Questionable Time #33


questionable time 33 david dimbleby misfits

Good morning Lemmings and hold on to your hats because we’ve got a live one here. Yup, that’s right, after a slew of mediocre and bothersome QT’s that never really got off the ground Luton has decided to pull its finger out for the penultimate show of the series. And about bloody time if you ask me. Anyway, here’s what we learned:

I was genuinely excited at the prospect of Paddy Ashdown and Terry Smith being in the same room together.

There are many people in this world who claim to know some Awful Things and to be quite frank, most of them annoy me. Take for example Nick Ferrari: He claims to know all sorts of Awful Things about the way this country is heading and uses every opportunity he can to make us aware of just how Awful these Things will be. The problem here however is that a) I’m not entirely convinced that the horrors of which he speaks are anything more than figments of his imagination and b) the way he howls and bleats about our impending doom makes me want to do him a mischief. Happily though, the same cannot be said for either Paddy Ashdown or Terry Smith, men who have taken the art of knowing Awful Things to dizzying heights. Lets start with Ashdown:

That Paddy Ashdown knows some very Awful Things is beyond dispute. The man is an ex-Marine who’s spent a good part of his life practising Awful Things on behalf of the state before going on to govern a country that was beset with Things of the most Awful nature. In short, he’s got chops when it comes to the unthinkable. But it’s what he chooses to do with this information that’s important and this is where Ashdown’s real strength lies: He tells you about these Things and their Awfulness without fuss or drama, neither trying to sweeten the pill nor over-egg the pudding. Basically, he treats you like an adult. As for Smith, well it’s all very similar. His background is in finance and given his CV I think it’s entirely probably he knows a great many Awful Things about The City. But again, it’s what he chooses to do with this information that matters and like Ashdown he opts to play it super-straight: Thing’s are much more Awful than you could possibly imagine. Suck it up. Now, that’s not a nice piece of news to impart but he does it in such an unflinchingly steely manner that it almost doesn’t seem scary: The entire global economy could happily implode, taking with it several hundred years of human progress but it’s ok because no matter what, Terry Smith will survive the cataclysm and be able to say ‘I told you so’ when we all emerge from our fallout shelter.

So yes, I’m a very big fan of people who really know what they’re talking about – doubly so if they happen to be kickboxing econo-doom-mongers or ex-Special Forces nation builders – and what I was really hoping to witness was a flat-out confrontation between the two of them. Alas, that was never going to happen as they seem largely united in their outlook on economy and aside from Smith’s suggestion to simply get rid of the House of Lords (never one for partial solutions, Terry Smith) they largely spoke as one. But still, could you imagine a face-off between the two of them? It would be like the world’s most intense staring contest (if Paddy Ashdown’s eyeless squint qualifies as staring) that would probably result in someone’s head exploding. I’ve done my best to visually extrapolate such a scenario (see Fig. 1) but I must confess that I am a little bummed that it didn’t come to pass. Still, a solid effort from both parties involved and one that lent this episode some of the much-needed gravity that’s been missing from QT of late.

paddy-ashdown-terry-smith-staring-contest-gif

Fig. 1

My jury’s out when it comes to Justine Greening.

This was never going to be a nice week for a Tory on QT, let alone for a Transport Secretary who got brutally flip-reversed by her own team a few days back so the odds really weren’t on Greening’s side. To her credit, she did manage to look largely composed for the bulk of the show and the good news is that this wasn’t a Chloe Smith/Ben Swain moment. The less positive news for Greening is that if the Blame Labour For Everything line was looking a little threadbare six months ago it looks positively craven now (something that three separate audience members went to great lengths to point out) and her reliance on it soured her performance from the get-go. Similarly her repeated use of the phrase ‘cracking on’ became so familiar as to be contemptible and although it’s preferable to confessing that the government really doesn’t have a clue what’s going on at the moment there is something deeply suspicious about people who are constantly telling you that they’re ‘on to it’. Still, it could have been worse and I will say this: Justine Greening has excellent posture: Shoulders back, spine ramrod straight, head up… that’s some quality sitting down she pulled last night.

I like the fact that Tony Robinson must leave right-wingers feeling horribly conflicted.

First things first, hats off to Tony Robinson for his opening broadside on the bankers question. That was real passion on display and it set the rest of the show up really nicely. I’m going to now put my hat back on and gently scold him for not quite doing enough homework, something which is a real pity because if he had a stronger grasps of the facts his answers would sound a little less like conspiracy theories. Gentle scolding dispensed, I am now going to take my hat off again and congratulate him purely for existing. Why? Because it causes True Blue types to blow a cognitive gasket. Here’s how it works: Upon laying eyes on Tony Robinson a True Blue is liable to register a surge in their blood pressure because they know him to be a jumped-up, oiky little lefty who’s spent most of his life bad-mouthing the Tory party. However, things start to become problematic when they realise that he’s also Baldrick from Blackadder and no matter how hard they try, they cannot bring themselves to hate the living embodiment of one they hold so dear. Time suddenly appears to stop, a hissing noise issues from their brains, smoke pours out of their ears, everything goes black. Job’s a good ‘un Tony.

And the other one?

I think I’ve finally realised why I’ve always had trouble with Tessa Jowell. Part of it is that I’ve never really known what the point of Tessa Jowell is (she always seemed to be Minister for Stuff or Deputy to the Office of the Trivial) but I think it’s more to do with the fact that she fails my 3rd Test of Friendship: Are they a fun person to get drunk with? I suspect that Tessa Jowell is probably a crushing bore when drinking and I also suspect that she would wear rattley jewellery that would really get on my nerves. And what evidence do I base this on? None whatsoever apart from a very queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach when I try to picture the two of us sat at a bar. Sorry Tessa but the pit of my stomach has spoken and for better or worse it holds some sway over me.

Tl;dr

Greening: 5/10

(Got diddled by Osborne’s about) Turn

Ashdown: 7/10

(Has soldierly credibility to) Burn

Jowell: 4/10

(Is not someone I) Yearn (to get bladdered with)

Smith: 7/10

(is very) Stern

Robinson: 6/10

(Showed great) Concern

The Crowd: 7/10

(Were probably drinking tea from an) Urn (just before the show was filmed)

So there. Speaking of the crowd, sorry that they didn’t get much of a look-in in this week’s Questionable Time. I find myself a little pushed for space but I think it would be an injustice not register just how delightfully indignant they all were. Here’s to you, Delightfully Indignant Luton Crowd. Right, that’s me done… I’m going to give work a call to see if my box of Questionable Time stickers has arrived yet. Tap me up on the old Facebook or Twitter if you want in on some adhesive Dimbleby action.

Make your laptop handsome!

Make your laptop handsome!

Tame your feral beasts!

Next week Lemmings… Next week….

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2 Responses to “Questionable Time #33”


  1. 1 Lord Smyth June 29, 2012 at 13:38

    I read the end of paragraph 4 as “…when we all emerge from our BAILout shelter.”

    You should have put that…it would have been “clever”.


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