Questionable Time #66


 questionable time 66 david dimbleby goth

Good morning Lemmings and I hope you’ve brought provisions with you (sandwiches would be a start although booze will ultimately be of greater utility) because we’ve got an awful lot to get through today. Right, no messing about, let’s get cracking.

So Mel finally went off the deep end…

I was going to start with Brand but seeing how this site’s being absolutely hammered by people arriving from the search term ‘Melanie Phillips Question Time’ – not to mention the fact that my twitter feed has become a solid wall of people going on a Mel bender – I thought it prudent to bow to the wishes of the great unwashed. Anyway, prior to last night’s show I was feeling somewhat ambivalent about Phillip’s being on as she’s been relatively well-behaved of late. Granted, she’s managed to maintain an underlying level of bonkersness and there’s always some sort of societal windmill she’s been able to tilt at but compared to the uber-rabid Londonistan-era Mel, I rather feared that she was losing her teeth.

Nor did her answers early in the show do anything to dispel this feeling and in actual fact, most of what she came out with was pretty tame: On bankers she was so-so (although did manage to slip in an obligatory dig at nurses… well done there) while the drugs question saw her going through some hard-line motions but it was all the fairly predictable, doom-laden stuff that she routinely churns out. ‘That’s it.’ I thought. ‘The old girl’s finally cashed in her chips. Godspeed Mel, may you while away your days in crotchety grumpiness’. However that was before the question about Syria landed.

It all started innocuously enough – a dig at Cameron here, a failed state or two there – but then went sideways as she arrived at her two ‘I’s: Israel and Iran. The first sign that things were becoming unstuck was when she demanded that Iran be “neutralised” but that was just a warm-up. No, what really sent her over the edge was the bally gall of the audience to offer a collective tut at this idea. That was it. Out came the finger, jabbing away like a little spear of crazy as she laid into the “defeatism of the British people”. Naturally, slagging off 60 million people in one effortless little sentence did little to sooth the crowd and the tutting soon became the ominous rumble of boos, but Mel wasn’t finished. Not by a long shot.

HOW TRIVIAL OF YOU! HOW IGNORANT OF YOU!” was her next line and with it went any hope that the show might remain tenuously anchored in reality. The ominous rumble escalated, insults were traded and the good ship Question Time proceeded to turn turtle before finally disappearing beneath the unrelenting waves of farce that swamped its decks.

Twelve hours have passed since that incident and as I now peer at the fuzzy sonar scan of the show’s watery grave I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it. On the one hand, this is the sort of thing that Questionable Time should thrive on – you know, bangs and crashes, bells and whistles, that sort of thing – and a part of me is quite pleased to see that Mel’s back and as unhinged as ever. Yet there was also something about the pure bitterness behind it all (from both Phillips and the crowd) that makes me feel a little queasy. Is this what we really wanted? The spectacle of a woman who’s essentially given up on humanity reaching snapping point in front of an audience of millions? The base, impulsive side of me says it is but deep down I can’t escape the feeling that we’ve traded in a stable, long-term relationship for a dirty little grope in a stationary cupboard.

You know something’s gone deeply awry when Boris starts looking like a voice of reason…

Believe me, I’m just as shocked as you by the above statement but I’ve got to admit that it’s essentially true: Boris was – in the main – actually pretty level-headed last night. True, he couldn’t sustain this new and rather disconcerting look for the entire show and by the end of the it he had assumed his more familiar form – that of a Rube Goldberg contraption brought to life (please click that link as it contains some pure brilliant). But still, I can’t deny that for the majority of it he actually resembled what can only be described as a ‘politician’ and when it came to the Syria, I was pretty much in total agreement with him. I know, I know… This is all a little difficult to take in but trust me, it happened and again, I’m not sure how I feel about it. It’s like the QT I know and love just got its ears pierced, bought a motorbike and told the kids that Daddy needs some time to go and ‘find himself’. In short, confusion is reigning in my head right now along with a troubling sense of abandonment.

Will the real Russell Brand please stand up?

My one great hope for last night’s episode was that I might finally be able to form a definitive opinion about Russell Brand, something that has so far eluded me despite repeated attempts to peg him down. Here’s the thing – behind all the sex and drugs and Dickensian wibbling you do occasionally catch a glimpse of a thoughtful, sensitive and actually quite vulnerable man. Remember when he gave evidence to the Home Affairs Committee about drugs policy? That was one of those rare, fleeting glimpses and that’s the Brand I’d like to like.

But they are so rare and while you’re waiting for them you have to endure the contrived dumbing down, the ‘awight mate Mr Dimbleby sir me lord’ and the nagging feeling that his ego may be reaching the point where it can’t support its own weight any more. And that, frankly, upsets me off because he doesn’t have to do it. Yes, I get that this may all be part of a grand plan to make politics ‘accessible’ and ‘relevant’ but I can’t help feeling like I’m being stealthily patronised whilst simultaneously being force-fed a year’s supply of low-hanging fruit.

Fundamentally though, there’s a more profound problem I have with Brand and it’s about trying to work out where the persona ends and the real man begins. I hoped that last night might bring me a little closer to sussing that out but alas, it was not to be.

Reasons why I’m quietly falling in love with Ed Davey…

  1. I think he’s in politics for the right reasons. True, he doesn’t offer much in the way of thrills and that streak of inevitable careerism is hard to ignore but I genuinely get the feeling that he’s a sensible man who wants to make a sensible world using sensible means. We sort of need a few of them kicking about.
  2. He and Jowell were about that only things that reassured me that I wasn’t in fact watching a Year 9 drama group attempting to perform a parody of Question Time.
  3. When I take notes for the show, I refer to the panelists by their initials – Davey’s being ED. Pleasingly, whenever I read the notes back in my head his name always comes out as ‘Aer-Der!’. It’s the little things that count in life.

And just in case you were worried that Tessa Jowell might neglect to mention the Olympics…

…She manages to squeeze one in during the dying seconds of the show. Phew! For a second there I thought we were in trouble. Anyway, it was a good innings from Jowell last night, particularly as Dimbers did seem to have it in for her at the start of the show. It was also the first time that I’ve heard a convincing apology for Labour’s failure to regulate the banks coming from someone who was very much at the heart of that ill-fated project. And that dear Lemmings may even warrant an extra point.

Tl;dr

Johnson: 6/10

Odd(ly restrained)…

Phillips: 3/10

(Rode rough)Shod (over any sense of proportionality)…

Brand: 5/10

(Is a tricky) Sod (to pin down)…

Davey: 6/10

Plod(s sensibly on)…

Jowell: 7/10

(Gave a knowing) Nod (to Labour’s culpability)…

The Crowd: 6/10

(Did a good job at being the Awkward) Squad…

Right, this has to end because I’m way over my thousand words and need to sit in a darkened room for at least a week. Before I go there’s the small matter of this week’s pshop which I’ve stuck below (see Fig. 1).

boris-johnson-russel-rand-hair-swap-gif

Fig. 1

Yeah, it’s not my finest work but that’s probably because I wazzed all my pixels up the wall making this rather beautiful Farage design which may just be available in t-shirt form in the none-too-distant-future. Watch this space. So anyway that’s your lot and let’s hope that Daddy returns next week – minus that ghastly leather jacket of course…

Next week Lemmings, next week…

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5 Responses to “Questionable Time #66”


  1. 1 Ralph June 21, 2013 at 13:42

    I thought Melanie was great on QT last night. Brand played to the gallery with cheap rabble-rousing inanities. Shamefully, some of the audience fell for it.

  2. 3 Mark Scott June 21, 2013 at 23:32

    the best quote from melanie…the bit about the muslim god coming down to earth….that was the money shot!

    • 4 loudribs June 21, 2013 at 23:54

      That was the moment when it went from ‘momentary flip out’ to ‘full-on meltdown’. It’s the sort of thing you expect on The Big Question when they’re not debating about whether dolphins can recieve communion.

  3. 5 Mark H June 22, 2013 at 00:12

    As usual, your comments are on the money. The Mel thing really weirded me out as although I don’t especially follow her, I had her broadly pegged as sane. I’m afraid I may have to put her in the Germaine Greer category of: initially seemed sane, but this does not bear closer inspection.


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