away with giving him a good kicking in today’s Questionable Time as he did spend a disproportionate amount of time accusing audience members of “insolence”, having a go at the French for being smelly ingrates and being told (very firmly no less) to shut up by Dimbers, all of which is exactly the sort of dickish behaviour we’ve come to expect from him. The problem is that even though I would very much like to stick the boot in (not only would it be easy, it would also be incredibly fun), I just can’t bring myself to because in actual fact, he came out with some good stuff last night. HEY, WHERE ARE YOU ALL GOING?! COME BACK! I KNOW IT SOUNDS CRAZY BUT HEAR ME OUT!

Ok, still with me? Good. Let’s start with the NHS question. Now, as Starkey rightly pointed out, we as a nation get a little bit crazy with the Cheeze Whizz whenever the topic of health is bought up and in no area is this tendency more pronounced than that of GP’s, Unimpeachable Bastions of Moral Integrity that they are. Here’s the thing though, I used to work in primary care and while I can confirm that the vast majority of GP’s are Hard Working Pillars of the Community there is also a minority that are, for want of a better word, Money-Grubbing Bastards. It’s not a nice thing to say but it’s true and there are many practices out there that use every possible trick in the book to squeeze as much as they can out of the NHS for their own personal enrichment. Given that suggesting such a thing in public is only slightly less socially-acceptable than telling children that Santa’s dead, it takes a certain amount of guts to shine a light on this issue and Starkey deserves some credit for that.

Similarly, he also had some worthy stuff to say on the segregation question, particularly when it comes to the thorny issue of what do we do when the rights of two minorities collide (which in this case was the right of the gay community to be gay and the ‘right’ of a small section of the Islamic community to hate people being gay). Now, this is an area that most people shy away from because not only is it loaded with emotion, it is also savagely complicated and littered with squares that can’t be circled without some very hard and very painful soul-searching. Yet again though, Starkey had the chops to bring it up.

So here I am in a quandary: On the one hand I simply can’t get past the fact that watching Starkey is like watching an enormous trifle made of bile and that all the histrionics (“he thinks he’s Moses!”) do nothing to lessen that perception. However, I have to admit that unappealing as it is, that trifle does – in places – actually taste quite good and I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s even a hint of nutritional value in it. Ah, bugger it. I can’t keep this of level cognitive maturity up… Here’s a puerile photoshop of a very fruity looking David Starkey circa-some-time-in-the-mid-’80’s (see Fig. 2). There, that feels better.


Fig. 2

2. Clarke Carlisle absolutely blew me away.

Ok, I confess. I spent the first part of this episode being an absolute snob towards Clarke Carlisle. “Awwwwwww…” I thought out loud, “Look at the little footballer fluffing his careful rehearsed lines and looking totally out of his depth. Bless.”. So yes, again I was lulled into the notion that he’d be a doddle to write-up as he was performing exactly how one would expect a footballer on QT to perform. Then the segregation question landed and I was forced to instantly STFU for from this unassuming figure gushed a torrent of utter brilliance. Seriously, his response to that question hit so many nails on the head and did so with such obvious passion that I was completely taken aback. I can’t even remember exactly it was that he said but the way he said it put an instant song in my heart and for the first time in God knows how long I actually felt myself actively rooting for a panelist. So I’m sorry Clarke Carlisle. I’m sorry for being snobby and doubting you and I’m also sorry for that time when I inadvertently made your name a high-ranking result for the search term ‘pissflaps’. BFF’s?

3. The other panelists mattered not a jot.

So with all this Clarkey-Starkey business going on, I guess it’s fair to ask how our three political panelists did and if I’m being honest, there’s not a great deal to tell. Part of this was that because it was a very evenly split crowd so no-one really got the upper hand at any point, but it’s also because it was a very middle-weight panel in which the combatants were quite evenly matched. Sure, John Redwood was (as always) a little weird, Rachel Reeves a little over-briefed and Jo Swinson a little unbalanced by some torn loyalties but no-one really buggered anything up and nor could they really make their voices heard over Starkey’s shrill rhetorical antics. As a result I’m awarding all the politicos an arbitrary ‘5’. There’s no shame in it guys… Mediocrity is under-rated.


Redwood: 5/10

Largely fine.

Reeves: 5/10

I can’t whine.

Swinson: 5/10

Pretty benign

Starkey: 6/10

Bit of a swine

Carlisle: 8/10

Did shine

The Crowd: 7/10

Contained a spy (who dropped me a line).

So there you go, despite all my efforts to play puppet master and have myself an easy Friday my efforts have been in vain. Clearly myself and @smokethiscity aren’t CIA material. On a rather more sombre note, I’d just like to take this opportunity to say a fond farewell to Bob Franklin, a regular commenter on Questionable Time who sadly passed away last month. I always greatly valued his support, opinion and kind words and my thoughts are with Di, Toby and Rupert.

Next time Bob, next time…


3 Responses to “Questionable Time #20”

  1. 1 English_Tory March 3, 2012 at 19:36

    Bizarre. Clark’s response to the segregation question highlighted how dense this man is, and yet you thought he was incredibly illuminating? Why? His suggestion that children be ‘reeducated’ (one presumes by some appointed moral Tsar) prompted a quick retort from Starkey: ‘just like Chairman Mao!’. Quite right. How anyone could think his response to that question were profound remains a mystery to me, especially given the fact that you thought Starkey’s response was quite ‘ballsy’, well, Starkey’s response was an antipode to what Clark said: a complete advocation of the absolute freedom of expression, the absense of which engenders communal boundaries. All in all, Clark was very facile, very average.

    Starkey on the other hand was perceptive and candid as ever: this is clearly a man that doesn’t brook fools and doesn’t mince his words; do-gooder liberals and the poncy middle class shy away from straight talking – fine, that’s their loss. We need more candour and less honeying of words.

    His highlighting over the issue of Vichy France was succinct and poignant – I’m at a loss as to why people have taken umbrage over that point.

    As for your rating – what the hell were you watching? You give Clark 8/10? The man is facile – he’s coherent, I’ll give him that: he doesn’t stumble or mumble, but his points are idiotic; don’t be fooled by form over substance.

    Redwood is dry, he’s a bit dull, but boy, does he have a sharp economic mind. He performed better than 5/10; don’t be put off by his lack of cadence and charisma. The man is head and shoulders, intellectually, over the two dopey Lib/Lab women. Starkey, however, dwarfs all on the panel intellectually. I’m baffled as to why you take issue with his abruptness – he’s clearly a man that doesn’t suffer fools – so be it. I’m bored of the audience asking dumb questions; but conversely, it’s evident he respects valid and important points raised by audience members. It was also evident to me that he respects Redwood.

    • 2 loudribs March 4, 2012 at 12:13

      Alas, I fear we probably were watching the same show and that we’ll have chalk this up as ‘a difference of opinion’. To tell you the truth, I knew I was in trouble when it came to this episode as no-one was going to be happy with what I had to say. Why? Because Starkey is just too damn polarising and trying to take a more measured approach with him (i.e acknowledging that he has some good stuff to say whilst also registering that he says it in the most ghastly way possibly) yields nothing but scorn from both sides of the spectrum. Carlisle however, well he was more clear cut: He spoke of admirable sentiments (if not in great depth) in a way that resonated with people – that’s why he gets points. Starkey? He could of expounded a blueprint for a water-tight cure to cancer and people will have still hated him because his only way of communicating seems to be by insulting people. Was it fun to watch? Yes. Did it do anything to help his cause? No, no, no.

      However, I will give you this: Redwood probably did deserve more points as he was much more measured and much more moderate than he usually is. He had plenty of opportunities to revert-to-type and go absolutely mental but he didn’t. So yes, sorry Mr Redwood, I owe a point.

  2. 3 English_Tory March 4, 2012 at 13:41

    The problem as I see it is this: the vast majority of people seem to think every opinion is of equal worth – I happen to take the old crusty view that this isn’t true: some opinions are better than others. It’s pretty clear to me that Starkey tows that line as well – so he jumps down the throat of those that make insipid or silly points, but equally, you have to recognise that he respects important contributions, like one of the audience members asking candidly what the difference was between Libya & Syria. The man isn’t mawkish at all; I think most people nowadays – or least some people – like their ‘public intellectuals’ to honey their words. Starkey doesn’t do that.

    Actually, I think this is a class thing – it seems to me that lower / working class folk like Starkey, whilst middle class ‘intellectual’ types despise him.

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March 2012

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