Good morning Lemmings and assuming you and your homestead haven’t fallen victim to the Great Sogginess (it used to be called ‘Christmas’), welcome back to Questionable Time. So, where are we? What’s going on? Who are these people? Why is that bald man waving a credit card around and when did Lewisham became the QT equivalent of a squat party? Well, I’d be lying if I said I knew but let’s just pretend that I do and indulge in some wild speculation.
Letdown #1: It makes me sad when Nad isn’t that mad…
…Because there’s so much potential there that it just seems like a crying shame when she makes it through an hour without saying something completely beyond the pale. It’s also especially galling in this instance as her opening (complete with grumpy chunterings about how she had to go first) was so off the Blue Team’s message that she looked like a shoe-in for a meltdown. Proposed Tory plans for the welfare state? Codswallop and balderdash! The mansion tax? Bloody good idea! Whose side are you actually on Nad? I have no idea! Perhaps aware that this wasn’t the best way to curry favour with her colleagues she then tried to make up for it by appending the phrase “Vote Conservative!” to the back-end of every sentence she uttered in the immigration question but her new-found enthusiasm sounded a little odd next to content that might as well have been lifted straight from UKIP manifesto (and by ‘manifesto’ I actually mean a colouring book where the only available colour is white).
So that bade well right? She was on the Mel-P trajectory and all that was really needed was a final push in order to truly unleash the crazy. The problem was that the final push never came and in truth, it never does on QT because despite all the headlines and bluster Nadine is essentially quite normal. “Normal?” you say “The woman who ate sheep’s testicles in the jungle and wrote an official looking blog that later turned out to be “70% fiction”? This is normal now?”. Well, alright the testicles thing was pretty weird but if you look at her background she really is just a regular person with a clutch of fairly normal right-wing values who grew up in common-garden circumstances and held down a standard issue job. What makes her look odd is the company she keeps – the Blue Team don’t do ‘normal’ in the literal sense of the word so she always ends up looking like the oddest clam on the beach when in fact it’s actually the other way round.
Anyway, all this is by-the-by as the end result is still the same: Rather than going off the handle, Dorries sort of held it together in a somewhat tetchy fashion and made it to the end without incensing everyone in a ten-mile radius. Two miles maybe, but the full ten? Disappointingly, no.
Letdown #2: Norm is also normal.
So it turns out that Norman Baker – the Lib Dem’s conspiracy theorist in chief who inexplicably landed in the Home Office after poor old Jeremy Brown and his panda were told to vacate the premises for no good reason whatsoever – is in a band. My initial reaction to this discovery was along the lines of ‘please say it’s some widdly-widdly Rush-like space noodling outfit’ but again my hopes have been dashed. No, after spending an afternoon where I effectively doubled The Reform Club’s Youtube views it’s my sad duty to report that far from belonging to some avant-garde exercise in sounds that only dolphins can hear, Norm’s band are instead the sort of pub rock ensemble that requires the audience to wear waistcoats, make a fuss about real ale and trade anecdotes about how they once saw Van Morrision arguing with a bus stop (see Fig. 1).
I bring this up because like Dorries, Baker should – what with his clutch of niche causes and nose for the untoward – be a QT star, yet his performance was so quietly mundane that you often struggled to remember that he was actually there. I guess I shouldn’t be too hard on him as his whole appointment to the Home Office does smack of an exercise in giving him enough rope to hang himself with but really Norm, a little more weird wouldn’t go amiss.
Paul Nuttall and Lewisham: A match made somewhere other than Heaven.
UKIP seemed to be on to a winner during the last run of QT: Put the frighteningly sane Dianne James on whenever it’s a southern based marginal, Nuttall for anything north of Stafford that’s near a motorway and Farage for all other occasions. It was working because Nuttall’s brand of ‘ordinary bloke saying what we’re all thinking’ works really well in those towns which would never in a million years vote Tory yet have also fallen spectacuarly out of love with the Red Team (your Blackburns, Darwins and Stokes). But the same trick doesn’t work when you transpose it to screamingly Right On and cosmopolitan Lewisham. No, you just end up looking like that weird guy who a friend brought to your birthday party and then promptly abandoned when he started shouting about Romanians. Hard luck Paul, back up the M6 you go…
Where’s this Chuka been all my life?
Another week, another chance for me to wheel out my standard charge sheet against Chuka Umunna – mainly that everything he says comes across as stilted, over-rehearsed and lacking any real fire – except that I’m not going to this week. Instead I’m going to give the him a gold star for acting like an actual human being with his response to the Mark Duggan question. It was great – thoughtful, considered and most of all genuine. True, this was his episode to throw away given just how bloody tribal the Lewisham crowd are and there were periods where he lapsed back into his default position of regurgitating the latest policy brief but I’m going let that slide if only because it was nice to see that he is capable of displaying tangible emotions rather than his regular schtick of rhetorical box ticking.
And the winner of Best Newcomer 2014 goes to…
…Susie Boniface, aka the Fleet Street Fox. Alright, so it’s not exactly a crowded field when it comes to dishing out that award but her factual ducks were presented in a tidy row, the delivery was firm without being self-righteous and she really did make Paul Nuttall look like a bit of a tit. Winner winner chicken dinner!
Dorries: (Less) booed (than expected)
Umunna: (Judged the) Mood (just right)
Nuttall: (Is) Screwed (south of the Potteries)
Boniface: (Is clearly a) Shrewd (cookie)
The Crowd: (Spend most of their time in the) Nude?
And so our story ends but not before I have a slight dig at the crowd for giving the Biased BBC brigade enough ammunition to keep them in bitter sounding blog posts for the next year. Oh well. Can’t have it all I guess. Right, I’m off to quietly weep about how few people want to buy t-shirts in January. Seriously guys, buy t-shirts… They’ll be the only dry clothes you get until at least August.
Next week Lemmings, next week…