Questionable Time #72


questionable time 72 david dimbleby kiss make up

Good morning Lemmings and let’s not tarry too long on this first paragraph because we have much to get through. Much, much, muchness. Right, let’s go…

Let’s twist again. And again. And again. And again…

Imagine you’re playing pontoon: You peek at your first two cards (in this case a pretty borderline article on the assumed sentiments of a politician’s dead father) and find that you’re in a bit of a bind as their combined scores tally up to 15. Dammit! “Oh well,” you say to yourself, “might as well go for it. Twist!”. The dealer peels another card off the deck in the form of a supremely ill-judged headline and throws it on the table for all to see. It’s a Jack and you’re bust – time to pony up and hope that your next hand’s not quite as dire… At least that’s what you’d do if you had even the slightest concept of sportsmanship/rules/general standards of human behaviour.

But you don’t play by the rules. You’re a maverick, a loose cannon who’s standing up for what you believe in and right now you believe that a five-card trick will magically negate the fact that you’ve cocked this hand right up to the point where you’re out of the game. The banker reaches forward to collect his winnings but you’re having none of it: “Twist!” you scream as the other players exchange bemused looks and an uncomfortable silence envelopes the table. A friend of yours, an ex-editor of The Daily Telegraph, leans in towards you in an effort to set you straight:

Now come along Daily Mail I think you’ve had enough to -”

I SAID TWIST!”

Not knowing what to do the banker produces another card – a Queen this time. Your current score is 36 and bemusement is turning to concern. But you’re not done, not by a long shot.

AGAIN!”

The banker lays out a King. 46 and counting.

AGAIN!”

Another King and by this point even your brother, the Mail on Sunday is looking worried.

AGAIN! TWIST!”

You get the picture.

So that was a very long way of explaining the circumstances that bought Quentin Letts into the QT studio but how did he do on a personal level? Not good. Not good at all. In fairness to him he didn’t quite end up being the screaming lunatic of the above passage – the difference being that rather than shouting everyone down he just woozily dragged them around the houses whilst calling for yet more cards – but the fact that he still insisted on playing the game just gave his performance this very surreal air. And the result? Mockery – and not just an odd titter from certain sections of the crowd but full-blown, out-and-out derision like the part where he foolishly asked the crowd if the Mail was “completely out of order?”. “Yes!” came the near-unanimous response. Still, at least he can take comfort in the fact that he had at least one ally in the audience – a Kipper with a fairly tenuous grasp of exactly how the political spectrum works.

TWIST!

Mehdi Hasan: My new favourite person in the whole world.

You will not be hearing my traditional pleas for Mehdi Hasan to lighten up today. Instead I’m going to let the man speak for himself by quoting what I consider to be probably the best QT set piece I have ever seen – a beautiful chunk of rhetoric that served as wish fulfillment for a sizable chunk of the population. Behold:

…when you talk about who hates Britain or who has an evil legacy, who do you think has an evil legacy? The man who sucked up to the Nazi’s, who made friends with Joseph Goebbels and praised Hitler in the run up to World War Two – the owner and founder of the Daily Mail Lord Rothermere – or the man who served in the Royal Navy, risked his life for his adopted homeland – Ralph Miliband? Who do you think hated Britain more? And this isn’t just about Ralph Miliband actually because it’s opened up a whole debate about the Daily Mail. You want to talk about who hates Britain… [minor chuntering from Letts]… This is a paper that in recent years said there was nothing natural about the death of the gay pop star Stephen Gately, who said that the French people should vote for Marine Le Pen and the National Front, who attacked Danny Boyle for having a mixed raced couple in the Olympic Ceremony, who called Mo Farah a ‘plastic Brit’. So let’s have the debate about who hates Britain more because it isn’t a dead Jewish refugee from Belgium who served in the Royal Navy, it’s the immigrant-bashing, woman-hating, muslim-smearing, NHS-undermining, gay-baiting Daily Mail.”

Be still my beating heart.

And the – oh who cares…

So there were some party political types on last night but let’s not pretend that they weren’t completely overshadowed by the slow motion train wreck that was Mailgate. Anyway, a few choice points:

  1. I’ve finally figured out who Grant Shapps (see Fig. 1) reminds me of: He’s that kid at school – and every school has one – who thrives on goading others into wayward acts before legging it when the consequences of those acts become apparent (that’s if he hasn’t dobbed them in already). He also has a tin ear for nuance. Remember when that woman in the audience made a very eloquent point about how she’s fed up with all the ‘Hard Working People’ schtick? Well what better way to follow that up than by starting your next sentence with the phrase ‘Hard Working People’.
  2. I’ve now concluded that Yvette Cooper is the Bic Biro of politics: Dependable, functional, readily available (I don’t mean it like that…) and something you never really think about until you need one. True, she’s no Staedlter ball point (in my opinion the Rambo of Biro’s) but she’s dependable in a humdrum sort of way and there’s much to be said for that. However I can’t let her get away with quite how searingly dull she was last night. Yeah, yeah, yeah we know about the “lost three years” but can’t we just get back to the far more entertaining pursuit of Mail-baiting?
  3. Poor old Kirsty Williams looks like she could be a dab hand at this QT game if she could just get more than 20 seconds of camera time and not be quite so obsessed with the pupil premium. Better luck next time Kirsty.
eau de grant shapps

Fig. 1

Tl;dr

Shapps: 5/10

(As slippery and slap-) Dash (as ever)

Cooper: 4/10

(Gave it a mediocre) Bash

Williams: 6/10

(Made a decent) Hash (of it)

Letts: 2/10

(Sounded like he’d been on the) Lash

Hasan: 9/10

Smash(ed that ball right out of the park)

The Crowd: 8/10

(Displayed a high percentage of mous)Tache (owners)?

Well, what can I say? Two great episodes in as many weeks… Are we heading into some sort of QT Golden Age? I sincerely hope so. Anyway, that’s enough from me and should you still happen to be at a loose end you can check what happened when I cut Boris Johnson’s brain in two earlier this week.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

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9 Responses to “Questionable Time #72”


  1. 1 Robert Harding October 4, 2013 at 14:53

    Playing the ‘Great Populist stuff!’ card won over the crowd…
    The Mail won’t fold… There’s a joke in that somewhere.

  2. 3 The Pregnant silence October 4, 2013 at 15:51

    Bring on some more Questionable Time wit.

  3. 4 Matthew Sumption October 4, 2013 at 17:32

    Even I, hardened QT watcher that I am, felt myself let out a whoop of satisfaction at the Mail getting thoroughly destroyed by THEIR historical record.

    Agree on Kirsty Williams, I think she could be one of the best representatives the embattled Lib Dems could have on QT. Ed Davey represents one of the others.

    Lastly it’s Marine Le Pen (sorry for pedantry).

    • 5 loudribs October 4, 2013 at 17:40

      Pedantry always welcome as I can’t be trusted to do it myself! I think you’re right about William’s. This wasn’t her show but if she gets another outing with slightly more Lib Dem friendly topics I reckon she’ll do really well.

  4. 6 Franco October 6, 2013 at 12:30

    You do realise that this is the same Mehdi Hasan who only three years previous penned a letter to the Daily Mail, with the intention of writing for said paper, by saying the Mail was a paper whose “passion, rigour, boldness and, of course, news values” he had “always admired”.

    He also praised the Mail for its “relentless focus on the need for integrity in public life and your outspoken defence of faith, and Christian culture, in the face of attacks from militant atheists and secularists” and “social conservatism on issues like marriage, the family, abortion and teenage pregnancies”.

    It is obvious that the man has no integrity, courage or honour, and simply to decided to jump on the @Daily Mail Hating’ bandwagon and spout crowd pleasing jibes.

    In spite of the fact I find this blog to witty and well articulated, clearly, like the audience on Question Time, you are not a very good judge of character or sincerity.

    • 7 loudribs October 6, 2013 at 15:13

      Funnily enough that’s the second time in 24 hours that I’ve been called a bad judge of character. Anyway, a minor point: Mehdi’s marks are less to do with character and more about what a wonderfully executed set piece it was (and that is essentially – with the odd occasional lapse – what Questionable Time is about…. It’s about the spectacle, not the substance). Glad you like the blog though and stick about…. Plenty more where that came from.

      • 8 Franco October 7, 2013 at 12:22

        Thank you, a very reasonable response. I do very much indeed enjoy reading this blog – the humour I very much like – even if I disagree with your generally conclusions. However, I personally think that Question Time ought to be about substance and not the spectacle, particularly as politics affects many people’s lives, especially those in lower economic areas such as myself, which is why I only really watch if I think there is at least one person in the pannel who has integrity, speaks their mind, and as a consequence is worth listening to. Anyway, thanks for the well balanced response, and keep up the quality of writing and wit on this blog. :)

      • 9 loudribs October 7, 2013 at 15:11

        Thank you, that’s very kind and much appreciated.


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