Questionable Time #105


questionable time 105 david dimbleby dolly parton

Good morning Lemmings and ‘welcome’ to that time of year again. ‘Welcome’ to the dried up creek of political news, ‘welcome’ to that vague sense of unease at the overfriendly weather and more importantly, ‘welcome’ to the season where we get to show the world who’s the #1 nation when it comes to being comprehensively crushed in any number of sporting events. That’s right Lemmings, summer is here and what better way to herald its arrival than by watching 5 random busy bodies try to chug down the dregs of the political cycle without gagging on the futility of it all? None, that’s what. None more better.

Life’s one big exam…

I get this creeping sense of panic whenever I see Jo Swinson on QT, a sense of panic that’s horribly familiar and takes me back to around – ooh, let me see now – almost exactly 18 years to the day. As it happens, it’s also a sense of panic that’s rooted at exactly the same point in time for Swinson as we are but two months apart in age and consequently sat our GCSE’s simultaneously, both in bog standard schools and – I imagine – both in gyms that reeked of both Lynx: Africa and fear. The difference between us is that I’ve somehow managed to forcibly repress those memories into some subterranean strata of my brain so that I may lead a life that isn’t constantly plagued by terror. Swinson, on the other hand, hasn’t and every media appearance she gives just seems to be a rehash of those terrible summer days we both lived through a generation ago.

You can see it in the way she carried herself: There she sat, a little too alert, eyes just a little too wide as she carefully arranged her collection of lucky rubbers on the desk, just waiting for Dimbers to give the word to turn the paper. Then the moment arrived – “Swinson. What say you?”

Come on Jo, come on Jo, you know this stuff. You’ve spent the last 6 months boning up on it while all the cool kids were necking Cherry 20/20, purposely overfeeding each others Tamagotchis and insisting that you don’t need GCSE’s to work in the arcade. You know it, you’ve just to get it on the damn paper!

And so she did. She got it on the paper. All of it. Every last bit that she could think of, all going at a million miles an hour in an effort to impress upon the examiner that she really knows her onions. But there was also something else she was trying to impress the examiner with and it’s something that was very big in the mid-90’s: Giving an answer so balanced that there’s next to no room for an actual opinion in it. It looks like this:

So there’s this thing that some people think are ‘good’ because of X,Y, and Z but not everybody thinks it good and would even go so far as to say it’s ‘bad’ because of A, B and C but at the end of the day we can never really know so wouldn’t it be nice if could just all be friends and come up with a bland compromise that doesn’t really satisfy anyone?

That bit where she tried to point out that people shouldn’t have to move to Manchester but furiously backtracked with a spiel about how the North is actually a very nice place to live in and then name checked every major urban centre in turn? That’s what I’m talking about and had she been sitting a 1996 GCSE paper then it would be A*’s all round. But unfortunately she wasn’t: She was on Question Time and the marking regime around these parts is structured to reward confrontation, bloody-mindedness and a certainly level of skullduggery, not the high-velocity blancmange of sat fences that Jo gave us last night.

I however am a little more forgiving and inclined to cut her a some slack as it’s hard to describe just quite how hellbent the education system of the mid-90’s was in making sure that you never really believed in anything. You could know a great deal but to believe? Well that just wasn’t on.

So Jo, fair-to-middling marks for you although I suspect I’m in the minority on this front. Don’t listen to the naysayers though. They don’t know. THEY DON’T KNOW CUZ THEY WEREN’T THERE, MAN!

The promising backstory that never quite delivered…

I had high hopes for Bernard Jenkins last night, hopes based highly around the following:

  1. He’s a Tory back bencher of the nuttier, self-destructive ilk and they tend to make for QT fun.

  1. Being the MP who had to pay back more than £30k in the expenses scandal gives him a Kryptonite like vulnerability to pretty much everything.

  2. He is reputedly “the most famous occasional natureist in the Palace of Westminster” (see Fig. 1).

bernard jenkin nudist

Fig. 1

Sadly, this magical cocktail of potentiality failed to deliver any true displays of weirdness but did lead to a very disappointing moment of level headedness on all things housing. Bah. What’s wrong with Tory backbenchers these days? It’s almost like they don’t want their party to implode into a miasma of internal strife and recrimination.

T’was a night for the Old Boys…

Jo Swinson may well have been doing ten to the dozen last night but it was a wholly more relaxed affair when it came to Alan Johnson and Peter Hitchens, both of whom kept their blood pressures well and truly within the recommended limits. For Johnson this was largely achieved by not having to answer any question that bring out the ex-Home Secretary in him, but also because he just seemed to casually stroll through the show, occasionally trading the odd blow here and there but always on the ground of his choosing. As for Hitchens, well I can only assume that his late addition to the line-up didn’t give him sufficient time to fully spin up his Tizzy Circuits but he did at least paw gently at Jenkins from time-to-time.

In a word, ‘mellow’.

And Blower?

Hard to say really given how routine everything appeared. No major calamities, no shocking gains, just a by-the-numbers stroll through a park called Question Time. However, I am glad that a member of the teaching profession was there – even if only to add another layer of terror to Jo’s GCSE flashback.

Tl;dr

Swinson: 5/10

(Appeared) Glued (to her exam paper)

Jenkins: 5/10

(Disappointingly not in the) Nude

Johnson: 7/10

(Bit of a) Dude

Hitchens: 6/10

(Was uncharacteristically) Subdued

Blower: 5/10

Exude(d teacherliness)

The Crowd: 6/10

Ballyhooed (and whatnot)

And so it was… A fairly unremarkable affair for a fairly unremarkable week enlivened only my some oddball bellowing about Batman and the Riddler to no obvious end. Right, I’m done – come back next week for the final of the series which sounds both unconventional and Scottish. Joy.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

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