Archive for June, 2014

Questionable Time #104


questionable time 104 david dimbleby streaker wimbledon
Good morrow lemmings, Elizabeth here, filling in for Ye Webmaster, with one eye on the tennis, another one on Dimbleby’s horrendous blue toad-patterned tie, and another on my extensive 50,000 word text document ‘dedicatedtoandycoulson.txt’ which consists only of the words HA HA HA HA HA repeated over and over again.

I think we can all agree that it’s been a long ride, but finally the wait is over: journalists across the country have stepped blinking into the light as the trial of the century is finally over. No mention of the gloriously vindicated Madame Curly Wurly in this edition, but plenty of hand-wringing and harrumphing nonetheless.

Not-so-jolly hockey sticks

Last night Chortles was back and more Head Girl than ever. She shook her head at John Prescott in the manner of a disappointed sixth form prefect telling off a naughty new bug. She rigorously defended David Cameron from any abuse hurled his way, whacking great unanswered questions about Essex boy Andy back at the audience with her metaphorical hockey sticks of terror. Based! On! The! Knowledge! He! Had! At! The! Time! A perfect volley, which despite Prezza’s best efforts he was not quite able to break through.

Speaking of terror, was she deliberately channelling Maggie Thatcher or what? The pearls, the hair, the dead-eyed stare…the only difference was her choice of a red jacket, no doubt stained in the blood of visiting netball teams.

Later on, on the extremism question, she seemed to have calmed down. But then, out of nowhere, Paul Nuttall suddenly decided to go for her. “NUT ‘ER, NUTTALL!” the spirit of Nigel Farage, which permanently haunts the Question Time set, roared in a drunken stupour. From then, all bets were off. From testing out her variety of withering looks to artfully breathing the words “six hundred thousand?!” in disgust, Nuttall, despite having tried out the ‘no really, I’m a reasonable guy, please believe me’ tactic pretty well for most of the show (the ‘not-Roger Helmer’ approach, it’s no doubt called, complete with lack of spectacular moustache and more of a bargain bin Al Murray’s Pub Landlord aesthetic) was so thoroughly sent flying that Dimbleby had to stop the programme briefly to remind everyone to tweet in or whatever it is these young folks are doing these days.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

Despite all this, the highlight of her performance was still the understatement of the century: “I don’t agree with Ken [Clarke] on this one”, referring to yet another edition of Ken-says-whatever-he-damn-well-likes. Not many Tories do, Anna. Not many Tories do.

‘Connecting’ with the public

Everyone’s out to get John Prescott. I am, you am, your mum probably am. But most of all, the bloody newspapers am. Prescott is always entertaining on Question Time, partly because his entire being bobs up and down in his seat like a boat wobbling in the harbour. Neil Wallis attemped to push the great beast back, but could only get into a yelling match over who was the most, and I quote, ‘bloody incompetent’, which basically went like this: “No you!” “No, you!” “Noooo, yoooou!”

It doesn’t matter if he was Deputy Prime Minister or President of the World, Prezza has passed the point of caring and can shake his head at Ed Miliband posing with the Sun all he likes. He also spent a lot of the time grinning as Soubry and Nuttall had a fight, like an excitable toddler waiting for his puréed banana at dinnertime. So really, in conclusion, he didn’t score any knock out blows, and indeed missed more than he hit last night. And yet I don’t mind purely because he still says the word ‘bloody’ on camera much to David Dimbleby’s general exasperation with everything.

Also, could Prezza take Suárez in a fight? Even if he is getting on a bit, I’m betting yes, and would pay gratuitous amounts of money for this epoch-making event to be televised.

I’ve covered Nuttall already, damn

Meanwhile, Neil Wallis had a bit of a tough job on his hands. He was there as the representation of all that is evil in the world – he knew that, and he hated it. He was greatly offended when Paul Nuttall declared that, rejoice rejoice, newspapers were SO OVER. He huffed and puffed as the audience, that judgemental bunch of fools, attempted to imply that Andy Coulson was anything less than a lovely chap who just lost his way, the poor love. He delicately described Damian McBride as ‘an interesting person’. He was everything you expected him to be and nothing less and/or more.

Maajid Nawaz, who I must say has some great hair, was much the same. Maajizzle was here as an outlier, an extremist, a dangerous ideologue – that’s right – …a Liberal Democrat. So for the first two thirds of the programme he adopted his party’s fail-safe tactic of sitting on the fence and being pretty dull. Let’s be reasonable here, guys. Everyone hates us already, so it doesn’t matter if we slag off Murdoch!

He also took the time to remind us that Muslims generally aren’t evil soul-sucking monsters. Thank you for this information. It is a sad world we live in that we have to be actually reminded of this fact.

I was hoping for more arguments but then the programme devolved into a pun-off. So here’s the scores.

Soubry: 6/10

Kept score

Prescott: 5/10

At one point almost swore

Nawaz: 5/10

Decent if a bore

Nuttall: 4/10

Euroscepticism galore

Wallis: 3/10

Please, no more

The Crowd: 5/10

Who cares about Juncker anymore?

Now clear off or I’ll hack yer phone.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #103


questionable time 103 david dimbleby back tattoo

Good morning Lemmings – actually no, it’s not ‘good morning Lemmings’ at all and more like ‘Bah. Must we do this Lemmings?’ because for some reason last night’s very ill-tempered episode has left me in a thoroughly unpleasant mood. With this in mind, we’re going to dispense with the usual even-handedness, line the panelists up against a wall and make a series of rash decisions as to who’s to blame for the cloud of animosity that’s currently hovering over me. Ready? Let’s do this.

Was it Iain Duncan Smith’s insistence on ruining a perfectly good pshop?

Prior to the show I came up with this (see Fig. 1)…

iain duncan smith dog cone

Fig. 1

…And pretty pleased I was with myself too because it was going to be so easy to fold into the write up: All it would require would be one question about how the Universal Credit programme has gone so spectacularly awry that it’s now been reclassified as a ‘new project’ and that would be it – IDS would put on that face that’s supposed to look ‘appropriately concerned’ but actually comes off as ‘pleading desperately’, Hislop would have a field day and I’d be able to segue into the pshop with a killer line about how the only way you could make him look any more hapless is by sticking one of those dog cones on his head. In fact, so confident was I that this would come to pass that I even had a tweet of the pshop all ready to go during the show, just waiting for his inevitable downfall so that I could press the button and then bask in the satisfaction of all-too-easy victory. But the button was never pressed.

And why was the button never pressed? It was never pressed because a) aside from a few reflex jabs from Bryant and Yaqoob, matters relating to the DWP never really came up and b) he emerged from the rolling to-do with Yaqoob (more on that later) looking rather good. True, there were moments where his trademark brand of Trying To Look Very Cross Indeed But Not Quite Getting It Right (“Do me a favour Salma…”) had the potential to go sideways but so busy was the intemperate traffic between the combatants that it never developed into anything truly cringeworthy.

So here I am with a useless pshop, an unslaked thirst for ministerial blood and an embarrassingly abundant clutch of marks for the man in question. Iain Duncan Smith, I find you partially guilty for buggering up my QT experience and hereby sentence you to read your own novel.

Right, who’s next in the dock?

Was it Salma’s fault or was she stitched up?

So Salma ended up in hot water with the rest of the panel last night but I can’t quite fathom whether she was unjustly martyred or the victim of a kerfuffle of her own design. And why can’t I tell? Because I’ve not got a clue what’s going on with this whole Trojan Horse business – not the merest inkling other than it made for an entertaining intra-cabinet spat and that it just won’t get off the bloody news (however it’s worth pointing out that the arrival of Big Brother has once again lead me to surrender custody of the telly to the Frau Ribs so I haven’t had Newsnight to spoon feed me any ready-made opinions).

Anyway, it went like this: Salma slightly overplayed her hand on the Iraq question – a forgivable offence since she’s the leader of a party that came into being because of the war – and then went on to defend the schools in the Trojan Horse affair. Now I don’t know if she was right or wrong on this matter as it’s a story that just makes my eyes glaze over but the reaction from the rest of the panel was pretty full on and it wasn’t long before I started to get the feeling that they were ganging up on her. That’s rarely a good look but then again, she was having to defend her point so doggedly that I got the feeling they might actually be on to something.

I dunno, it might six-of-one and half-a-dozen-of-the-other but the real problem was that it went on for what seemed like hours and the temperature got so heated that it killed the third question dead in its tracks. Anyone want to talk about British values? No? Shall we just keep shouting at Salma instead? Ok then! Basically, it felt like I was being forced to watch a very long running and involved soap opera that I’d never seen before and to have an opinion on it. For better or worse, right or wrong, I lay the blame for this at Salma’s door and hereby sentence her to a candle lit dinner with George Galloway. Ooph… Rough justice.

Was it Tessa Munt’s… very… very… slow… delivery?

Initially, yes – it was definitely her…very… very… slow (and rather matronly)… delivery that had me all out of a kilter but I ended up warming to her, mainly because she seems pretty genuine and in it for the right reasons. Granted, ‘genuine’ and ‘the right reasons’ tend not to make for the most electrifying QT performances (for that you want ‘mendacious’ and ‘entirely the wrong reasons’) but I feel that they mitigated some of the grief caused by her rather ponderous vocal stylings. Community Service for you, Munt. 60 hours of coming up with rhyming scores for me and we’ll call it quits.

Was it Ian Hislop’s particularly irksome mood?

I’m usually a big fan of Hislop on QT but last night he just seemed a little bored and difficult, like he couldn’t really be bothered to play the game. However there are a few things that can be said in his defence, the first being he did make life a little awkward for the rest of the panel and secondly, Private Eye are the only national publication who bother to send out very nice rejection letters – a courtesy that counts for a lot in my book. I think an informal caution is all that’s required here.

Was it Chris Bryant’s fault for simply being Chris Bryant?

Yes! Probably! I don’t know! He was just as rabid as everyone else but I’ve got a soft spot for him so his sentence will be suspended. Stay out of trouble Chris and I won’t have to repost that photo of you in your pants.

Tl;dr

IDS: 5/10

Bah!

Bryant: 5/10

Rah!

Munt: 6/10

Fah!

Yaqoob: 5/10

Wah!

Hislop: 5/10

Yah!

The Crowd: 5/10

Pah!

So that was that then: An ultra-scrappy episode where the panel got very hot under the collar about things I don’t understand and – in what was undoubtedly the highlight of the show – Dimbers got attacked by a fly. Pffft… Says it all really…

Right, thanks to the footy I’m done for two weeks but should you have money burning a hole in your pocket then please feel free to go and buy this Grand Theft: New Labourt-shirt I designed (and then – in the interests of fairness and all that – go and buy the Grand Theft: Coalition one as well).

gta-new-labour-final-tagged

In a fortnight Lemmings, in a fortnight…

Questionable Time #102


questionable time 102 david dimbleby terminator

Good Morning Lemmings and todays Questionable Time comes from Llandudno, seaside town par excellence and universally-recognised Lovely Part Of The World. Not for us the seafront, the Great Orme, and an afternoon trip to Conwy Castle, though: our lot is to listen to politicians say “all the spam on my email, that’s what winds me right up” in the first ever 68-hour episode of Question Time. I’m Mike and I’m taking over from his Loudribsness this week, so trust my luck to get a real baptism of Something Like Fire But Boring. As I watched the crowd move from “disinterested” to “borderline catatonic” I began to go a bit strange, and found myself wondering if the reason for the panel’s dullness was that they were hiding secret identities as superheroes. Surely, only the Clark Kents of this world say so little… but if they were concealing secret powers, what would they be? And more importantly, could I actually get a Questionable Time article out of it? Read on…

Liz Kendall, The Human Windmill: Liz Kendall’s arms are the closest thing that mortals will ever see to perpetual motion. Every time she spoke her arms took over, whirling in a way that’s unfortunately reminiscent of a very agitated Kermit The Frog. Liz would undoubtedly be the plucky-but-always-in-trouble one of the superhero group, until the chips were down and Mecha-Kendall would chop up the villains in a spurt of impassioned fury with her aircraft-propeller limbs. Or perhaps we could combine her with Simon Scharma and wipe out the necessity for all of the UK’s wind farms.

OK, let’s get the for-the-record bit in: Kendall had a good night. The NHS question was something of a grenade, but she negotiated it (just), partly by spinning a smart “How dare Cameron say Wales is crap” but mainly with the unusual tactic of actually sounding like she gave a damn about the subject. Her performance wasn’t without wobbles – interrupting an audience member is always dodgy ground – but she wasn’t patronising and came across as a rare thing, a politician who’s both knowledgeable and – shock horror – likeable. But well-deserved praise is no fun and I’ve got a tenuous analogy to continue, so let’s keep going.

David Jones, The Human Suit: If you show me a photo of Jones in a T-shirt, I’ll simply assume that a: you’ve gone to unfeasible lengths to hire a double or b: I’m hallucinating. Jones is clearly The Boss in our superhero collective, who runs some shady government department or other and tells all the other superheroes what to do while negotiating with his shadowy masters. He rather looks like he’d enjoy it. Plus, like all those figures, he has a mistake hidden deep within his dark past. It seems he broke the two primary Westminster rules: Don’t Seem Too Posh and Don’t Do Anything John Prescott Ever Did. A hundred-yard Jag ride is very Bloke In Charge.

david jones MP sedan chair

Fig. 1

Hywel Williams, The Human Shadow: I generally like the Welsh episodes because Plaid Cymru have a solid repertoire of good QT performers and can present an interesting alternative voice. Williams may even fit the bill, but it’s difficult to tell because he barely bothered to turn up at all and ended up resembling a sort of avuncular absence. Having spent most of the show avoiding answering anything in any meaningful way – his invoking of the IRA on the terrorism question looked like it might go somewhere interesting, but he then effectively shrugged and changed the subject – he finished off with the most spectacular backfire of a joke since, um, last week. I think it was meant to sound like “I lie to telesales peoples so they leave me alone” but instead came out as “Nobody can sell me anything because I’ve already got it, I’m so insured you’d be amazed.” Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the man who wasn’t there… but might good for the end-credits bad gag in our superhero show.

Isabel Hardman, The Human Chameleon: I suspect Hardman would be pretty good on a livelier panel, but she couldn’t lift this tepid affair and the most creditable thing she did was opt out of the POW-negotiation question. What started as sharp analysis lapsed into seventy-four variations on I Love Accountability, Me and her “I can’t stand pizza menus” contribution to the last question was a peak of banality. So I just found myself looking at her weirdly familiar face trying to work out who she looked like, and this morning I still haven’t managed it. My search for the answer has so far revealed she doesn’t like anyone in The Breakfast Club, Dark Season, Blake’s 7, Elastica, or my class at school. If nonspecific familiarity isn’t a superpower, I don’t know what is.

Nev Wilshire, The Human… Human? Apparently I was supposed to know who Nev Wilshire is, and I didn’t. Gah! Some frantic research revealed a BBC3 docudrama and that most things written about him use the phrase “real life David Brent” at some point, so you can understand why someone thought he’d be good Question Time box office. Well, sort of… after all, nobody wants to spend an hour with David Brent. So it was a relief when he turned out to be just some slightly gruff bloke, but the superhero throughline clearly collapses and dies here. He didn’t do anything terrible, and shrugged off the telemarketing question with a sort of weary bravado, but if you told me they’d pulled a randomer from the crowd and made him sit there I wouldn’t be so surprised.

Kendall: 7/10

(Not short of) Animation

Jones: 5/10

(Solid) Presentation

Williams: 3/10

(Brought me much) Aggravation

Hardman: 4/10

(A bit short on) Oration

Wilshire: 3/10

(Nope, I can’t even be bothered)

The Crowd: 5/10

(Were practically in a) Hostage Situation

And that’s that, an episode that started out as a reasonably diverting and informative affair but tailed off into something between “dreary” and “I have a nostalgic yearning for the days of Closedown.” Look to the future, Lemmings. King’s Lynn awaits.


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