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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
I can’t whine.
Bit of a swine
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…