Questionable Time #92


questionable time 92 david dimbleby ramones

Good morning Lemmings and RUN FOR YOUR LIVES, THERE’S A BLOODY PIGEON ON THE LOOSE! Scary stuff indeed but you’ll be pleased to know that not even this impromptu intervention from Mother Nature could stop the behemoth that is QT. No, rather than run the risk of incurring Nick Hewer’s best You Have Disappointed Me So Now I Shall Suck A Lemon face, the pigeon wisely went to ground (most likely in Susan Kramer’s hair) and disaster was narrowly averted. Phew! Mopped brows all round then! Anyway, the following also happened. Observe if you will…

I should like Douglas Alexander but…

At face value there’s much to like about Douglas Alexander: There’s that lovely soft accent, the weeness of his form, those innocent little eyes and the fact that he always looks so very, very clean (which – incidentally – is a trait shared by Jeremy Hunt, possibly the cleanest looking MP in the land). All these things combined with a political career largely free from scandal make him the sort of fellow that it’s very hard to militate any ill-will against, yet if I’m being completely honest I do harbour a certain something against Wee Dougie and it’s taken me an awfully long time to figure out why that is. It’s all about control.

Let’s start with an example: There was a moment in the first question where Susan Kramer said something about the economy being on the mend and you could almost hear the switch tripping in his brain – the switch labelled This Is Something I should Appear To Be Angry About. Anyway, ‘clunk’ goes the switch and out comes this little spiel about how she should be ashamed of herself and that this is no time to be performing “a lap of honour”. ‘Fair play’ you may say as the point itself was not without validity but the way in which he suddenly turned on the indignation made me do a double take because it didn’t sit right. Why? Well because it wasn’t really indignation as indignation is something that issues from the heart, not the head and it can’t be turned on and off at will. This though – this was different: It was a measured, controlled and unfeeling response that had clearly been prefabricated earlier on and was ready for deployment from the get-go. The same goes for when he tried to ambush Zahawi with the small matter of his dealings with private health companies: It was delivered as an unexpected ‘Gotcha!’, an incidental opportunity that he’d just stumbled upon but you could tell that it was anything but that and more likely a part of a very rigid game plan he’d had from the start.

So what’s the big deal here? Am I saying that politicians shouldn’t think before they speak? That having a game plan is somehow duplicitous? Well no – of course they’re going to have a game plan. Everyone has a game plan on QT – that’s just the way it is and thinking is generally a positive thing when it comes to running the country. However, what does rustle my jammies is the way that Dougie can’t quite bring himself to let go and just run with real, unconfined indignation rather than constantly trying to keep it within the strict parameters of what he thinks a politician should look like. It speaks of a man who has somehow got fallibility confused with failing, whose approach to risk is one of aversion and that’s a shame because we actually rather like fallibility – primarily because it’s a confirmation of humanity. Just ask Boris… or Ken… or Nige… or Gorgeous George (etc, etc, etc)…

I shouldn’t like Zahawi, but…

And why shouldn’t I like Zahawi? Let us count the ways.

      1. He was a former aide to Jeffrey Archer.
      2. He’s been less than squeaky clean when it comes to expenses.
      3. He’s at the economically nuttier end of the Tory party.
      4. His approach to most debates is similar to a bull’s approach to china shopping.
      5. He looks like an angry/disappointed potato (see Fig. 1) and his head is a geometric paradox (consistently ovoid from the front and yet a perfect square from the side).
      6. Nadhim Zahawi angry potato

        Fig. 1

nadhim zahawi impossible head

Fig. 2

It’s also fair to say that this performance was so-so, what with his crap joke about Bob Crow falling flat on its face (probably because he planned on eulogising him but got cold feet when Hewer sucked on an almighty lemon about people who didn’t like Bob Crow eulogising Bob Crow) and his flappery about tax avoidance when he himself has been known to use various schemes that ‘help the wealthy minimise and avoid taxes’. However, I can’t help but like him for precisely the reasons that I struggle with Dougie: For better or worse, Zahawi is unabashedly human and comfortably out of control. He screws stuff up, let’s his mouth run away with itself and goes an endearing shade of red when he knows he’s in hot water but at least you are left in no doubt that he genuinely means what he says. True, quite a lot of what he says is totally bonkers but I’d take genuine madness over contrived sanity any day of the week.

‘Tis that time of year!

…For Susan Kramer to be taken out of hibernation and paraded in front of the nation on QT again! Hooray/hoorah indeed! And how did Question Time’s resident tortoise emerge into the crisp light of spring this year? Well, the same as she always does – by talking at the same volume as a tour guide in a service station (not quite shouting but near as dammit) and constantly looking at some unspecified point on the ceiling of the studio. Well done Susan, we’ll see you again in the autumn for the now traditional Bedding Her Down for Winter episode.

All hail Hewer, Long Faced Champion of the Universe…

I’m shorter on space than I hoped so I’ll keep this brief: Steepled fingers, elongated vowels combined with laconic understatement (“Yeeeeeeeeees… Bob Crow. My word”), that weird confluence of ultra-capitalism and social conscience that marked the heyday of New Labour, ungladly suffered fools and a damn good eye for the Russians. God I love Hewer.

Oakeshott and the perils of Telling It Like It Is…

There’s a certain art to Telling It Like It Is and the cardinal rule is not to look so bloody pleased with yourself when doing so. Alas, this point seems lost on Oakeshott who may well have been on to something when she posited that the NHS was essentially bankrupt but the point was lost behind the self-satisfaction of being the first to deliver the bad news (it was sort of like turning up to your burning homestead and being greeted by a grinning fireman). In short, good diagnostic abilities but poor bedside manner.

Tl;dr

Kramer: 6/10

(Talks rather) Loud

Alexander: 5/10

(Should be) Allowed (to get stuff wrong)

Zahawi: 6/10

Ploughed (his way through)

Hewer: 8/10

(Had me on) Cloud (9)

Oakeshott: 4/10

(Is a little too) Proud (to be the bearer of bad news)

The Crowd: 6/10

(Rhyme with all the above).

…So that’s what you get when you cram a bunch of people into a hall with an errant pigeon. It’ll do for me. Right, I’m done and will be back next week, albeit a little later in the day than usual as I have stuff and things to attend to – like desperately wishing The Apprentice was back on the telly.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

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