Questionable Time #63


questionable time 63 david dimbleby aliens colonial marine

Good morning Lemmings and welcome to a very hasty Questionable Time – hasty because I’ve got a plane to catch in a couple of hours and I’ll be damned if yammering on about dork stuff is going to derail my carefully laid plans to access the ‘Sun’. Apparently it’s this giant ball of burning hydrogen that appears in the sky and bathes those below with life-giving rays. I’m personally sceptical but you know… In for a penny, in for a pound. Anyway, I’m yammering and we haven’t even got on to the dork stuff yet so let’s get this road on the show.

Once a Labour Home Sec, always a Labour Home Sec…

Remember Patricia Hewitt? She was that very headmistressy Labour Health Secretary who had a rare talent for winding up health professionals and putting front line noses out of joint, something I can attest to because I worked for the NHS during the back-end of her tenure and found my nose to be as out of kilter as everyone else’s. Hewitt’s problem (other than having to aggressively push through some rather unpopular changes) was that she wasn’t good with people and often came across as cold, jagged and brittle – not really the sort of look you’re after when you’re the head of Britain’s caring professions – and when the news came down that she would be replaced by Alan Johnson you could hear a sigh of relief ripple across the nation’s health centres: Finally we were getting someone who actually seemed vaguely human.

And very human he was. Sure, the policies didn’t change much but we could put up with them because the person asking us to get our knickers in a twist about ‘patient choice’ (which was essentially code for ‘creeping privatisation’) had a warmth and normality to him that never made it seem like he was talking down to us. Fast forward a couple of years and Johnson’s getting promoted to Home Secretary. ‘Hmmmm’ I thought. ‘Maybe, just maybe this is the guy who can get the Home Office to chill out and stop acting like a bunch of heavy-handed paranoid yahoos’. Wrong. WRONG!

No, as we saw last night, Johnson was just as susceptible as any other to that strange disease that’s afflicted every Labour Home Secretary since 2001 and in even worse news, it appears that the affliction never entirely leaves its host – it just lies dormant until someone says the word ‘terrorism’. So it was that we opened last night’s show with Johnson displaying all the symptoms of Homesecretitis – a fever for surveillance, cold sweats of intercept evidence, a clammy sheen of national security clinging to his brow – and it wasn’t until mid-show that the spasms finally passed and he finally reverted back to his normal state of being a generally decent, reasonable bloke (decent and reasonable enough to fight Anna Soubry’s corner on the matter of Friday Deaths in hospitals). But still, it was rather jarring because I really do rather admire Johnson and to watch him suddenly become engulfed in this whole Tough Guy/If You Knew What I Knew act is a little heartbreaking. It also looks very odd when those sentiments come from the lips of a man who displays more than a passing resemblance to David Bowie (see Fig. 1)

alan johnson david bowie

Fig. 1

Soubry’s gradually growing me…

…Mainly because there’s something endearingly amateurish about her. Now, by that I’m not saying that she is an amateur as she appears to have a proper job and everything but it’s the way she’s got a very visible feedback loop. For example, when she sticks her foot in it (which is quite often) she can’t disguise that ‘Oh crikey, I’ve really buggered this up!’ look that flashes across her face and I quite like that as it makes her appear relatively normal. As it happens, she managed not to stick her foot in anything last night but the feedback loop was still very visible: It said ‘Golly gosh gal, you’re really doing rather well at this!’ and again, it made her look like an actual person as opposed to a locked down hack who’s playing it by the numbers. So, while I am a little disappointed that she didn’t let her jauntiness run away with itself and get her into all sorts of trouble, I’ll let her off on the grounds of human authenticity. Next time though I’d like to hear at least one ill-considered and inflammatory statement pass her lips… You know, just to keep her grounded.

I’m not sure if I can cope with a sensible Kipper…

Alright, what’s going on here then? A Kipper who spends 80% of the show not being totally harebrained and only gets marginally wound up about the EU in the remaining 20%? Something’s wrong. The plan has gone awry. Farage promised me clowns but has instead sent a vaguely competent individual who is largely in control of their faculties. I want my money back.

Medhi’s back on form…

I had a pop as Hasan last time for being grumpy (to which he kindly responded by declaring Questionable Time to be “mildly amusing if lengthy”… Fair play Medhi, fair play) but he gets a free pass this week because the terrorism question re-kindled all that passion that made him such a good read back when we were up to our necks in the stuff. It wasn’t just me either: The crowd were very taken with him and that made for a virtuous circle where they geed each other up and gave Johnson/Soubry a right good rollicking. So well done Medhi and if you wish to subsequently describe Questionable Time as “blisteringly funny and of entirely appropriate length”, that would be just fine with me.

And Fellowes?

Not a lot to say except that he harvested all the low hanging fruit and his sentences always sound like they’re teetering drunkenly at the top of a staircase, just waiting to topple over. It’s because he taaaaalks like thiiiiiiiiis.

Tl;dr (And no rhymes because I’m the bloody departure lounge)

Johnson: 5/10

Soubry: 6/10

James: 5/10

Hasan: 8/10

Fellowes: 6/10

The Crowd: 7/10

Hmmmmm, not a bad episode all told. Right, I’ve got to skiddadle for the boarding gate so sorry if it’s been a little slap-dash but normal service will resume in a week’s time.

Additional Note of Minor Import:

It recently occurred to me that I’ve been generating an awful lot of non-QT graphics type stuff and that it hasn’t had a proper home. Rather than watching it traipse forlornly around Twitter and Facebook I’ve finally got round to setting up another site in order to provide it with a modicum of dignity. If you’d like to check it out, you can find it here. On top of that, should you wish to buy the rather fetching Nick Cotton themed greetings card I knocked up, you can do so here.

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