Good morning Lemmings and well done: You have (I assume) survived the Mayan apocalypse, navigated your way through the choppy waters of Christmas and somehow safely emerged into the cold light of 2013. You must be very proud. Unfortunately, that’s where the good news ends as the Christmas truce is over and now it’s back to the relentless, maddening grind that is Question Time. Yeah, I know, those three Thursday nights where you weren’t screaming at the telly were cherished moments, free from rancour and strife but they could never last, not in a month of Sundays. No, all we can do now is huddle in our foxholes and hope for the best as the opening volleys of the new year do their ghastly work. Welcome back Lemmings, it’s time to get questionable.
I see two figures grappling in the wilderness…
The wilderness isn’t a great place to be. It’s barren. It’s featureless. It doesn’t even have a Greggs, but – for his sins – this is where John Prescott has been exiled to. The reasons for his banishment are simple enough: With the collapse of the Blair-Brown project there’s no longer a need for a figure who spanned the gap between New and Old Labour and as a consequence, John Prescott has ceased to be useful. In fact, he probably ceased being useful quite a while back (the PCC elections were pretty much his last roll of the dice) but last night provided him with yet another chance to prove his worth.
So did he? In a word, ‘no’. The problem with Prescott is that he physically embodies all the properties of the phrase ‘gravy train’ and serves as a walking reminder to voters of why exactly they fell out with New Labour in the first place. Sure, in terms of pure rhetorical pugilism he’s still able to go the distance (too far a distance if Dimber’s constant telling off’s are anything to go by) but this can’t mask the fact that he’s deeply tainted – to the point of toxicity – by all the murkier parts of New Labour’s legacy. All the wars, the cosiness with the city, the cahoots that were gotten into, they all required a little bit of John Prescott and for that reason he’s just too culpable to be useful any more. So hard lines John, it looks like you’re set to roam the wilderness for the time being. Unless of course you punch someone. That’s tended to work in the past.
As it happens Prescott wasn’t alone last night as there was another panelist trying to find her way out of the political tundra and that panelist was Nadine Dorries. Now, Dorries has been excommunicated not on account of her utility but for her dangerousness. Her problem is a) she’s mad as a box of frogs, b) the press know she’s mad as a box of frogs and indulge her more than your Common Garden Backbencher and c) she gave her party a cast-iron excuse to remove the whip by going on IACGMOOH. However, it must be said that in terms of escape plans, last night was pretty good. For a start, she reined in some of her battier tendencies and refused to be drawn into matters like her stance on abortion and she also made a relatively (‘relative’ being the operative word) good fist of the ‘do politicians court celebrity?’ question. Alright, so it wasn’t a stellar performance but given that she’s the most divisive of figures who was at the mercy of a crowd all hopped up on local hospital closures, it could have been worse. My prediction? She’ll be back in the tent before too long. Why? Because last night proved that she can hold it in when she needs to… Or at least long enough to get to the to flap and aim outwards.
I’m becoming oddly attached to Ed Davey…
Here he is, the Adult In The Room. You may not have noticed it – what with all the panto shenanigans of Prescott and Dorries – but there was an actual politician on the show last night, the sort of politician who takes his job very seriously and the sort who if he finishes all his allotted tasks on time may just celebrate by having an extra Digestive before going to bed. Ok, that was cruel (particularly in light of how well boned up on Lewisham’s ongoing hospital woes he was) and I feel bad for mocking Ed Davey because he’s exactly the sort of politician we say we all want – diligent, committed and in it because ‘someone has to’ – yet automatically pick on because they seem a little…. well… square. Consequently, I find myself becoming rather attached to Ed Davey in the same way I’m attached to my toaster: My world wouldn’t fall apart if they/it went missing but things would seem marginally trickier in their absence.
John Bird would get me as far as Burton-on-Trent…
So, what to say about John Bird, founder of The Big Issue and self-styled “working class Marxist Tory”? Well, on the one hand he was great: Outspoken, assured and with the back story to back it up but on the other, he failed the Exeter St. David’s to Leeds test. For the uninitiated (which is all of you) this is a hypothetical hoop I throw people through when I’m not 100% sure of our long-term compatibility: At what point on that train journey would I be secretly wishing that I could just listen to my iPod? In the case of Bird I reckon we’d have a fine – nay, cracking time – until about Cheltenham Spa. We’d talk, I’d find his bafflingly contradictory political self-definition intriguing and we’d even go so far as to crack open a spur-of-the-moment tinny. This state of affairs would persist until about Birmingham New Street. By then his innate confidence would start to irk me, the beer would have left me with a cotton mouth and the conversation would start taking on a very one-sided aspect. By Burton-on-Trent, I’d have broken and sloped off to another carriage under the pretext of a toilet break. I’m not proud of the above but it’s better that we’re honest about these things.
Camilla Cavendish should ask for her money back…
It must be gutting: You get on QT, start saying a bunch of fairly reasonable things, find your stride and then BAM! You get cut off. That was pretty much how it panned out for Cavendish and while my gut tells me that she seems pretty legit, I never really got the chance to find out. I did, however, discover that not only did an audience member look vaguely like me, he was also wearing the exact same outfit. Thanks for freaking me out, you massive imposter (see Fig. 1)!
The Crowd: 7/10
So there it is: A nicely gee’d-up little romp aided and abetted by a crowd all stoked on local issues. Now here’s a goofy pshop of Nadine Dorries being chased by a shark while John Prescott looks casually looks on. I made it when I was sure that Prezzer was going to trounce Dorries. Oh, hindsight… What chaos have you wrought? (See Fig. 2)
Next week Lemmings, next week…