Good morning Lemmings and before we get under way I would just like to take a minute to relate a rather bizarre story that unfolded exactly a week ago today. Having just literally pressed the ‘Post’ button on last week’s Questionable Time I got a knock on the door and found myself confronted by two smartly turned out representatives of the local Labour party. Sensing an opportunity for some gentle mischief I then spent the next five minutes explaining how my ‘Never Vote For An Incumbent’ rule leaves them with an outside chance that I might put a tick in their box at the next election but they had better not count on it because I have a long memory and still can’t quite forgive New Labour for this, that and the other. Rightly sensing that much tastier and lower hanging fruit may lie further down the street (it turns out bearded men in dirty tracky bottoms aren’t the core demographic they are after), they politely took their leave and moved on to pastures afresh. So far, so ‘meh’. Anyhoo, off I went to the kitchen to crack on with the washing up and as I was gazing listlessly out of the window when I caught sight of a small figure moving purposefully down the street. Then something started stuttering in my brain. “Hmmmmm….” I thought as I ran the hot water “why is this seemingly innocuous scene giving me the jibblies? Is the Matrix glitching again?”. Squinting a little as I tried to seek out the cause of this weird sensation I was suddenly deafened by the sound of a thousand pennies dropping. “That’s not…. It can’t be…Wait… No… IS THAT RACHEL BLOODY REEVES?!?!”
Within seconds my mind had gone into complete meltdown: “But… But you were only on my telly a few hours ago and I’ve just spent the whole day writing about you! I must have gone too far. I must have blogged too hard and am now hallucinating about members of the Shadow Cabinet stalking me. Oh my God, this is how it starts! This is how people end up inside Secure Units!” At this point I stopped making conscious decisions and felt the hand of compulsion grab me firmly by the scruff of the neck. Out I went, out into the street and before any of my usual social circuit breakers could kick in there I was, barefoot and hollering “RACHEL REEVES I JUST GAVE YOU FIVE OUT OF TEN!”. The figure stopped in her tracks and turned to face the source of all the commotion. “Bloody hell, that is Rachel Reeves! And bloody hell, she’s coming over here!”
As to what happened next, well that will probably never be known as I was no longer even slightly in command of my faculties but I do remember her saying “Five out of ten?” to which I responded with “Something something Questionable Time! Something something you were just on my telly and now you’re on the internet! Something something something!”. To her credit, she took it in her stride and allowed me to babble on (although I do remember a big neon light saying “SHE’S BLAGGING” pinging on in my fevered brain as she neither confirmed nor denied that she had any idea as to what ‘Questionable Time’ may be) before slowly withdrawing and making good her escape. And there I stood, bemused, dishevelled and not even remotely interested in doing the washing up any more. I gathered myself just enough to put together a garbled tweet and minutes later my phone pings to tell me that Rachel Reeves is now following me on Twitter. Was that the whiff of burning plastic I could smell emanating from cranium? I think it might have been.
Anyway, I’m bringing this up for three reasons:
- It’s was really, really weird and I feel compelled to share the weirdness.
- I would very much like to take this opportunity to tell all future panelists of Question Time that they best not be getting any ideas and trying this out for themselves. It is not ok to go swanning passed my house on the day that I’m straining every inch of my brain to poke fun at them. It’s not right and there are probably laws against it. Rachel Reeves I can forgive: She’s my local MP and as a consequence she has a hall pass but the rest of you guys? No. It’s not on.
- Recounting this tale has eaten up a good 700 words and that’s just dandy in my book because I was having real trouble making anything out of this episode.
And why would that be? Well, I guess part of it is because I had entirely the wrong attitude when it came to last night’s show. I was looking for a damn good hating and both Eric Pickles and Will Self have very good track records in stoking my hate levels (Pickles for frequently being on the wrong side of the folksy/condescending line and spectacularly buggering up my life since he’s been in government, Self for saying a great many things that I completely agree with but saying them in a way that makes me feel nauseous and wretched). Add into that a generic Mail columnist in the form of Janice Atkinson (or is it Janice Atkinson-Small? The internet stands in defiance to Dimber’s assertion of the former) and we’re on for a right old session of heartburn and high blood pressure, right? Wrong!
In the case of Pickles I thought I was onto a winner as he spent the first question looking pissed off and constipated whilst saying approximately nothing at very great length. However, that trend was not to last and by the second question he found himself largely on the right side of the folksy/condescending line, even if it was at times through gritted teeth. Add into this some rather disarming outbursts of humour tinged with barely submerged contempt for his peers (I did really like it when he started scrawling out Atkinson’s notes) plus a remarkably reasonable stance on gay marriage then it becomes clear that this wasn’t going to be the day that I could absolutely let rip on him. It is still however the day that I can post a photoshop I made of Eric Pickles as a pickle (see Fig. 1). No one rides for free around here.
As for Self, well he really wasn’t as obnoxious as he usually is and I have to say that the points he made on both Afghanistan and the railways were very, very good. Ok, his pulling of the ‘Ooooooooooh!’ face in response to something Atkinson said did grind my gears a little but in the general scheme of things he did well. So that just leaves Atkinson on my Hate Bench and given her day job, I was pretty sure that she would whip me up into a frothy lather of spittle and bile. As it turns out, she couldn’t and I put this down to the fact that I never really had a clue what she was talking about. It wasn’t so much the content as the jarring and completely arbitrary pauses that seemingly came out of nowhere, not to mention her halting ramblings about a “leaky pipeline” and female MPs. In short, she just left me bewildered.
Hmmmm… So not a lot of hate to be had here and given that our next two panelists are none other than Caroline Flint and Will Young, it swiftly became clear that my Thursday night was going to end up becalmed and adrift in serenity. Now, I know that some of you are going to wonder why I’m making Caroline Flint out to be some sort of beacon of tranquillity as she can be both combative and irksome so allow me to explain: Ever since Questionable Time has been going, Flint has been on more than any other panelist and thus I have had several years in which to watch her go from an overly aggressive diamond-in-the-rough into actually quite an accomplished performer who could well see her status upgraded to Steady Pair of Hands. Ok, so much like Reeves last week she suffered from Labours belated recognition that they now need to be really hammering slogans home (Ol’ Snagletooth never actually said ‘the squeezed middle’ but she might as well have done given how many platitudes along the same line she came out with) but on the whole, her performance was solid. And for me that’s nice because such prolonged exposure to Flint has left me feeling quite fraternal towards her and it’s pleasant to see her continue on the trajectory of incremental improvement. I realise that this hardly makes for an objective account of her performance but that, I’m afraid, is just the way it is.
All the above leaves us with Young and let’s face it, there’s no way he’s walking out of here without some really good marks. As to why he deserves such plaudits, well part of it is to do with the way he gets points across (he’s thoughtful and reasoned while assertive when he needs to be) and partly because the role of 5th panelist fits him like a glove. Usually when a figure from the realm of celebrity is shoehorned on to the show they come with a health warning: ‘This person will probably have an opinion on one specific and personally dear issue but will be useless for the rest of the show’. Not so with Will Young because he actually had well thought out opinions on everything (including the habitually toxic question of Afghanistan) and delivered these opinions in such a soothing-yet-confident manner that I just couldn’t help but get right behind him. Oh, and the stuff he came out with on gay marriage? Top flight Question Timing.
So, where does all this leave me, hankering as I was for a right old evening of venom? Well part of me is a little a disappointed as it was just one of those nights where I really fancied getting hot under the collar but I must confess that it was a generally high quality episode made even higher by the presence of an audience member in a bow tie and dinner jacketish sort of affair. I’m still a sucker for innately posh gentlemen in a dapper get-up and as always, Surrey didn’t fail me. It must be down to all those £2 million homes that are full of grannies.
Weigh(s a lot)
(Has a certain) Cachet
(Is looking quite) Grey
(Is quite clearly) Gay
(Is) Away (please leave a message and she’ll get………………. Right back to you)
The Crowd: 6/10
Oaky-doaky, there we go(ky). I’m off to do the washing up and try to quell this feeling of apprehension that I’m about to see Eric Pickles barreling down my street. Have you people got nothing better to do than harass bloggers of minor significance? Have you not got homes to go to? Do I have to involve the authorities? Question Time panelists: There’s just no trusting them.
Next week Lemmings, next week…