Archive for February, 2014

Questionable Time #90


Good morrow lemmings and ‘welcome’ to sunny Newport for another edition of Questionable Time. I’m filling in short-notice for the Glorious Webmaster, although he did leave me with some lovely graphics to use. Now, I was looking forward to an exciting rant-a-thon this week, but unfortunately things didn’t exactly turn out that way. However, there was still a great deal of stuff to make fun of, which is what’s really important here. Let’s do it, let’s B&Q it.

(To the tune of the Batman theme song) Annannannanna Sou-bry!

Anna Soubry is a woman who reminds me a lot of my mum at my primary school sports day. That is to say, supportive, likable, eager to muck in, but with a hint of stony realism behind the eyes that betrays the crushing disappointment she truly feels in her heart of hearts and soul of souls. That was Anna Soubry last night. She was successful in maneuvering her way around a tricky audience: a grumbly shouty Newport audience (although I don’t think there is any other type of Newport audience), and ran rings around Rushanara Ali even on the topics you’d think she’d trip up on (AKA bankers’ bonuses). While the crowd was unforgiving, she managed to survive, even if she had to cling on by her nails and use that old chestnut “you had thirteen years to regulate the banks!” It worked though, and she wasn’t half bad on the other questions either. Her disdain for UKIP is endearing at least. Unless you’re UKIP.

ANNA-SOUBRY-LOL-GIF

Fig. 1

Overall, she seems like a woman who probably had an acutely embarrassing nickname as a schoolgirl, like ‘Chortles’, and the experience has made her ready for anything the world can throw at her. Also, her one slip-up did lead to the best bit of the show: responding “I’m sure I have!” when asked if she’d ever apologised. A warm and cynical laugh – two adjectives that don’t usually go so well together – emanated from the tough Newport stock of the crowd, and all was well in the world.

(To the tune of ‘Prince Ali’ from Aladdin) Ms Ali, mighty is she, Ali Rushanara

Rushanara Ali seems like a nice lady, but let’s just say the questions didn’t fall right for her this time around. It started off OK-ish: surviving the bonuses question, and even the IRA question, but when she got to Harmangate she was sadly bowled over, probably due to the fact that the rest of her party was currently running around like headless chickens over the subject and she didn’t have any option but to play goalie against a football the size of a double-decker bus. I’m not sure if that metaphor makes sense, but you know what I mean.

If I may put on my smartypants hat for once, this probably has to do with her inexperience. She wasn’t prepared for the focus on jolly old Wales, and it was telling putting her up against Anna Soubry, who easily knew how to counter her answers – Rushanara could only blink to herself like a rabbit in the headlights as the panel engaged in a routine that looked like it came out of a Brass Eye special – an anti-paedophile outrage-off.

“I’M SO DISGUSTED I’LL EAT MY SHOES!” said one, only not really.

“OH YEAH? I’M SO DISGUSTED I’M GOING TO VOMIT ALL MY INTERNAL ORGANS THROUGH MY NOSE! HOW’S THAT FOR DISGUST?!”

“THAT’S NOT NEARLY DISGUSTED ENOUGH, YOU PAEDOLOVER!”

If that wasn’t enough, then came the stock question about immigration (Question Time rule: when in doubt, ask about immigrants!) and the panel devolved into trying to out-foreign background each other. Dimbleby looked on, appearing, as I believe the yoof say these days, 500% done.

(To the tune of my terrified tears) Mel P, the other Spice Girl

Melanie Phillips has left the building.

No, really, I was disappointed! I was hoping that she’d really let loose, like a water cannon on a bunch of Ukrainian protesters. But where was she tonight? Aside from a brief cry against political correctness gawrn mad, where was this legendary splitter of Twitter, this column scrawler and socialist-brawler, that stuns the internet every time she opens her mouth? Has Katie Hopkins usurped her? Could it be…that she actually toned it down on purpose?

I mean, no, naw, nah, that’s impossible. It’s not as though she wants her job at the Mail back…or anything…or that her last performance cost her dearly…or anything…no, nothing like that, and I don’t really care. All I’m saying is, it makes for boring television, doesn’t it? Farewell, Melanie Phillips, we’ll always remember how much you look like an evil Jacqueline Wilson.

How do you pronounce ‘Elfyn Llwyd’?

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know much about Wales except from what I learned from Gavin and Stacey and a visit to the Green Man Festival in 2007. However, Elfyn Llwyd wouldn’t be that bad of an advertisement, with his cuddly face, fluffy moustache, and a voice that could send you to sleep. Yes, Elf-man (I’m calling him Legolas) was calm, collected, and utterly soporific. This was probably for the best as even when he was arguing for all of the UK’s banks to be hit repeatedly with a shovel, or perhaps an army of shovels, Melanie Phillips did not round on him and rip his moustache from his face with her mighty jaws. No matter what he said, people appeared to nod dreamily to themselves, drifting through the land of Nod. I quite enjoyed the sensation. In conclusion, well done, Legolas Lwywlwlywylwl…zzz.

Wake up!

What? I was having a nap. Oh yeah, there was another guy there, right…Jay Rayner, the food critic guy, who seems to be on this programme a lot for some reason. In contrast to Elfyn, Jay was downright morose. There’s no way to properly regulate the banks, he mumped. Gosh, this IRA business is a bit grim, he fumped. He did get more lively when the topic shifted to the Daily Mail’s coverage of Harmangate, and pointed out their slightly creepy tendency towards printing pictures of 12 year old girls in bikinis. Melanie Phillips shook her head in exasperation, which is more than she did against the actual politicians on this programme (apart from Rushanara, who at this point was staring into nothingness, hoping to get a nice question on kittens).

Scores time!

Soubry: 7/10

Tough

Ali: 4/10

Rebuff(ed)

Llwyd: 6/10

Fluff(y moustache)

Phillips: 4/10

(A bit) Rough

Rayner: 5/10

(Had) Enough

The Crowd: 6/10

Gruff

So it wasn’t a vintage question time, to be sure. Even Melanie Phillips didn’t reach her expected levels of bile. Oh well, next week has Hezza, and hopefully his phone will go off again.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

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Questionable Time #89


questionable time 89 david dimbleby boy wine

Good morning Lemmings and stop sniggering at the above picture because sniggering is not welcome this week. No, thanks to the inclusion of not only a celebrated author but also a philosopher QT has gone all highbrow on us and as a result there is to be no silliness today, no petty gibes and definitely no laughing at audience members trying to make jokes about bankers and biscuits. Alright, who am I kidding? QT can be as highbrow as it wants but my brows are feeling decidedly low-to-middling today so snicker away to your heart’s content at what turned out to be a much less sophisticated affair than its creators most likely anticipated. On we go…

I’m reassessing my reassessment of Philip Hammond…

I’ve been pretty mean to Philip Hammond in the past, what with all the .gifs and pshops about him being the greyest looking man in Christendom but over the last few weeks I’ve had a trademark change of heart and promised myself I’d give him a fair go this week. Why? Well, two reasons really:

  1. I was genuinely impressed with how much punishment he soaked up when Newsnight (which still can’t seem to work out whether it’s an august beacon of deep thought or the T-4 of current affairs) put him in front of a very well-heeled Thames Valley lynch mob.
  1. I recently discovered that he used to be a goth and I have a soft spot for goths, mainly because they are such a constant in life. Empires may come and go, nations may rise and fall but the one thing you can count on is that there will always be goths walking (well, shuffling) amongst us and they will look exactly the same as goths have always looked – sullen, dejected and slightly pink around the mouth from all the snakebite and black. Staying power – that’s what I respect about the goth.

So yes, ‘Let’s give Philip a fair bash’ was my mission statement this week and initially it was looking good – right up until the point he got Liz Kendall confused with Rachel Reeves. That didn’t go down too well (particularly when the Blue Team are getting it in the neck for their lack of female MP’s) but it wasn’t fatal and should have only been a temporary setback – that is until he did it again. Suddenly you could see something primal light up the eyes of Kendall, Kennedy and Dimbers – like hyena’s who’ve just heard the cry of a wounded antelope – and what should have been a display of steady-handedness quickly descended into an ignominious rout as they cracked wise, poked fun and even fashioned name badges out of the materials to hand. Were they perhaps a little too brutal with him? Maybe, but this is QT and as George W. Bush once pointed out “Fool me once, shame on – shame on you. Fool me – you can’t get fooled again”… Or something along those lines.

Anyway, the point is that I gave Hammond a fair crack and he buggered it up so we’re back to the business as usual: Here’s a picture of the intensive makeup process they used to colourise his face prior to filming (see Fig. 1).

philip hammond make up grey

Fig. 1

Liz Kendall – Goth Slayer

It was an impressive scalp for Liz last night and a deserved one too – Hammond may well have bought his own petard along but it was Kendall who did the bulk of the hoisting and she did so with glee. The other thing that really struck me about Kendal (other than her waving her arms about like she’s in that scene from Minority Report) was that she sounded like she might actually have a song in her heart – you know, like Labour MP’s used to before 13 years of government turned them all into dead-eyed middle-managers. Granted, that song might have sounded a little jarring if she’d been properly put on the spot about the Red Team’s benefits policy but as Hammond had incapacitated himself she got the run of the mill and did so with a breathlessness that just about stayed on the right side of the Enthused – Annoying Line. Well done Rachel!

Greenham Common called – they want their novelist back…

While Kendall may have briefly reminded me of the hopey-changey days of 1997, Jeanette Winterson went one better and managed to embody an entire decade simply by existing. Yup, the 80’s were back in town and appeared to be having a thoroughly good time of it all by damning privatisations, cocking a snook at the toffs (“David Cameron has never been hungry in his life!”) and invoking the spirit of James Lovelock. Did we learn anything we didn’t already know? Not really, but it was rather good fun to hear those bouncy just-north-of-Manchester vowels get slung about with genuine conviction and I’m never averse to a trip down memory lane. Now if you’ll excuse me I have a copy of Exodus to reacquaint myself with.

Such bouffant! Much luxury!

For a softly spoken man, Roger Scruton doesn’t half clang a lot – like when he managed to go from floodplains to just-shy-of-eugenics in three easy sentences. CLANG! It wasn’t just that point either – plenty more was to follow when he managed to chastise an entire generation for taking Media Studies (CLANG!), made out that £50k’s worth of debt is a trifling matter (CLANG!) and slagged off pretty much every voter in the country, several dozen of whom were sat right in front of him (CLANG!).

Truth be told, I don’t know what to make of Scruton other than he lives in a different world to the rest of us but seems completely oblivious to this fact. I will say though: I rather like his surname. ‘Scruton’ – it sounds like it’s inches away from being a swear word.

Charlie’s still in the game…

I was getting worried about Charles Kennedy as he’s been really mardy on his recent QT outings, almost as if he doesn’t know what to do with himself now that the Yellow Team have all grown up and left home. Last night was different though: Gone was the fidgety and slightly grumpy Charlie of shows past and in was the avuncular fireside chat Charlie who would only stray briefly into politics before gently wrapping us up in the warm blanket of chummy anecdotes and good-natured waggery. Oh Charlie, it’s good to have you back…

Tl;dr

Hammond: 3/10

(Did) Poke (his own eyes out)

Kendall: 7/10

(Should be) Stoke(d with herself)

Kennedy: 6/10

(Appears to have) Awoke(n from a deep and troubled sleep)

Winterson: 6/10

(Doesn’t like how many) Bloke(s are in parliament)

Scruton: 3/10

(Doesn’t seem to know much about regular) Folk

The Crowd: 6/10

(Think that James Knox) Polk (is history’s most underrated President)

And there we are – a rather pleasing affair that revolved heavily around the ostracisation of an ex-Goth and the ramblings of a talking hairpiece. It’ll do for me. Right, I’m off to hide in the basement as the sky appears to have turned blue and I’m not quite sure how to deal with that any more.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #88



Good morrow Lemmings, and a wet and windy welcome to this week’s edition of Questionable Time! I’m Elizabeth, the robot they programmed to stand in for the mighty webmaster. This week, in honour of Valentine’s Day, we’re in Scunthorpe, the most romantic place on Earth. Let’s get to it.

Damn, Green!

I always mix up Damian Green with Chris Grayling for some reason. Don’t ask me why, I just do. So considering the low impact Green has had on me thus far I went into this edition expecting very little, and by and large Green rose to the challenge as adequately as possible. He wasn’t appalling, just confused.

Confusion was the main theme of this week’s Question Time. What is this mysterious sky water? Who is to blame for it? And most importantly, does Scotland really exist? Or have we been greasily lied to all this time?

Dimbles, at least, knew the answer to the second question. ‘Mr Pickle,’ said Dimbledore accusingly, expecting Damian Green to cover for the hitherto-undiscovered new Mr Man’s interventions earlier in the week. Damian Green tried and failed. ‘Er, um, er,’ he said, confidently. Green seems befuddled by Mr Pickle, like he seems befuddled by most things. To be fair to him, when the (wet, angry) audience is throwing out suggestions such as building a massive wall around the country to keep out the water, the Vikings, and the roving bands of man-eating giants, it’s hard not to be befuddled.

Later on, he got more into his stride, uniting with Chris Bryant to disagree with Janice Atkinson on as many points as feasibly possible, including making a fairly reasonable argument for renewable energy and more long-term plans to stop sogginess in its tracks. Ahh, cross-party unity, don’tchajustluvit?!!!??!!!

Bryant is Tryant my patience

I was excited when I heard Chris Bryant was going to be on this week, even though up until the last minute the website displayed Alan Johnson’s name instead (who I found on This Week afterwards, cuddling up to Michael Portillo in the midst of Flappy Bird-centered VTs, which seems much preferable to Scunthorpe). But after viewing some of Bryant’s brilliantly realised tactics in the House of Commons, a strategy one can only describe as ‘annoy everyone then tweet about it’, I was looking forward to a devilish QT performance.

Sadly the questions didn’t deliver, and he had to look somber as someone mentioned the death of thousands of innocent chickens, and one dog. I henceforth dedicate this edition of Questionable Time to this dog. RIP Rover, may you never have to experience Scunthorpe again.

Anyway, Bryant was practically bursting to become all combative. He finally got his chance at the end, when the subject of Europe was raised: should we go the way of the Swiss and give the EU the double deuce? The very thought offended Chris to his core. He looked as though he’d just stepped on that dead dog. He was adamant that it was emotions that would decide the outcome of the Scottish referendum earlier on, and now his emotions were bubbling up to the surface, ready to burst the flood barriers of his heart.

How “pathetic”, he cries, that you would so cruelly insult fair Europe! How dare you, you scoundrel! Take that back or I shall challenge you to a duel. We shouldn’t snub the EU, he said – and at this point I was delighted to note a little wobble in his voice – we should “seize hold of our membership”! Yes! Seize hold of it! Seize it and kiss it! And smooch it! And ravish it! And [For more steamy Valentine’s Day Eurolovin’, please enter your PIN now.]

Winston pain

Considering all this excess water, you know what we need? A plumber. Perhaps…a mustachioed plumber. Yes, Mario would be perfect in this situation. But since Nintendo is being stingy and hogging him to themselves, we’ll have to make do with his looky-likey instead – Robert Winston.

Fig. 1

Mario here was killin’ it this time around. No-one really fought with him or had a bad word to say about him, because he seems like such a nice bloke – a kindly uncle foreboding horrible prophecies of doom. Climate change was the order of the day and according to the gentle, reassuring tones of Lord Winston, we’re all going to a watery grave unless somebody gets off their bottom and steps it up. His suggestion of Westminster being flooded to motivate the politicians prompted a cheerful shot of enthusiastic crowd members applauding. This week’s lively, annoyed audience appeared to mainly be on his side, but then again everyone did. Even Janice Atkinson sometimes, who attempted to channel the spirit of Lord Lawson to have a go at the clusters of wind farms springing up everywhere, unstoppable, destroying everything in their path.

In conclusion: we’re all screwed, basically, but Winston put it in such a nice way that nobody really minded. Also he made a joke about Bitcoins and that’s worth the license fee alone.

The wimminz

I feel kind of bad for lumping the others together, but whatever, they didn’t speak as much. I’m pleased that neither one of them were as blamey-shamey as I thought they’d be, with Cristina Odone making a surprisingly well thought-out point about otherisation, but then she had to go and ruin it by yelling about the smoking ban. At first it seemed the usual nanny-state argument, but an unfortunate turn of phrase made her position transmogrificate into ‘I don’t like laws that tell me not to harm my children! I have every right to harm my children!’ Could have played that one better, Crissy-mate.

As for Atkins Diet, she got into a heated argument about immigration with an audience member, scoffed at Brussels and nearly made Chris Bryant flip a table at her head, was the only person to disagree with Saint Super Mario and wore a weird snakey necklace that frightened me every time I looked at it. So a standard UKIP performance really.

(In the interests of equality, I will also comment on a man’s fashion choice here so I’m not just picking on Janice: cor, what was that pretty daisy tie Dimbles was wearing? Trying to remind us of Spring? Of terra firma? Of something that’s not water?)

Time for the scores!

Green: 5/10

Drippy

Bryant: 4/10 (7/10 for the voice wobble)

Blippy

Atkinson: 4/10

Snippy

Odone: 5/10

Trippy

Winston: 8/10

Quippy

The Crowd: 7/10

Zippy

I will leave you with one final point: hey, wouldn’t ‘Dredge’ be a great name for a band? Have that one on me.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #87


questionable time 87 david dimbleby manga anime dimble san

Good morning Lemmings and isn’t it just typical – you spend all series waiting for a screamingly self-obsessed bag of contradictions to turn up and then two come along at once. It’s just not bloody fair is it? Anyway, we should really get cracking as there was plenty going on last night as you might expect given the presence of the Gallowstarkey so let’s not shilly-shally about: To the first paragraph Lemmings…

 

For a horrible moment I thought Galloway might be losing his teeth…

I usually love opening shots in which George Galloway’s involved, particularly of late when he’s been going through his Bond villain phase – you know, with that collarless Scaramanga suit and the mad, mad staring eyes. Alas, it appears that he’s now stopped striking that pose, donned a pair of Meedja Glasses and is going for a much more restrained get-up, all of which robs that opening shot of its melodrama and me of a good chuckle with which to get the party started. It wasn’t just the way he looked either – there was something really odd about the way he was putting words together at the start of the show: His tone was subdued – a little timid even – yet the vocabulary was (as always) straight out of the Moscow Trials, all of which added up to a very weird presentation where statements designed to be screamed at the top of your lungs (like “REACTIONARY TOSH!”) sorted of squeaked their way out and lent his usual line of hyperbole a strange air of mundanity. At first I though this might be a case of ‘once bitten, twice shy’ since the last time he opined about rape he ended up in all sorts of hot water but this was clearly not the case given that he once again tried to go down the ‘husbands don’t have to ask for sex verbally’ route and was rewarded with a very awkward silence followed by a swift Moving On from Dimbers.

 

In fact, it took two full questions for George to hit his stride and in the meantime we had to watch the odd spectacle of him winding himself up. This happened on the public vs. private schools question when Starkey had just finished flouncing about on a hobby house called ‘You People’.

 

I am absolutely furious” declared Galloway, except that he didn’t sound furious at all – mildly ticked off maybe, but certainly not ‘furious’ – so he gave it another go.

 

“I am absolutely furious!”.

 

Hmm, better but still not feeling it.

 

“THE RIGHT TO A FREE EDUUUUUUUUUCATION!!!!!!”

 

And that was it, the crowd cheered and he was off – off to spend the rest of the show bellowing about “TORY CONTEMPT!” whilst simultaneously stroking Matthew Hancock’s arm and gently patronising him to within an inch of his life. It’s odd though: This isn’t the first time I’ve noticed that Galloway needs a whole lot of runway to take off and I’m beginning to suspect that underneath all the bravado is actually quite a nervous man who needs to hear the audience cheer (or to see a fight he knows he can win) before he can shake the self-doubt off his back. There, I did it. I managed to get the words ‘Galloway’ and ‘self-doubt’ into the same sentence. Questionable Time’s slow descent into absurdism is now complete.

 

While George was winding himself up, Starkey was boiling himself down…

…Into a thick, viscous ooze of something really unpleasant. Of course, this shouldn’t really come as any surprise given his past form but last night really was a turning point: It signalled that he’s ended any pretence of being a Serious Talking Head and has instead bet the farm on becoming The Thinking Idiot’s Katie Hopkins. I mean seriously, everything he said last night was intentionally designed to wind up the maximum amount of people in the shortest possible time and on that front he did exceptionally well – for example, that line about the “the large female paw, hanging on one pan of the [Scale’s of Justice]”? That was Live Action Trolling at it’s very finest and he does deserve at least a little credit for the skill involved. However, it’s the way he gets personal that just makes the whole thing seem so bloody obnoxious – like when he started imitating an audience member and threw his pen across the table in a fit of faux indignity. It looked like a stroppy teenager doing a sarky impression of their parents after having been grounded and it was quite frankly wanky (as was the whole “Large, fat, red man” rant about ‘Bill’ Crow).

 

But – and here’s the rub – I have to admit that on a very nefarious level, it works. It’s like the Sidebar of Shame on the Daily Mail site: I may huff and puff and furrow my brow when ever it’s mentioned but you can bet your bottom dollar that I’ll happily click away at it when no-one’s looking. Hey, wait a second, when did I suddenly become part of the problem? Damn you Starkey! You’ve even managed to pit me against myself!

 

And the others?

Alright, time is short so I’ll be brief. I’d totally forgotten who Matthew Hancock was until I remembered that he’s the plumby voiced Minister for Skills and Enterprise who is so hopelessly out of his depth on QT that I always end up feeling sorry for him. In his defence, it can’t be easy to keep all together when Galloway’s doing his best Hans Fritzl impression in your direction but still, looking like you’re not going to have a panic attack really is a basic level requirement for any QT panelist and it’s not one I’m convinced he’s met.

 

As for Jowell, well it’s a game of two halves here: On the one hand it was heartening to see her repeatedly call shenanigans on Starkey but it wasn’t the most assured performance and that spiel where she managed to cram just about every New-Labourism into one irritating package (‘Diversity!’, ‘Citizens!’, ‘Responsibility!’ Gah!) served only to remind me how stale the whole project got.

 

And finally there’s QT first timer Alison Wolf who somehow managed to glide above the whole grubby affair with an air of confident dignity and an absolutely splendid posture. I can’t say I entirely agree with everything she said but she has surfeit of poise and that must be worth a mark or two.

 

Tl;dr

 

Hancock: 4/10

(Looked) Pale (and clammy)

 

Jowell: 5/10

(Seems to quite like “the large female paw” on the) Scale(s of Justice)

 

Galloway: 6/10

(Had much to) Rail (against)

 

Starkey: 2/10

(Was a cautionary) Tale (for all aspiring trolls)

 

Wolf: 7/10

(Did) Avail (us with some much-needed serenity)

 

The Crowd: 6/10

(Would be well within their rights if they chose to) Assail (Starkey after the show).

 

So that’s that and hard luck to anyone who – like me – thought the pairing of Starkey and Galloway might turn into some quirky-yet-heartwarming premise for a buddy movie. In fact, so convinced was I of this outcome that I even went to the trouble of producing promotional materials for it (see Fig. 1).

 

george galloway and david starkey thelma and louise

Fig. 1

Right, I’m off to fully develop this cold I have brewing and I will be back in a fortnight as Elizabeth will be driving seat next week. Lucky girl, she gets to experience all the thrills and spills that Scunthorpe has to offer. In the meantime, please feel free to exchange money for this rather lovely t-shirt of Tony Benn…

 

Elizabeth next week Lemmings, Elizabeth next week…


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