Archive for March, 2013

Questionable Time #57


questionable time 57 david dimbleby viking york

Good morning Lemmings and brace yourselves because we’ve got a slightly different flavour of Questionable Time this week. Had this been just another Thursday, 10.35pm would find me arranged in a supine position on the sofa, mouthing obscenities at a flickering screen and berating the cats for their obvious lack of interest. This Thursday however, was different. Instead – thanks to a mixture of bluff, guile and Twitter-stalking – I somehow managed to scale the walls of the QT fortress, negotiated my way past the guardhouse (“This isn’t the obsessive dork you’re looking for…”) and found myself watching the show in the all-too-horrible fidelity of real-life. I saw things Lemmings, things no man should see… Allow me to explain.

The holding area is a people-watcher’s dream…

Having been in the audience before, I am no stranger to the holding area (the place where the audience assemble prior to filming) and I know well its terrifying power. If I cast my mind back to that first encounter I can feel my stomach turning all over again, remembering the awful sensation that comes with the knowledge of a) you’re about to be on telly, b) you might actually have to say something and c) there’s every chance that you might make a pig’s ear out of it in front of an audience of millions. It’s buyer’s remorse writ large. Luckily for me, that wasn’t the case last night as having blagged a guest seat (the out-of-shot row off to the side) I was well and truly out of harms way. Instead, I could just kick back and take long, deep breaths of other people’s fear. And oh, what a heady scent it is.

There are two distinct groups in the holding area and their anxiety plays out in different ways. For the first group – the loners whose friends were canny enough to turn down an invitation to tragedy – it’s a quiet but visible terror, one which makes the legs jiggle, the eyes dart and the palms sweat while for the others – the team-handed – it’s a more vocal display of nervous laughs and high velocity yammering. Most of the loners busy themselves by endlessly going over the question they’re going to submit but every now and then you see a pair of them gravitate towards one another, gingerly at first but then all of sudden looking like they’ve known each other for years. This pairing-off quietly cascades across the room and as it does, you can feel the tension easing… That is until the Big Man arrives.

Time to pay Dimbleby his dues…

It’s been a solid Questionable Time rule that aside from applying his face to the ludicrous, I don’t do much in the way of Dimbers. This law stems from a mixture of the practical (it’s somewhat challenging to write about the same person week in, week out) and the judicious (he holds all the cards and that just doesn’t seem fair in a weekly death match format). This week though, I’m saying to hell with the rules and finally giving credit where credit’s due: Dimbers is damn good at his job.

The first time the audience meet him is in the holding area and the sight of this angst ridden rabble suddenly going weak at the knees is another one of those things that makes the whole process so fascinating to watch. On this occasion the Antechamber of Doom happened to be in a lecture theatre and given that I was loitering near the lectern I was treated to a grandstand view of a twitchy gaggle suddenly melt into a slush of dreamy eyes and blissed-out grins.

So how does he do this? Well, part of it is that he just looks mischievous but it’s mostly down to his ability to make you feel like you’re in on a secret. For example, this week we were treated to an anecdote about how a Question Time crowd got inadvertently swapped with a Top of the Pops audience (oh the money I would give to watch a QT crowd being made to get down and boogie), a frighteningly good Tony Benn impression and the tale of an audience member who claimed to have been murdered. More than that though, he manages to convey a sense that no matter what, no matter how slippery or evasive the buggers are, he’s going to make those poor saps on the panel pay and he needs your help to do it. Again, the change is visible: The crowd’s mile-wide-smiles take on a more fangy, savage edge, their nostrils flare and you can almost hear the chanting in their heads: Kill the pigs! Cut their throats! Kill the pigs! Bash them in!

So the show itself?

I have to admit that I didn’t catch much of the show last night as my seat was so tucked away that I couldn’t actually see what was going on but I will say this: Despite my usual fear of Gove, he actually did rather well last night. Of course, York – a stud of deep blue on that belt of red leather that keeps the nation’s political trousers from falling down – was always going to be a benign climate to operate in but his use of the Yadda-Yadda Play marks a first in QT history. In the interests of full disclosure, this uncharacteristic charitability may also be down to seeing him in an overtly humanizing context later that night: I witnessed him agonizing over snack choices in a very, very cold York station. Feeling his pain I forced a Questionable Time sticker upon him whilst muttering that I thought he did well on the show. He took it kindly enough for me to feel bad about the Gove .gif I made early in the day.

As for Thornberry, I thought she got a tougher ride than she deserved. I know the Red Team aren’t that popular in York but at least she managed to go the whole evening without blowing chunks of One Nation and Squeezed Middle over everyone (something that’s been a particularly annoying habit of Labour panelists recently).

And what of the noobs? Well, not a bad first innings for Bennett (although she’s got big shoes of hemp and sunbeams to fill following Lucas’ departure), Horowitz seems to know what he’s doing in a very crowd pleasing sort of way and Littlewood is stone cold crazy but assertive enough for that to come across as So Crazy That It Might Just Work. And that’ll do for me.

Tl;dr

Gove: 6.5/10

Pob

Thornberry: 5/10

Rob(bed)

Bennett: 5/10

(Is new to the ) Job

Horowitz: 7/10

(Has an eloquent) Gob

Littlewood: 6/10

(Is probably a free market heart) Throb

The Crowd: 5/10

(Enjoy) HobNobs?

How’s about that then? Will that keep the wolf from the door until Question Time returns in April? Well it bloody well had because I’m knocking off for two weeks. Anyway, here’s that Gove .gif I was talking about (see. Fig. 1). Yeah, I know… It’s petty and mean but in my defence, who wouldn’t want an oxygenating and animated Gove ornament in their aquarium? No one, that’s who…

michael-gove-goldfish-gif

Fig. 1

Three weeks Lemmings, three weeks…

Advertisements

Questionable Time #56


questionable time 56 david dimbleby 80's lcd game

Good morning Lemmings and let us summon our last ounce of gumption for we are nearly there: One more show after this and then QT‘s Winter Term is over. However, before we get all giddy with dreams of double-digit temperatures and gambolling lambs I’m afraid to say that The Cruellest Month (“Oh, you liked that hour of sunshine did you? How about I follow it up WITH SOME HORIZONTAL SNOW?!”) is not yet done with us and the grizzly business of last night’s episode still requires dissection. So tuck in those thermals and double up on those socks Lemmings – we’re going in.

What’s wrong with this picture?

He’s young. He’s ridiculously good-looking. He can dance on stage to the theme from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air with Will Smith (see Fig. 1) without looking like a total prat yet something – something just isn’t quite right. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem as you can usually count on something being not quite right with politicians, but in the case of Umunna I find it particularly galling because at this moment in time, I’m desperately looking for someone to believe in and – on paper at least – that someone should be Chuka.

chuka umunna fresh prince francis maude

Fig. 1

So where’s he falling down? At first I though that it might be a bad case of Professional Politicianism but having poked around a bit I’m not convinced: His back story – while not exactly the Bog Standard Bloke yarn that we all seem to crave right now – is different and interesting enough to set him apart from the pack  while that residual veneer of cool puts him in a different category to your more common garden apparatchiks. No, what’s killing the feeling for me is that he still hasn’t learnt when to let go.

Take a look at the second question for example, the question that, by rights, he should have skinned the most cats on. This was the one about growth and thanks to Maude choosing to dig in rather go on the offensive, he had an open field. In QT terms this is a doozy as while you’ll always have the Previous Labour Government Flank to worry about, the weak point in the Blue Team’s lines (the We’ve Totally Stacked The Economy Gap) is so wide open that all it requires is a little umph and it’s all gravy. Yet ‘umph’ was nowhere to be found and what we actually saw was the horrifying spectacle of a politician trying to talk in a rational manner to an electorate he believed to be rational creatures: A big mistake and while I sympathise with his inclination to reason, it won’t do him much good in the long run because we’re not in the market for trifling matters such as ‘facts’ and ‘evidence’. What we want is jabbing fingers, cocks that are sure and jibs that are cut. We want blood that we can spread on the bread that you so kindly provided along with the circus.

Alas, blood we did not get and instead of charging hell-for-leather at the Tory trenches he got thrown totally off-balance by Leanne Wood’s assertion that Darling would have cut more than Thatcher. A QT-pro would have rightly seen this for what it is – an interdiction tactic to stall an offensive – and powered on regardless but instead Ummuna went into a defensive posture and fell back on technicalities. Well, that was it I’m afraid. I zoned out and what could have been a textbook rendition of a QT Blitzkrieg Done Right ended up bogged down in the Quagmire of Factuality.

So there’s a lesson to be learned here – stop thinking so much and just go for those cheap shots. Yeah, I know, it feels disingenuous and there’s little dignity in it but that’s the game you’re in. Just disengage your brain, stop thinking like an actual person and march towards the sound of gunfire. The rest will sort itself out.

I’m developing a grudging respect for Maude…

…Because he’s a wily old bugger who knows how to play the game. Now, I realise that’s a fairly ludicrous statement to make about a man who single-handedly managed to instigate a highly flammable round of panic buying  but when you look at it from a purely tactical level, he’s a steady pair of hands. In essence, Maude’s strength is that he knows when he’s in a losing fight and isn’t afraid to seek more favourable terrain when the odds are clearly stacked against him, even if that means ceding territory. Again, it’s the growth question that really brought this out and his response was one of darting eyes, a thin skirmish line of accusations and a whole lot of backing away slowly. None of that sounds particularly gallant or glorious and that’s because it wasn’t: The Tories are in a bind when it comes to the economy and no amount of chest thumping is going to change that. However, what he did achieve was to stop a tactical retreat turning into a rout and by the end of the show he felt secure enough to venture into No-Mans Land and seize a few prisoners. Considering my usual aversion to Big Vision Tories, that’s not bad going.

Leanne Wood is really rather fun…

…Fun in the same way it is to watch the playground misfit unsettle their more popular peers just by existing. In my day this was achieved via the means of West German army jackets (that’s right kids, WEST Germany… Now get off my lawn!), Clipper lighters on shoelace necklaces, lurking, and band t-shirts with swear words that showed through your school shirt. Wood, however, takes a more robust approach and spent most of the show picking fights in a wonderfully deadpan manner whilst stopping only to shoot the odd mucky look now and then. Are my horizons broadened by this wanton display of stick-in-muddery? Not really. Was it entertaining to watch? Why yes, I believe it was.

And the other two?

Props to Paphitis, he had a great show. It’s really easy for the Entrepreneur Panelist to drown themselves in a puddle of laissez-faire sermons but he kept it mostly grounded whilst applying just the right level of Couldn’t Give A Toss. As for QT noob Kirsty Williams, well her bright eyes and bushy tail were a forgivable incumbrance but she does show a certain level of resilience. A little more breaking on the Wheel of Dimbleby and she may be in with a shot.

Tl:dr

Umunna: 4/10

:-/

Maude: 6/10

:-I

Wood: 6/10

_

Paphitis: 7/10

:-)

Williams: 5/10

:-p

The Crowd: 6/10

=^_^= ?

Hmmm… Rather a lot of military history analogies worked their way into this write-up which is odd as I’ve been making a conscious effort to not spend all my time reading hefty tomes about men-of-yore killing each other. I thought I’d ease myself into a gentler world of literature with a biography of LBJ but it turns out that he’s more intense and frightening than most of the wars I’ve read about. At least I tried…

Next Week Lemmings, next week…

P.S. Next week could be interesting… Just sayin’…

Questionable Time #55


questionable time 55 david dimbleby apocalypse now

Good morning Lemmings and what wares can I flog you today? Let’s see what I’ve got in this old cart of mine. Hmmm… How about a pair of fairly steady parliamentarians with a liberal bent? No? Too staid, too boring? Ok, what about a couple of ideological headbangers with a proven track record of winding each other up? Ah, I see… You’re still recovering from the Hitchens/Loach to-do a fortnight back and need something a little more nuanced. Well, I’m afraid that the only other thing I’ve got in at the moment is an unknown quantity so fresh to the scene that there’s not enough info on her to even throw together a Wikipedia article. No good? Tell you what then, I’ll do you the whole lot for five minutes of your time and throw in the denizens of Dover for free because I’m feeling generous today. No refunds though. Caveat emptor Lemmings, caveat emptor…

Last night was like Jaw’s: The Directors Cut

It’s one of the best closing shots in cinema – Rob Schneider and Richard Dreyfus, paddling their way to shore on the wreckage of their thoroughly over-sharked boat, elated by their triumph over the eponymous monster and no doubt looking forward to a hero’s welcome. The first few times I saw it, I was happy to let the implied narrative (that it will all be hunky-dory) prevail but on subsequent viewings I found myself strangely troubled. After all, the shore is an awfully long way away, their makeshift raft doesn’t really look up to much and one-dead-shark-does-not-a-safe-sea-make.

I bring this up because last night could well be a template for what actually happens at the end of Jaw’s and it goes like this: Chief Brody (as played by Ken Clarke) and Hooper (Stephen Twigg) are happily splashing their way to dry land when they notice that things are getting a little choppy. Members of the crowd start asking some difficult questions about immigration, a swell develops and the raft begins to list precariously. It’s cool though. They are – after all – both fairly centrist and socially liberal politicians who have spent many years charting these waters and by working together, they somehow keep it from falling apart. But wait… What’s this? The three fins of Crow, Phillips and James have breached the surface and are bearing down on the raft with great vigour, eager to rend flesh from bone with the incisors of anti-EU sentiment. A scuffle ensues. Blood is in the water, the wind is picking up as the crowd move the subject on to the economy and the sharks are circling once more. Tensions become frayed between the two of them. Twigg looks like he wants to shove Ken off the raft but Ken’s inability to endorse Total Austerity with a straight face spikes his gun and they paddle on, praying that something will save them.

Suddenly, Twigg thinks he sees a way out. The third question is about whether UKIP are a threat to the Tories and this could potentially be a life saver: Make common cause with the sharks, serve Ken up to them and then get away while they’re dragging him to the seabed. Unfortunately for him, it didn’t quite work out like that and a jostle about who was to blame for the credit crunch ended in Clarke’s favour. That was of no consequence to the sharks though and once again they launched coordinated attacks from opposite ends of the spectrum. Ken and Twigg’s prospects darkened further as the weather takes a turn for the unhinged: A women in the crowd starts making rash and rather convoluted claims about immigrants that stokes a further surge of ill-will and all appears to be lost. Brody and Hooper: They ‘ain’t never going to make it back.

But then something miraculous happens. As if from nowhere, the subject of the Catholic church arrives and in an instant, our scene of frenzy finds itself becalmed. Melanie Phillips suddenly gets a little rational, Crow makes all sweetness and light while James plays it safe and the formally rabblesome crowd become a picture of tolerance. Relieved, exhausted and a little perplexed, Clarke and Twigg regain their hold on their battered raft and lash it back together with some pleasingly mellow platitudes about other people’s morals. They make landfall, the credits roll and everyone can look forward to being disappointed by Jaws 2.

Yeah, I preferred the original to be honest.

Diane James is still largely unknowable…

During my mainly fruitless hunt for info on James, I did notice that one word kept coming up: ‘Unflappable’. On the whole, I’m inclined to agree as for a first performance, this wasn’t bad at all. Granted, Dover did seem especially receptive to the UKIP line and her explaining away of the 4 million Bulgarians was a little dubious but still, she did manage to sound more together than your average Kipper. Mind you let’s not get carried away as my basis for comparison here is Farage. Most things look pretty ‘together’ when stacked up next to him.

I feel a little cheated by the Phillips/Crow love-in…

Ok, so it wasn’t exactly a ‘love-in’ but I was a little bummed that these mutually antagonistic parties set aside their differences in order to box the ears of Clarke and Twigg. I’m also strangely and perversely bummed that Phillips is ever-so-slowly losing her teeth. Sure, she got fair vexed by the whole EU shebang, but it wasn’t a patch on her mid-War on Terror heyday. Back then, no one could out-crazy Phillips, not by a long shot and in odd way, I miss that: Nothing’s more comforting than absolutely, 100%, knowing your enemy. Now it’s 99% and petty though it sounds, I miss that 1%. Now here’s a.gif of what her computer desktop may or may not look like to prove that I haven’t forgotten about her glory days (see. Fig. 1).

melanie-phillips-wallpaper-gif

Fig. 1

Tl;dr

Clarke: 6/10

(Got rather) Red (around the face)

Twigg: 6/10

(Narrowly avoided being) Fed (to the sharks)

James: 5.5/10

(Could soon become quite) Widespread

Phillips: 5/10

(Still fills me with) Dread

Crow: 5/10

(Has an intimidating) Head

The Crowd: 5/10

(All live in a) Shed?

Alright, so that was a rather raw and bruising episode that raises some awkward question about why a town so completely dependent on open borders despises them so much. I’ll let you figure that out because right now it’s 4:02 AM, nothing’s making much sense and I know for a fact that the Frau Ribs just loves to be woken up by the sound of trodden-on-cats.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #54


Questionable time 54 david dimbleby green chinese lady portrait

Good morning Lemmings and rejoice for unless I am mistaken, we appear to have a by-election on our hands. Now. I’m a by-election fan at the best of times but this one’s had it all: The suitably dramatic demise of an incumbent to kick the whole thing off? Check. The first real prospect of a Blue on Yellow electoral throwdown where the stakes are high enough to matter? Check. A Conservative candidate who’s in the process of wandering off the reservation, the off-chance of a UKIP upset and a Labour attempt to both have/eat cake (‘We knew we didn’t have a chance so we put a comedian up to show how unbothered we are about losing.’/’OMG! You guys got beaten by a comedian!’)? Check check check! Today, Lemmings, is a good day to be alive… providing you happen to be a politics dork with a predilection for mid-term ballots. Right, let’s do this…

Am I the only one who hears The Archer’s theme tune whenever Claire Perry’s about?

My god, Claire Perry’s got an abundance of jaunt. That gymkhana posture, the liberal use of exclamation marks, her sharp elbows, they all just scream Le Creuset and the ability to absolutely dominate PTA meetings. Anyway, I bring this up because last night was an instructive guide to both the benefits and perils of employing Jolly Hockey Sticks as a QT tactic. Let’s start at the very end, with the question about banker’s bonuses. In this case Perry stormed in, Jolly Hockey Sticky flailing wildly above her head and hellbent on reorienting the question to Labour’s less-than-stellar record on regulating banks. “I’m absolutely gobsmacked!” was her battle cry and the force of jaunt that built up behind her was enough to yank the crowd violently around to her point of view. Clapping ensued and so it would seem that Jolly Hockey Sticks are perhaps one of the most potent weapons in QT arsenal.

However, this conclusion can only be arrived at if one actively ignores the rest of the show, an episode which should act as a cautionary tale of Jolly Hockey Sticks Gone Bad to Shire-Tories across the land. Here’s how it happened: For most of the programme we saw Perry waggle her stick so vigorously in Angela Eagle’s direction that Dimbers was forced to intervene and what should have played out as righteous-indignation-spliced-with-the-invigorating-whiff-of-the-outdoors ended up coming across more like GTA:Waitrose (a game where the only car you can drive is a Volvo… Unless you buy the Saab DLC). 

So yes, despite a late rally, this was a largely avoidable tragedy brought about by a surfeit of pushiness and a fatal misunderstanding of the way people react to unbridled confidence: Where you see a defiant call-to-arms, they see a wagging finger.

What to do with Angela?

Ok, so I had a bumpy ride with Eagle last night. At first, I was all ‘Boo!’ as she squandered probably the biggest open goal we’ve seen in ages. I mean seriously, how hard is it to take apart a government that spends numerous years buggering up numerous lives in the self-proclaimed quest to retain the UK’s AAA rating only to go and lose it? It doesn’t get any easier than this – it’s like QT Christmas, birthday and new year’s all at once – yet thanks to a monotone delivery and a stare so vacant that the middle-distance started feeling uncomfortable, Angela fluffed it and the only injuries Perry suffered were largely self-inflicted.

Having said that, when it came to her response to the question about whether politics is a safe place for women, my ‘Boo!’ turned to a ‘Yay!’. All of a sudden, she appeared to be animated, engaged and talking a fair bit of sense. The crowd agreed, applause was applied liberally and for a moment, she looked like she was back in the game. Alas, this run of form was not to last and as she slowly faded towards the end, my overall impression was sort of a ‘Meh’… A doffed cap to her stout defence of women’s rights followed by a cocked snook for her inability to articulate the easy.

Oh Jeremy Browne, you so funny…

I’ve often wondered how Jeremy Browne ended up being a Liberal Democrat MP. The only scenario that seems vaguely plausible was that someone at LDHQ got drunk, phoned up Central Casting and demanded a more youthful version of Colonel Blimp. Upon delivery papers were signed, implicit contracts were formalised and the Yellow Team inadvertently took ownership of perhaps the most entertaining face in British politics: A slightly confused looking scrunch that never seems more than two minutes from yelling ‘Now just you wait a bloody second!’.

The 20th Century called and it didn’t sound happy…

Ken Loach: He likes to harsh your buzz, usually through the medium of social-realist cinema but also through the occasional QT appearance as well. Anyway, Ken was on last night and despite the general bleakness that comes with all things Loach, he was actually the star of the show and won by a country mile. Part of this is down to making some fair good points but for me the bulk of it is due to a sense of nostalgia: Ken reminds me of a world where ideologies actually had to compete and politics was able to look beyond the narrow confines of the electoral cycle. So yes, a good innings but I should really take this opportunity to warn younger readers: Never go to a Ken Loach movie on a first date. Yeah, I know… You think you’ll come across as a compassionate-yet-edgy firebrand but you won’t. Trust me, the film will bum you out so much that the walk home will be conducted in muted silence and no good will come of anything. Just… Just take it from me.

You can’t argue with the logic of Neil Hamilton joining UKIP…

Once upon a time, Neil Hamilton wasn’t just a Thatcherite, he was an uber-Thathcherite – the sort of guy whose total faith in the virtues of the free market became almost sinister. Then his political career fell apart in a blizzard of scandals and for the next decade or so he wandered around the public’s peripheral vision in various states of absurdity, wife dragged willingly in tow. Now, let me see… Where could I find a home for a man who is both ludicrous and unhinged. Oh wait! I know just the guys!

Tl;dr

Perry: 4/10

Duffy

Browne: 5/10

Stuffy

Eagle: 6/10

Scuffy

Loach: 8/10

Scruffy

Hamilton: 5/10

Enoughy

The Crowd: 7/10

Puff?

So there you go, some adequate by-election lulz to give us hope (Joanna) ’til the morning comes. Now, seeing as I’m feeling a little guilty for ragging on Browne so hard I’ve decided to make it up to him with this gif. Lemmings, I give to you an animated rendition of Jeremy Browne doing what he does best: Hanging out with his panda (see Fig. 1)

jeremy-brown-panda-gif

Fig. 1



Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 109 other followers

March 2013
M T W T F S S
« Feb   Apr »
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293031

RSS Feed


%d bloggers like this: