Archive for December, 2012

Questionable Time #46


questionable time 46 david dimbleby kfc

Good morning Lemmings and can you find it in yourselves for one last push? One last hellish dash down the Trail of Current Affairs Tears? One last desperate grapple with the monster that is Question Time before Christmas comes and snatches it all away? Sure you can. Come Lemmings, let us get Bristol-ed…

Something’s not sitting right with me when it comes to Greening and Creasy…

I shouldn’t like Justine Greening. As a beardy, bleeding-hearty type, the Tory frontbench isn’t my usual go-to place for spiritual companionship – particularly Tory transport minister who get unceremoniously thrown under buses for scuzzing up rail franchises – but Justine Greening tends to get a free pass with me. Why? Because she’s Grudgingly Diligent. Leaving the small matter of the West Coast Mainline fiasco aside, I always got the impression that Greening would turn up to work on time come-what-may, clock in even if she was on death’s door and – despite some minor passive aggressiveness – would take on whatever futile endeavour was thrown her way because that’s what the Grudgingly Diligent do. It’s not glamorous, it’s not sexy but the world needs people like that – even if they happen to be a bit rubbish at what they’re supposed to be doing.

Anyway, I bring this up because I felt quite sorry for Greening last night. 2012 hasn’t exactly ended in triumph for her yet here she was, having to go through the motions of defending a party at war with itself whilst simultaneously being sandwiched between two of the most antagonistic gum flappers this country has ever produced. In short, she couldn’t win, she didn’t win but at least she didn’t make matters any worse.

By contrast, Stella Creasy is someone I should like. As a beardy, bleeding-hearty type, campaigning backbenchers who rightly call shenanigans on the likes of Wonga should be right up my street yet there’s something that just doesn’t lick my stam0p when it comes to Creasy. In her defence, this was – on paper – a solid outing and much more assured than her slightly wobbly maiden appearance earlier this year. However, there’s just something a little of the Too Good To Be True about her, a few too many references to food banks she works in and the way she says ‘compassion’ in bold type. I’m not doubting her sincerity, it’s just that I’m rather a fan of human frailty and I can’t quite peg where Creasy’s frailty is yet. Maybe it’s payday loans. I bet she’s got hundreds of the buggers on the go…

Will Self and Peter Hitchens keep each other honest…

There are two Will Self’s: One is the louche, brainy one with the sythe-like tongue who annihilates his foes with words such as “ontological” while the other is the sullen, mean one who tries to make people look stupid (although it should be said that both versions of Will Self look uncannily like a Galapagos tortoise… See Fig.1). Similarly, there are two Peter Hitchen’s: The strident hammer of admittedly batty conservatism who gives no quarter and the bored, grumpy one who thinks he’s above it all. As luck would have it, we got the first Will Self last night and although we didn’t quite get the first Hitchens, at least we didn’t get too much of the second one.

will self tortoise

Fig. 1

And how did this all happen? Well, the brutal truth of the matter is that Self got to Hitchens, sometimes wankily (“Take a chill pill Peter!”), but mainly by skulking malevolent and making sure that he never had the space to gain the initiative. Eventually Hitchens spat the dummy out and by the end of the show he was deep into I’m Not Going To Play Your Silly Bloody Games territory, a move that served only to reinforce the feeling that he’d been bested. I will give Hitchens this though: His accusation that the left is composed of “fat, bourgeoise, bohemians” who are only in it for the “cheap mayonnaise” certainly does raise some interesting question about how reasonable priced condiments intersect with communism.

Lord Bilimoria has a lovely name…

Lord Bilimoria… What I wouldn’t give to be the Lord of Bilimoria. Alright, so I don’t know where Bilimoria is or even if it is a ‘where’ (more likely a ‘who’ or ‘what’ I suspect), but you can’t blame a guy for wanting to rule of a possibly fictitious land with an enchanting name can you? Anyway, Lord Bilimoria:

      1. He seems pretty affable.
      2. He totally broke the record for how many times you can say “I love this country” in one hour (although he didn’t – it should be noted – break any records for how many times you can say ‘Britain’ in one sentence. That goes to the audience member who declared that “the people in Britain make Britain Britain”).
      3. He pulled off some jaunty footwork when Will Self pointed out that he got a peerage “for flogging beer”. “Fantastic beer!” came his sharp-as-a-tack response. It got him 74.6% off the hook.

Tl;dr

Greening: 5/10

Weary

Creasy: 6/10

(Was in danger of getting a little) Teary (when it came to prank calls)

Bilimoria: 6/10

(Made his fortune the) Beery (way)

Hitchens: 5/10

(Came across a little) Dreary

Self: 7/10

(Probably probably doesn’t agree with) Epiphenomenalist Theory

The Crowd: 7/10

(Have great respect for the waters of Lake) Erie?

Well, that’s you well and truly Bristol-ed… A so-so political panel in a so-so news week animated by some Hitchy-Selfy tomfoolery. Anyway, that’s it from me until next year: The Frau Ribs and I are going to live Thursday nights large until January.

Next year Lemming, next year…

Questionable Time #45


questionable time 45 david dimbley spectrum loading screen

Good morning Lemmings and rejoice, for we have a good episode on our hands – so good in fact that I’ll accept it as a partially apology for Liverpool’s behaviour of late. And what behaviour would that be? Well, a) they foisted The X-Factor’s Christopher Maloney upon us and b) if my suspicions are correct they then engineered a rolling-foist by voting to keep him in the show every week hence. Seriously Liverpool, you’ve made your point. You’ve had your pound of flesh. Now please, can we stop this madness? Anyway, enough of this and let’s do some Question Timing…

Burnham and Maude were a great pairing…

I was a bit nonplussed when I heard that Francis Maude was going to be on as he’s one of those figures who, despite being around forever, just seems to flit in and out of the picture, never staying still long enough for me to really pin him down. Similarly, Burnham drew a vague ‘meh’ from me as while he’s a very proficient QT-er who does a good line in the whole ‘local lad come good’ trade, he’s so constantly on-message that I can never really see past the bluster (or – for that matter – those shimmering, dazzling eyelashes of his). ‘Fair to middling’ was the best I hoped for. As it happens, these two turned out to be an inspired choice and what we got was a battle of wits that to’d and fro’d satisfyingly throughout the evening.

The key to it is that both protagonists are very ambitious but in different ways. Maude, with his hawk-like features and buzzard-esque stoop has the look of a man who Knows Too Much (although not, it should be remembered, about the safe storage of fuel) while Burnham is a classic Set Piecer, the sort who really hammers rhetorical points mercilessly whilst always making sure he ends with a crescendo. Both men can smell the other’s ambition and both men can’t help but be vexed by it.

To start with, the Set Piecer strategy seemed to be a nose ahead and despite putting up a pretty decent fight, Maude spent both the health and economy questions fighting a rearguard action with only limited success. However, he regained his balance in the Leveson question and did so just at the point that Burnham began to falter. It went like this: Maude got the first shot and did a pretty reasonable Next Stop Zimbabwe take on press freedom that garnered a fair few claps. Burnham though, well he fluffed his opening and had to resort to stealing Tim Farron’s answer almost word-for-word. As it turns out, the Set Piecer in him managed to blag it and parity was restored although not for very long. What happened next though was genius. Out of nowhere, Maude suddenly turned to Burnham and sincerely thanked him for his part in uncovering the truth about the Hillsborough tragedy. Well, that move was nothing short of inspired and not only did it earn him a metric tonne of applause, it also left Burnham with nowhere to go. The Well Timed Compliment: It’s the napalm of QT.

So then Mr. Farron, we meet again…

Following some extensive skullduggery, I was lucky enough to find myself in the crowd for the Leeds edition of Question Time that ran earlier this year. It was a pretty good show – one in which I thought that George Galloway was actually going to lamp David Aaronovitch – but the real revelation was Tim Farron. It boiled down to this: I automatically assume that politicians are up to something sketchy until they can prove otherwise yet the moment that Farron caught my eye, I remember thinking ‘Oh my god, I implicitly trust this guy’. True, I was high as a kite on adrenaline after asking a question and the self-inflicted dehydration didn’t help (I was terrified of needing a wee) but there was just something about Farron that overruled my default cynicism. I rapidly developed an alarming political crush, a crush that’s now so out of control that I find myself making gifs of an idealised chance encounter between myself and Mr. Farron (see. Fig. 1). It is also a crush that remains undimmed by last night’s episode.

tim-farron-loudribs-gif

Fig. 1

Tim Farron’s secret – other than his projectile trustworthiness – is that he appears to live in a world where 2010 never happened. That whole coalition business? Nah, you dreamed it. Never happened. The Lib Dems are still in opposition, the Tories are still caddish yahoos and Social Democracy is still very much on the Yellow Team’s agenda. Sure, he made the odd token defence of Blue Team/Yellow Team collaboration but they were never more than routine patrols conducted without vigour and by the end of the show I was happily set adrift on memory bliss. Ah, the pre-2010 world… A place where the Lib Dems stopped short of breaking their knuckles when wringing their hands…

The Welsh appear to have quietly annexed Liverpool…

Alright, I’m a little confused here. Why exactly was Leanne Wood on last night? Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a dig at Wood herself as I happen to rate her quite highly, partly because I like her viewpoint but mainly on account of her delivery: It’s just so nonchalant. Honestly, there could be someone running at her full-tilt, whilst brandishing an axe and she’d just quietly reel off a list of reasons why they shouldn’t until they eventually stopped dead in their tracks, perplexed by this barrage of dry reason. No, the reason I ask is that we were in Swansea last week and if you ask me, that sounds like a pretty appropriate venue for the leader of the Welsh nationalists. Liverpool though? Not so much… Unless of course we’ve somehow hoodwinked the Welsh into taking Maloney off our hands in which case I whole heartedly endorse this impromptu rearranging of borders.

Lionel Barber is an odd fish…

Hmm… Don’t know what to make of this one. On the one hand, he didn’t say anything massively stupid but the way his speech halts in the middle of every sentence is a little disconcerting as was his bungled joke at the start of the Leveson question (it was memorable only for the uncomfortable parade of tumbleweed that followed). No, there’s something about this guy that doesn’t add up and I found watching him to be like using an elderly relative’s computer: On paper, it should be a great machine but a combination of rashly installed toolbars, screaming demands from paid-for anti-virus software and the fact that the toolbar is now inexplicably at the top of the desktop just make it all a little fraught. I reckon we start with defragging but progress to a full format if that doesn’t get us anywhere.

Tl;dr

Maude: 6.5/10

Just (about beat Burnham)

Burnham: 6/ 10

(Needs a slight) Adjust(ment)

Farron: 7/10

(Is a picture of) Trust(worthiness)

Wood: 6/10

(Is very) Robust

Barber: 5/10

Must (stop for a few seconds on the middle of every sentence)

The Crowd: 6/10

(Displayed much) Gust(o)

Next week Lemmings, next week…


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