Good morning Lemmings and boy am I in a good mood today. Why? Because an old friend who I feared had disappeared from the face of the earth came crashing back into my life on Tuesday, a friend that I last recall seeing sometime around May 2010. That’s right Lemmings, Politics is back! Now, that may sound odd as many of the things we associate with Politics – you know, grown men and women jeering at each other, all the ‘he said/she said/you’re not playing with my toys’ sort of thing – have remained but that wasn’t actually Politics: That was just the political classes going through the motions while Politics quietly switched off its mobile and left a voicemail greeting along the lines of ‘Sorry I’m not available to provide you with distinct and tangible alternatives to the current state of affairs at the moment but you never know, give it a few years and I might be able to sort something out on the front.’. All of that changed on Tuesday when the Red Team finally snapped out of its torpor and actually started talking about those long forgotten things known as ‘policies’. Lemmings, I could have wept with joy.
Anyway, what does this sudden return of my missing companion mean for Question Time? It means a right belter of an episode. Observe.
Finally, the Red Team has a tune to make the Blue Team dance to…
…And oh how Gove danced, pressing Wee Dougie to his chest in a passionate embrace as they whirled and pirouetted across the floor. This came as somewhat of a surprise as I initially thought Gove was going for a ‘damning with faint praise’ line of attack (the chief means a politician has of appearing unrattled when they are in fact very much rattled) but the praise wasn’t that faint at all and extended way beyond energy policy. Miliband? Nice bloke, heart’s in the right place, just a shame that his party is still a well of Brownian Bile. McBride? Terrible business but Wee Dougie’s clean as a whistle. Kenya? We’re on the same page. Granted, he did land some forceful punches here and there (the holding of the blank sheet of paper and claiming it was Labour’s education policy was a nice touch) but the tone was very much one of ‘call off the dogs’.
So what’s going on here? It’s tempting to explain this away with the obvious answer that the Tories, concerned by how much Labour’s new-found backbone in the face of corporate interests is resonating with the public, are preparing the ground to steal (or at least knock off a passable replica) of the Red Team’s energy policy while they still can but this is Gove we’re dealing with: Like him or loath him, there’s no getting away from the fact that he’s a very canny and ambitious operator. No, I suspect this runs deeper than a single policy and relates to the Blue Team’s longer term strategy of boxing Labour into the centre ground with the threat of painting Miliband as ‘Red Ed’. So far this has worked a treat as it’s kept the debate squarely on terms that the Tories dictate and hampered Labour’s freedom of movement but Miliband’s speech on Tuesday represented a huge bluff call on Labour’s part and one that appears to have paid off: ‘Red Ed’ – it seems – is surprisingly popular with the public. Now Gove’s cluey enough to spot a busted flush when he sees one and I’d venture that his performance last night was an attempt to cushion the blow until they can come up with an effective counter and on that front he did rather well. After all, it’s very difficult to look like a genuine alternative to the status quo when Michael Gove is agreeing with the bulk of what you’re saying.
(A Minor Aside: Ever notice how much a young Michael Gove looks like Velma from Scooby Doo? No? Then see Fig .1)
And what did Wee Dougie make of all this unexpected romancing? Well it’s very hard to tell as he only has three facial expressions – Slightly Ticked Off when he’s really fuming, Mildly Tickled when he’s exploding with joy and Vaguely Dahhhhhhh for every other occasion – so we’ll just have to chalk this up as another mystery in the vast unknowable that is the Inside of Douglas Alexander’s Head.
Something sarky this way comes…
Transfixed as I was by Gove whisking Dougie off his feet I couldn’t help but notice another presence in the dance hall – a sneering, menacing presence that should really have been wearing a black leather jacket and playing with a flick-knife. Yup, that’s right, Will Self was on again and as is usually the case he managed to make some of the best points of the show in absolutely the worst way possible. That to my mind is a great shame because it’s rare you get someone who’s so clearly intelligent and outspoken on QT, yet every damn time he’s on he just throws it away by crossing the invisible boundary between Satisfyingly Sarcastic and Oozing Moral Superiority before he’s even finished his first sentence. It breaks my heart Lemmings, it really does. Having said that though, the little panto tiff between him and Gove was pretty entertaining and lead me to spend most of the night thinking about who’d win if they did actually “take it outside”. My money’s on Self… By a whisker.
And what of the rest?
It’s nice to see that The Daily Express has finally stopped pretending that there’s even an iota of impartiality left to fight its way through the wall-to-wall coverage of Diana/Maddy/Seemingly Innocuous Things That Will Kill You by having a Chief Political Correspondent who’s going to run as a UKIP candidate… We’re through the looking-glass here Lemmings. Anyway, how did he do? Well, on the plus side he managed – unlike his recently de-whipped colleague – to not to call any female audience members slags, beat Michael Crick around the head or to write off an entire continent as ‘Bongo-Bongo Land’ . That just left him with the usual Kipper message of a plague on all your houses (a win-win for an Express writer as he could then knock out at least a hundred front pages about the threat to house prices from plagues) but he hasn’t quite got that cartoony aspect to him that make UKIP so fun on QT. Maybe that’ll come through when he packs in the day job. As for Louise Cooper, well she seems game for a laugh, engaging enough and her bit on the price freeze was good. It’s just a shame that she slipped into caps-lock mode with that MY FAMILY ARE VERY IMPORTANT TO ME blather at the end. Oh well, hey-ho…
(Is clearly up to some)Thing
(Had a lovely little) Fling (with Gove)
(Employed the standard array of UKIP) Sling(s and arrows)
(Is long and thin… Much like) String
(Did seem to) Wing (it a bit at the end)
The Crowd: 5/10
(Are all fans of seminal early-90’s novelty act The Sultan’s of) Ping (FC)
Now, don’t be fooled by those lacklustre scores because this was a great a show: Meaty, dense and pacey (not to mention the fact that my two favourite stereotypes – a man in an elaborate bow tie and an angry vicar – were also represented). So yes, it appears that not only is my old friend Politics is back, but so too is Question Time. God I’ve missed you guys…
Next week Lemmings, next week…