Archive for November, 2013

Questionable Time #80

questionable time 80 david dimbleby mogwai cody

Apologies to Mogwai…

Good morning Lemmings and after last week’s no-shows we’re now at the opposite end of the spectrum as six egos are herded into the studio to fight amongst themselves. Considering that’s double the amount of panelists that we had on the show last week we should be in for double the fun, right? I wouldn’t bank on it.

That Eddi Reader looks like the mellow sort…

…At least that’s what I though when the camera panned back and revealed the panel. Sandwiched between the line of uninspiring suits and furrowed brows was this picture of free-floating whimsy, seemingly unaware that no, you’re not at Womad and no, there won’t be a workshop on how to batik Celtic knotwork onto hemp based fabrics later on. Anyway, this struck me as rather good news as I like it when they have a wavy-gravy type on and was looking forward to hearing what Scottish independence would do for the nation’s chakras. Then she had a pop at the first question.

Initially things were going well: There was a reassuringly vague statement about how she’s got nothing against the English and some platitude along the lines of ‘can’t we all just get along?’, all of which seemed very much in line with my initial take on Eddi Reader (bearing in mind that this initial take was based solely on watched Perfect by Fairground Attraction on You Tube and approximately 30 seconds of air-time). But then the menace started creeping in.

It was muted at first and her answer seemed innocuous enough but there was one line that sent a shiver down my spine: “I’ve been looking into this”. Now, looking into things is no crime but the way she said it – you know, with that splash of green ink and the crinkling of tin foil – reminded me of the way people say “I’ve been looking into this” after watching Loose Change or spending an afternoon on David Ike’s website. There was just something terribly J’accuse! about it.

As it happens J’accusing! turned out to be the name of Reader’s game as within five minutes she was J’accusing! an audience member of having faulty information (“Who ‘s frightening you?!”) before embarking on a rolling J’accuse! with Margaret Curran that would last for the entirety of the show. Some of these J’accuses! were justified and relevent but quite a lot of them just sounded – well, just a little bitter and with more than hint of the conspiratorial about them. Let’s just say I’m glad there wasn’t a question about the anniversary of JFK’s death.

Sturgo did good…

My usual charge sheet against Nicola Sturgeon usually revolves around her tendency to cross the Plucky-Chippy line but I’m pleased to say that there was none of that last night. No, in fact it was a very well-rounded little affair that saw her looking calm, in control and without any of the irritability that sometimes seeps in and snags her. However, I did notice whilst hunting for this week’s pshop material (and boy was that a thankless task) that her living room doesn’t appear to be sufficiently patriotic in décor for a high-ranking member of a nationalist party. As a result I got all a little Llewelyn-Bowen and gave the place a makeover for her (see Fig. 1). Don’t mention it Nics, don’t mention it…


Fig. 1

Which is the scarier of these passages?

1. There is something evil behind this door.

2. If you opened this door with your hand and had a look inside with your eyes you might get some sort of feeling that if you carried on looking hard enough you might see some shapes or something that look pretty evil.

I’m bringing this up for Margaret Curran’s benefit as she played the role of the scary one for the No campaign whose job it was to highlight all the perils independence would bring. The problem was that she chose to go about this task in the manner of the second passage – you know, by using all the available words in the world and doing so veryveryquickly – and that really doesn’t put the frighteners on anyone. Granted, having Eddi Reader stalking about the place doesn’t exactly do much to settle one’s nerves but still, less is more Margaret, less is more.

Missed Opportunity of the Evening goes to…

noted Linux/Open Source enthusiast Patrick Harvie for not suggesting that Scotland should use Bitcoins as their currency. He might very well not see any merit in using Bitcoins for such a purpose but just to have watched Dimbers and Annabel Goldie try to get their heads around the intricacies of cryptographically generated future monies would have made it all worthwhile. Aside from that it was a good effort from Harvie, especially that last little flourish about Scotland being intrinsically centre-left. It was precisely the same point that Eddi Reader was trying to make but he managed to do it without sounding utterly terrifying.

I’ve really warmed to Annabel Goldie…

Being a Scottish Tory must be like being a Rasta in Pyongyang yet she somehow endures and does so in quite a good-natured way. Take for example the question about how independence would mean getting shot of the Blue Team and everyone cheered the sort of gleeful cheer that sets most panelists all a quiver. Not Goldie though, she just sat there and took it with a knowing look and nary a flinch. Now that’s the type of faith you only get when pursuing a truly lost cause.

I’m calling Carmichael out…

…Because according to his Twitter background picture (see Fig. 2) he’s heavily involved with bloody great axe-wielding Vikings and if there’s one thing I’ve been consistently saying QT would benefit from it’s the addition of Vikings with bloody great axes. As it happens Alistair Carmichael is less of a berserker and more of a fairly average chap who gave a fairly average performance and will be awarded fairly average points minus one for the sneaky Viking subterfuge. Hey, maybe Eddi Reader was right… Maybe politics is awash with “agendas” and “sneaky behaviour”. I should Look Into This…

Fig. 2

Fig. 2


Sturgeon: 6/10

(Showed a fair amount of) Skill

Curran: 5/10

(Knows how to) Fill (a sentence up to bursting point)

Carmichael: (5-1) = 4/10

(Doesn’t look like he enjoys) Kill(ing as much as his Twitter background pic does)

Goldie: 5/10

(Does a good line in) Still (waters run deep)

Harvie: 6/10

Will (hopefully be on more often)

Reader: 4/10

(Isn’t as) Chill(ed as she looks)…

The Audience: 5/10

(Off their heads on) Pill(s)…

Well, at least they bothered to turn up is all I can say. Right, time for me to go and Look Into Things and by ‘things’ I mean the washing-up. Oh the glamour…

Next week Lemmings, next week…


Questionable Time #79

questionable time 79 david dimbleby tattooed woman

Good morning Lemming and before we get underway let’s just take a few moments to truly appreciate this first paragraph for I feel it has been taken for granted of late and deserves better. Go on, have a good poke around while I thank Elizabeth for the outstanding job she did on last week’s show. Marvel at the neat array of lines and the way the words follow on from each other as I confirm that yes, we had a tattooed Dimbleby as last week’s title but that’s ok because really, how often is that it David Dimbleby gets tattooed? Breath it in Lemmings, suck it up because honestly, this is as good as it’s going to get today and if you don’t believe me, carry on reading as I try to make something – anything – out of an episode so bad that two of the panelists didn’t even turn up. Mark my words, you’ll miss this first paragraph from the second we move on to the main section – which is just about to happen right now.

Yaah, call me Ribshmael…

We all have a White Whale – you know, some behemoth from the deep who breaches the surface just long enough for you to man the harpoons only to watch them slide beneath the waves before you can get a shot off – and Jeremy hunt is mine. I mean c’mon, just look at the guy: He’s the son of an Admiral who played fast and loose with expenses, upset the victims of Hillsborough and then got caught being a little too pally with the Murdoch Empire – but not before his tax arrangements raised a few eyebrows. Naturally, we would expect a politician who goes in for this sort of thing to be covered from nose to tail in barbed projectiles yet Hunt’s skin remains intact and unblemished. In fact, not only did he avoid being dragged to shore for a vigorous flensing, he actually ended up being promoted to Health Secretary instead. That puts Hunt in a different league from the more mundane prey that make up the bulk of the good ship Questionable Time’s catch, different to the point that I’ve been longing for the day when he’d be on QT so that I could lie in wait and finish the matter once and for all. This time my White Whale was not going to get away. This time I’d land the bugger.

Except that I didn’t. Why? Because Jeremy Hunt is scarily brilliant at fluking his way out of a tight spot. Actually no, that’s unfair. There’s skill to what he does and while the paucity of opposition on the panel was a matter of luck it’s the way in which he carries himself – you know, that weird Zen thing he’s got going on with the very calm speech luring you away from the very mad eyes – that really kept him out of harm’s way. It’s also what makes him so vexing because you know just by looking at him that this man is a True Believer – someone who has big, dangerous ideas and considers consequences as incidentals. You saw it very briefly when he got animated about the private sector and his arms prepped themselves for some flamboyant gesticulating (see Fig. 1). The missionary zeal started creeping into his tone and his eyes lit up but no, just as the crowd mobilised to take him to task he caught himself, went straight back to Zen-mode and slipped beneath the surface again.


Fig. 1

So here I am, once again shuffling up and down the shoreline muttering oaths about the One That Got Away and making outlandish predictions about what I’ll do the next time our paths cross. In the words of Ishmael – Heaven have mercy on us all – Presbyterians and Pagans alike – for we are all somehow dreadfully cracked about the head, and sadly need mending.”

I have two theories about Sadiq Khans performance…

The charitable one is ‘flu’ while the infinitely more entertaining one is ‘ketamine’. Seriously though, how else we can explain away such a cack-handed and downright confusing display from an otherwise steady pair of hands? I mean, it’s not like he was just fumbling a few lines, he was mangling 90% of them before suddenly remembering that if he acted a bit angry people wouldn’t bother listening to what he was saying and just clap along for the hell of it. I gave up taking notes within about five minutes because the stuff he was coming out with wasn’t just ropey – it was incoherent and with a dollop of grumpy irritability on top of it to boot.

So what was it then Sadiq? Has the cold snap laid you low with some mind fugging virus or have you been taking the Toronto/Co-Op approach to executive conduct? Please say it’s ketamine, please say it’s ketamine, please say it’s ketamine…

Things can only get better, right?

Erh, no. Things couldn’t really get much worse than they already were but Olly Grender did her level best to make sure that they didn’t improve any either. Now I should point that making the leap between cosy This Week punditry to the QT killing fields is a hard one particularly when you’ve only just landed in the Lords but still, that’s no excuse for just how dreary everything she said sounded. No oomph, no vim, just boil-in-the-bag policy chunter and a look of all-pervading fear. Still, at least she did supply the only laugh of the night when she enjoined the people of Manchester to rejoice about all those HS2 jobs that are coming their way… In twenty million years time. Ha! Good one Olly!

And the moral of this sorry tale?

QT doesn’t work without a civilian panelist. Yeah, they may wibble a lot of nonsense and generally clutter the place up but by God are they vital to stop politicians looking even weirder than they already do. In fact I would go so far as to suggest that the next time there’s a double cancellation they should just fish a couple of random – and preferably difficult looking – audience members out and put them in to wibble nonsense and generally clutter the place up instead. Anything to stop a repeat of last night. Anything.


Hunt: 6/10


Khan: 2/10


Grender: 3/10


The Crowd: 5/10


Hmmph…. At least I didn’t have to look up as many rhymes as usual… Small mercies and that. Anyway, let’s just erase this episode from our memories and pretend that none of this ever happened.

Right, I’m off but not before plugging a couple of new T-shirts I’ve got on the go. Anyone for Blackpool? No? Then how about this Red Riding/Battle of Orgreve number? Go on, it’ll make the perfect Christmas gift for the contemporary literature loving ex-NUM member in your life.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #78

Good…morrow, Lemmings!

As you may know, the webmaster is away this week. So, hello! I’m his stand-in, Elizabeth. He found me in a skip by the side of the road and offered me a job. Non-paying, of course. What do you think this is, the Financial Times?

First, let’s get the tragic news out of the way. Yes, as I’m sure you’re all aware by now, David Dimbleby has indeed gone and got himself a tattoo, in a fit of youthful rebelliousness. Now, I’m not bashing Dimbledore’s choice to get himself ‘inked’, as I believe the yoof say these days, if he so wishes. In fact, it suits the theme for this week’s episode, as he’ll fit in just splendidly with the disgruntled ex-shipbuilders now milling around in Portsmouth wailing and howling and cursing the Scots.

Oh! See what I did there? This leads us nicely on to the show itself! Gosh, it’s almost as if I planned that. Don’t worry though, it’s just a rumour that was spread around town.

Could you bring up some more tea, Davey?

I’ve noticed something about Ed Davey. It’s not just the fact that he looked hesitant, eager to ‘lay down’ some ‘proper disses’ on the energy companies but increasingly bereft because he’d never get his chance. It’s not just the fact that he stared off into space, blinking heavily, wishing with all his heart for BAE to be nice, to be gentle, looking permanently worried while twisting his pen back and forth in a somewhat heartbreaking way.

No. It’s the fact that he looks like Mr Molesley from Downton Abbey.

He has the same anxious air to him as well. I’m so convinced of this, whether or not anybody else sees it, that I’m going to start calling him Mr Davey for this entire edition.

Fig. 1

Regardless of what I call him, his performance remains the same. Let’s just say that it’s always a bad sign when David Dimbleby is by far the most awake person on the panel. Maybe his tattoo has given him a newfound fire in his belly, who knows. Maybe that’s what half an hour of non-stop shipbuilding talk does to a group of people, in the company of many beardy men.

But Mr Davey tried his best. He really, really did. He even tried to smack down the other panellists once or twice! At one point, Paul Kenny mockingly said he believed in the tooth fairy. Mr Davey slowly shook his head. Kenny tutted. The thrill of debate.

Out of nowhere, Mr Davey was suddenly stuck talking about drones. Why, his face seemed to say. Why me. He only wanted to discuss green levies. Why was he here? “I don’t know enough about this”, he muttered, clearly wanting nothing more than to shrink away and curse the day he was born.

(Meanwhile, Paul Kenny asserted that the drones “are getting away from us”. Yes. That’s the point.)

Nothing compared to his ‘fight’ with Nigel Lawson, though. Mr Davey simply could not believe it was happening. He was taking on a grumpy grandpa and the grumpy grandpa was winning. How was this even real? He’s Ed Davey! The most charismatic politician of them all!

But more on that later…

I once caught Stella Creasy’s very bad cold and hallucinated for two days straight (this is true)

Prior to this week’s programme I was still a little unsure what being Shadow Competition Minister entailed, but Stella Creasy has shown me the light. It means trying to cram as many words as possible into each sentence, and competing with every previous sentence to top your high score. As a result, she ended up urging the government to go easy on the dockers and to “keep the skills that are longterm skills”. As opposed to what, Stella? The skills that you get when you’re forced to play a minigame in a video game, and it’s a minigame that you don’t really enjoy but you have to do it anyway in order to progress the story?

Still, she was certainly earnest about it, that much was clear. When the sad subject of Typhoon Haiyan came up, Stella even appealed to us directly: listen to this man making a speech at the UN, she said, almost pleading with Nigel Lawson to finally understand her point of view. He cried, you know. In pain. And I, too, also feel that pain.

Not many politicians manage to look like wibbly-eyed anime characters, but after this performance I can definitely say that she is one of them. (Andy Burnham is, of course, another.)

Fig. 2

Stella Creasy is a conundrum for me. Occasionally she seems like a generic PolitiBot, manufactured in a laboratory somewhere in Slough, others she’s so uber-earnest your teeth almost shatter from the sugar rush. Sometimes she comes out with lines like “We’re not the dinosaurs, sir! Do we want to be extinct?!” and gosh darn it she’s just so sincere about it that you can’t help but answer, “No. No, Stella. I do not want to be a dinosaur.”

You wait ages for a Nigel, then two come along at once

I knew exactly what I was going to get when I heard Lord Lawson of Blaby was going to be on the panel. The question was, when would I get it?

At first, Papa Nigella gave us a sedentary performance, mentioning his time in the Navy on a ship called the Gay Charger and commenting that the word meant something different back then. This caused everyone to chuckle somewhat uncomfortably, because let’s be honest, nobody really wants to hear about Nigel and his charging, gay or otherwise.

But then, at last, the climate change question was aired.

Suddenly, quite frighteningly, Nigel snapped out of his stupour and stared wide-eyed into the light. This was it. This was what he was born to do. He had risen, like a phoenix from the fossil-fueled flames: the king of climate change denial. Haha. Climate change. What a laugh. He’d show them. Little did Mr Davey know that Nigel was merely waiting, all this time, waiting, planning, plotting, for that very moment to arrive. It was his one chance. Time to put the hippies in their place.

Apparently, all things considered, it’s been a nice, quiet time in the tropics recently! Nigel kicked back in his chair, utterly content in the fact that everybody on the panel was staring at him in horror and disbelief. Well. That’s what they get for being such a bunch of sheep. They might chortle, but he’ll have the last laugh, when he next visits the seaside and guffaws into the ocean’s salty face. You fool, he’ll cry. Don’t just sit there. Come over here if you think you’re hard enough.

Oh wait, he’ll say, smiling his crooked, gummy smile. You can’t.

To be fair, old Nigel’s sheer perseverance gave him points, even in the face of the rest of the panel literally laughing at him at one point, even the woman whose line of business is in great whacking trucks that fart who-knows-what into the atmosphere. But no. Nigel, through sheer force of denial, gaily charged on. There was no stopping him. It was all or nothing and Nigel wasn’t taking nothing for an answer, unless it’s the answer to how many more wind farms we should build. And there’s something to be said for that.

Them other two

I’m somewhat sad that Paul Kenny did reasonably well, for had he done embarrassingly badly, I’d get to say ‘oh my god, they killed Kenny!’ and everyone would laugh, and my job would be made at least 62% easier. But that didn’t happen. Kenny did decently, and even if he sounded at first like the Daily Mail’s stereotypical nightmare union leader, the audience seemed to be mainly on his side. Then again that might be because the audience was on everybody’s side this time around. For a group of people who are apparently so passionate about the Navy and, rather worryingly, sending warships to as many places as is legally allowable, they sure were easily swayed by first Nigel Lawson and then Mr Davey’s conflicting opinions about where the baby polar bears are supposed to live.

But more importantly, Kenny also wore a nice pink spotty tie, while saying stuff like “we couldn’t fight a cod war! We couldn’t put an exclusion zone around the Isle of Wight!” Scared, I resisted the urge to change the channel. It’s clear Kenny wants to declare war. Perhaps on Philip Hammond. No-one seems that bothered by this, by the way. Who even is Philip Hammond, the masses cry? We don’t know, but we don’t like him.

Nikki King also had a bone to pick with all the pointless squawking going on, in the style of your mum despairing about how why can’t she ever just have a nice family dinnertime without someone crying or dropping the tea tray or showing off their Claire’s Accessories star pendant (looking at you Stella Creasy) or getting into a fight about whether global warming exists.

“Isn’t this all so confusing?” she bemoaned, “I wish someone could tell me exactly what’s going on”. Yes, Nikki, well. That’s the thing. People sometimes have slightly differing opinions. That is, you could say, the entire point of this programme.

I suppose she was brought on to give a more ‘human touch’, while still being respected as a top businesswoman, and she did start off okay – she almost reminded me of a no-nonsense school nurse. But then she said that and that’s all I can think of now. I wish I knew what was going on.

Near the end, Mr Davey got angry, having finally gotten sick of Nigel Lawson’s flaccidity and his denial of the ocean’s acidity. I raised a weary cheer, because against my better judgement, I was actually starting to root for Mr Davey, simply because he no longer looked like he had wind. Go on my son, I cried, go on. The show was finally getting interesting. Davey and Lawson were fighting, Creasy was pleading, Kenny was punching and King was…I don’t know what she was doing. The energy bills issue was even raised again, and I was so sure that things were turning the corner –

But then someone just had to bring up carrier bags, didn’t they. I slumped back down and ate some more cake.

At last, a lady closed the show with a question on the arrogance of humanity, and doesn’t that sum this programme up well.

The final scores are:

Davey: 5/10

(Not so) dire

Creasy: 5/10


Lawson: 4/10


Kenny: 5/10

(Singing to the) choir

King: 3/10

A flat tire

The Crowd: 4/10


I’m harsh because I’m in a grumbly mood. I was waiting all night for someone to make a tattoo joke and nobody did, so everybody gets a point deducted for disappointing me.

It’s been fun, but it’ll be back to normal next week when the glorious webmaster makes his return. So, in conclusion…it’s goodbye from me, and goodbye from me.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #77

questionable time 77 david dimbleby

Good morning Lemmings and where do we find ourselves on the one week where I actually wanted QT to be in Scotland? Stranded in the flatlands of Lincolnshire, that’s bloody where. Still, considering this is possibly the first show in the current run where there’s been nary a mention of utility bills I shall suck this puddle of iniquitous happenstance up with good grace and go about my work without rancour. Alright, so there might be a little bit of rancour but that’s just par for the course. Off we go…

I don’t practice Santeria, I ain’t got no crystal ball…

…But if I was ever to need a conduit to the Land of the Dead it would be Anna Soubry who I’d turn to based entirely on the remarkable job she did last night in channelling the spirit of the late Margaret Thatcher. It was an eerie spectacle: Soubry, still smarting from her endearingly ramshackle tumble through the first question suddenly fell into a trance-like state as Farage was getting busy putting the frighteners about. Arguments and ill-tempered exchanges flourished with both panelists and audience taking umbrage with one another yet Soubry remained hunched in silence, eyes fixed on an invisible point in infinity. “Over to you, Anna Soubry” came the call and then a pause as her head slowly raised to reveal gaping black holes where eyes should have been before rotating through a full 360 degrees.

They come here to WORK. They come here to do JOBS”

A chill descended on the studio as that ominous, just-a-little-too-long pause at the start of each sentence, that crawling slow delivery, that emphatic emphasis on the last word started to fire off flickers of recognition in the minds of all those present. Wait a second… I know who that sounds like… It’s… Oh Jesus no… The Iron Lady has cheated death!

Alright, so that might have been a slight exaggeration as it was actually more like a plummy sounding woman trying to do an impression of a woman who went out of her way to sound very plummy but the similarities were unmistakable – uncanny even – and my suspicion is that this is what Anna Soubry does when she knows she’s in a tight spot: She shuts her eyes, clenches her fists as tight as she can and keeps repeating “What would Maggie do? What would Maggie do? What would Maggie do?” over and over until her inner-Thatcher comes and rescues her. Given that I’m not exactly a fan of the late-PM, you’d think I’d view this as an undesirable trait but in fact I’ve grown to quite like it because it’s like a self negating-prophesy. Think about it, what would Maggie do? Well, she definitely wouldn’t be asking anyone for advice because she’d already know with horrifying certainty exactly what it was she wanted to do in the first place. I also have to admit that weird as it was, Soubry’s little voodoo ceremony actually turned out rather well and that’s the thing about Soubry – although she quite often buggers things up on QT she has a knack of shambling through things in a pleasingly game sort of way… And that, dear Lemmings, is definitely not what Maggie would do.

I hear music when I see Emily Thornberry…

…Not celestial choirs or anything like that but there are two tracks that pop into my head when I see her. The first is Foghat’s Slow Ride and I hear this when she’s doing well – you know, like when her voice goes all buttery and everything she says sounds mellow and reasonable. The second song however is Screeching Weasel’s Breaking Point and I hear this whenever she starts to get grumpy – you know, like when she does the rolly eye thing and everything she says sounds sarky and sanctimonious. Happily for Emily I’m pleased to report that we had a full evening of Slow Ride – not least on account of the unspoken truce between Teams Red and Blue in the face of the Garish Yellow and Purple Team– but I won’t go quite as far in my praise as the author of this text I received during the show did (see Fig. 1).

Fig. 2

Fig. 2

All those wishing to chip into the Bet Against Uglymonkey Fund, please make yourselves known by way of the comments box.

Nigel’s playing for keepsies…

So we’ve all become quite accustomed to the cock-a-hoop/waggy-tailed/I-can’t-believe-I’m-getting-away-with-it Farage of late and that’s been a fun exercise in both mischief and farce, not least because no-one (except Michael Crick) has got hurt and it all just feels like mid-term tomfoolery. However all good things come to an end and it appears we are now stuck with a much more hard-headed, composed and actually rather steely Farage who’s up to his old tricks of selling crazy to Middle England (see Fig. 2). The most worrying bit is how well he managed to keep it all together last night – no getting carried away with it all, no talking himself into a corner – not to mention the fact that there was clearly a big appetite for the rather bitter dish he was serving. It was also probably his least fun appearance to date and I’m wondering how long that can be sustained – could we tolerate a ‘sensible’ Farage and everything that entails? I suspect not.

nigel farage the shining

Fig. 2

And the remainder?

I should tell Benjamin Zephaniah off for never really answering questions and trading in the vaguest of vagaries but who am I kidding? Like I could find it in my heart to go to town on clearly the nicest man in the whole world. As for Vicky Pryce, well what to make of her? She likes numbers – that was made pretty clear from the outset – and she also likes swallowing very hard mid-sentence. However, the bit that got me was the anecdote about the woman in the burqa eating an egg and how much that totally blew her mind. An egg! Eating it! In a burqa! Vicky Pryce: She’s seen things you wouldn’t believe…


Soubry: 6/10

(Is very) Game

Thornberry: 7/10

(Deserves modest) Acclaim

Farage: 5/10

(Managed to) Blame (the EU for just about everything again)

Zephaniah: 6/10

(Did the) Same (things as he always does in the same lovely way)

Pryce: 5/10

(Did) Exclaim (much bewilderment at eggs and burqas)

The Crowd: 6/10

(Are fans of so-hot-right-now Californian trio) Haim

Well, that was right old school, what with the wall-to-wall talk on immigration. I guess it makes a change from gas bills though. Now, just so you know, I’m not going to be here next week but in a Questionable Time first I will have someone standing in for me. Her name’s Elizabeth, she’s the brains behind the consistently chucklesome Cones Hotline and she’ll be at the helm for next week’s nautical little jaunt to Pompey. Bud-a-bup-bup-bup-budda-budda-budda-bup (to the confused, that’s the theme from Blue Peter… It just felt appropriate…)!

Sort of next week Lemmings… Sort of…

Questionable Time #76

questionable time 76 david dimbleby pumpkin

Good morning Lemmings and let’s start with some joyous news: Energy prices were not the first question of last night’s show and despite their subsequent appearance in Question #3 I think we’re probably out of the woods when it comes to Energy Prices Time. The bad news however is that HS2 got the #1 spot and that worries me because a) it’s just as dull an issue as energy prices and b) we’re probably going to have at least 20 years of this as the project lurches from one inevitable delay to the next. So here’s a small request to all future QT audiences: Pace yourselves as you’ve got another couple of decades of this to come and we wouldn’t want to have all our HS2 ‘fun’ at once now would we? Anyway…

I had a killer opening line for Jeremy Browne all figured out…

Who’s this jolly trouser press of a man?” was how I thought I was going to start this week’s section on Jeremy Browne and very pleased I was with myself for it is a good line that adequately conveys what Jeremy Brown usually looks like when he’s on QT – you know, all very upright and formal yet with a splash of affable bumbling, much like a meerkat at an award ceremony. Unfortunately, that line’s not going to work any more as it appears that poor old Jeremy Brown has yet to recover from the rather rude surprise of being sacked for no good reason – other than to make space for one of Parliament’s odder-balls – and as such he no longer resembles a jolly trouser press (I toyed with ‘deflated trouser press’ but that really doesn’t work because it implies the existence of an inflatable trouser press and that in turn sounds like the sort of thing you send the YTS kid out for after they’ve failed to secure the tartan paint or bucket of pixels you originally requested). I’m chalking this up as another black mark against the Deputy PM’s name… Thanks for ruining an otherwise great opener Cleggers!

So yes, this was Jeremy’s first outing since being unceremoniously heave-hoed off the front benches and you know what? I felt really, genuinely sorry for him. You could see it in the listlessness, the downcast face and the lack of wobble in an otherwise pleasingly wobbly head. Sure, he answered questions that were asked of him and did his best to look like his heart hadn’t broken into a thousand tiny pieces but you could tell that he was only there in order not to let the side down (whichever side that may be). Basically, he resembled a man who’s had the crap kicked out of him in a very random assault and that lingering sense of bewilderment just struck me as terribly sad.

However, there is one ray of sunshine in this otherwise bleak picture: No matter how roughly he is treated, now matter how raw his deal, Jeremy Browne can always take solace in one thing – he still has his panda… And I still have my panda cutout (see Fig. 1).

jeremy brown panda homeless

Fig. 1

I do so love a happy ending.

Something sketchy this way comes…

Here’s a question I tend to ask myself when observing a QT n00b on their first outing: Would you lend this person a tenner? In the case of George Osborne’s ex-Chief-of-Staff Matthew Hancock I’d say ‘no’ and here’s why. First off, he looked shifty. Now I’m aware that this is his initial QT sortie and I do give a dispensation for first time nerves but his shiftiness appeared more congenital than circumstantial. However, the thing that really gave me the screaming jibblies was the way he kept juxtaposing faux sincerity with actual sincerity. Take the Unite question: Here he started by trying to convince us that he’s a strong supporter of the unions but you got the feeling that he had to physically push those words out of his mouth because let’s face it, close allies of George Osborne are not exactly famed for their love of labour movements. Still, you often have to say things you don’t actually mean on QT so I’d be willing to let that slip if he hadn’t  followed it up with a line about what utter monsters Unite are and delivered with the most forthright conviction – that just made the initial porky look all the porkier. The same happened on the energy question – ‘I really like green energy BUT THESE WINDMILLS ARE MADNESS!’ was the jist of it and the implication was exactly the same: ‘I’ve been told I should appear to like green energy YET IT ACTUALLY ME MAKES WANT TO PUNCH HIPPIES’.

And that, dear Lemmings, is why I won’t be lending Matthew Hancock a tenner.

Episodes of QT you want Chris Bryant on vs. Episodes of QT you don’t want Chris Bryant on…

Episodes you want Chris Bryant on…

The ones where the main topic is something he likes getting his knickers in twist about conducted in front of a combative panel and an audience riven by factionalism.

Episodes you don’t want Chris Bryant on…

The ones with so-so topics, a panel who looked blitzed from the train ride to Cornwall and a crowd who politely clap every point whilst behaving in a reasonable fashion.

Things that make the bad episodes marginally better…

Watching the expression on his face when Paris Lees said that Ed Miliband “has real oak in his penis”. ‘Shocked delight’ is the best I can come up with.

And the other two?

I’ve got to say that despite working for the wretched Mail, I thought Harriet Sergeant was actually rather good last night and the only panelist to be consistently on the ball throughout. We may differ in view-point but at least she’s got the gumption to go out and see what life is like on the other side of the fence. As for Paris Lees, well it was a jerky start with her repeated ‘nationalise all the things’ responses but she found her feet with the probation question and followed it up with an oaken-penissed flourish on press regulation. That’ll do for me Paris…


Hancock: 4/10

(Wears a) Cloak (of shiftiness)…

Brown: 5/10

(Looks like a) Broke(n man)…

Bryant: 5/10

(Isn’t the sort of) Bloke (you want on a low-intensity episodes)…

Sergeant: 7/10

Woke (me up when I was in danger of dropping off)…

Lees: 6/10

Oak (and penises)

The Crowd: 5/10

(Nearly) Choke(d when they heard about Ed’s oaky penis)

Well, I can’t say that I was overly enthused by it all last night but at least I got to bust out the panda again… That’s got to count for something, right? Anyway, I’m off but before I go here are two very shameless plugs:

  1. What happens when you cut Morrissey’s brain in half.
  2. A rather nsfw t-shirt I designed that’s just gone on sale. I feel like I should be saying “I’m not proud of this” but in actual fact I’m really rather proud of it.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

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November 2013

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