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A questionable time for a Questionable Time


Good morrow lemmings…however…

As you have probably already noticed due to the unconventional title of this post, this isn’t the Questionable Time you’re looking for. Not yet, anyway. This week’s QT will be a little late (that is to say, probably up tomorrow or Sunday when it’s no longer relevant because of the fierce onward march of politics) due to my laptop finally conking out. I sent it to the laptop vet or whatever they’re called these days and they haven’t got my new hard drive in yet. Sad times. Random.

I absolutely hate missing posts (almost as much as I hate this WordPress mobile site) so you must understand how much this pains me, but I wouldn’t do this unless absolutely necessary. That said, I at least have my notes all written up on what in olden times was called ‘paper’. Wasn’t that a fascinating debate about the Welsh NHS? Thought not.

Be reassured, though – at least this didn’t happen before the no doubt epic showdown between Gorgeous Meowrge and Loafhead Hunt next week!

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…

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.

Questionable Time #100


questionable time 100 david dimbleby photoshop montage

Good morning Lemmings and no, your eyes do not deceive you – Questionable Time is 100 posts old today and yes, you should all be very excited about this. What? What’s that? Why should you be excited? Well I don’t bloody know – I’m 100 now and easily confused so unless you’re the dispatch rider with my telegram from the Queen I’ll be asking you to take your leave now thank you very much indeed.

(Incidentally, due to arbitrary changes in naming schemes, this isn’t the 100th post at all. No, it’s actually the 149thor the 151st if you’re being particularly thorough. Either way though, Questionable Time is now officially old).

Anyway, to celebrate this ‘exciting’ turn of events, QT has got all giddy with excitement and sent us not 5 but 6 flesh bags to play with which works out as 20% extra ire to vent. Best get on with it then…

The sum of Tristram Hunt’s parts…

Cast your eyes on Tristram Hunt and what goes through your head? Well, if your answer is something along the lines of ‘A jaw line that says ‘rugged’,a pre-politics profession that says ‘bookish’, a voice that says ‘plumby’ and a constituency that says ‘authentic, grinding poverty” then not only are we on the same page but we’re probably both experiencing that weird sensation of witnessing something that shouldn’t really be. That sounds harsh – particularly as we often consider some of these traits to be positive things when dealt with in isolation – but when we take them as a combined whole they make this odd melange that just doesn’t quite cut it and leaves him in this strange netherworld of unconnected dots and verses that never quite make it to the chorus.

Take for example his response to the question about whether the UK is inherently racist: Here’s where he pitches his voice down to just shy of ‘solemn’, dons the look of a man wracked with concern, and gravely intones that maybe the Red Team took their eye off the ball when it comes to the worries of the great unwashed before swiftly concluding that it’ll all be ok in the end because Labour understand the cost of living – providing it doesn’t have to go into specifics about the price of milk, bread or any other essential component of this whole ‘living’ business. On paper, this is a perfectly reasonable play which, if deployed properly, should naturally segue into a soaring crescendo of Labour being the best placed party to right these wrongs but with Hunt it never quite does: Instead it just sort of judders along, never quite finding biting point as the listener tries to match the incongruous vision of this clearly clever and privileged man trying to ‘engage’ with people who might as well have grown up in a completely different universe.

The sad thing is that we caught a fleeting glimpse of the authentic Tristram this week. This was Historian Tristram who when asked about the comparisons between Hitler and Putin suddenly became enthused, animated and coherent. It was a good answer as well, robustly delivered and neatly tying up his specialist interest with a sly pop at The Daily Mail – a confluence of factors that made him (for a brief moment at least) a thing that was supposed to be. The problem is that these moments are not only so few and far between, they also tend to be sandwiched between those awkward encounters like the race question or the bluster he hid behind when Labour’s education policy was put under the spotlight. Oh Tristram, if only there were such a thing as a Minister for History…

…And the winner of this year’s Panelist I’d Never Thought I’d Like But Actually Have A Lot Of Time For is…

…Ladies and gentlemen, the Rt Hon. Jeremy Browne MP! Woop woop! So yes, Jeremy Browne is in the house and for one I am delighted because:

A: He’s the polar opposite of Tristram Hunt who knows what he is (a veritable trouser press of a man who is probably insufferably enthusiastic during any event that involves the words ‘Team Building’) and gives not a hoot if you don’t care for his ways.

B: The whole panda thing makes him ridiculously easy to photoshop.

And C: I think he got a really raw deal when he was thrown under a bus for the whole ‘Go Home’ debacle.

However, I must admit that it was a fair to middling performance last night where he never quite hit his stride and I suspect I know why: He got rid of his beard. To those who may not have spotted it, Browne spent much of this year with not only a beard attached to his face, but a majestic one that dominated everything within a 100 ft radius. Seriously, (and I say this as a bearded man) it was a thing of utter beauty that made him look like a Special Forces operator who’d just rolled in from the hills of the Hindu Kush with a clutch of sexy superficial wounds and a haunted look that says “I’ve seen things no man should see” (see Fig. 1). Alas, he now appears to be sans beard and as a result we’re back to plain old Vanilla Browne – not the worst thing in the world but certainly not a patch on Jeremy ‘Instrument of State Sanctioned Murder’ Browne. I really got on with that guy.

jeremy browne panda special forces beard

Fig. 1

Grayling and the love/hate of the game…

Hmmmm… A quiet one from the Justice Minister last night but one that was not without its own story to tell. Basically, the key to Grayling is not what he says – that’s usually your standard boilerplate ‘the mess Labour made’ stuff – but the way he reacts to things. For example, whenever an opponent is getting it in the neck you can always hear this little laugh come from Grayling and it’s not a nice laugh. No, instead it’s one of those ‘Fade away, jerk!’ laughs that you get when you ask a bus driver if they have enough change for a tenner and on top of that it’s usually packaged with a subtle sneer.

And thus is the problem with Grayling: Satisfaction for him comes not from the furthering of The Plan (whatever that may be) but from the game itself and, more precisely, the smiting of one’s enemies. Now, as a political tool this is certainly a handy disposition to cultivate but, in the wider battle of winning hearts and minds? Nah, it just reminds people of that look that Kevin McCloud of Grand Designs fame pulls when the amateur developers tell him that they’re project managing themselves and funding the job on their credit card. Schadenfreude: It’s a double edged-sword.

And the rest?

Time is short and so is this paragraph.

Allsop – Likes saying “ought to” a lot, talks about the property market in a very ’round the houses’ sort of way, conflates fertility with housing status.

Hamilton – Real life panto villain who represents the truly terrifying nexus of UKIP, bent Tories and bow ties.

Monroe – The only logical outcome of putting both Lily Allen and Owen Jones into the Large Hadron Collider, pressing the big red button and hoping for the best.

Tl;dr

Hunt: 5/10

(A right old) Jumble (of a man)

Browne: 5/10

(Not much to) Grumble (about)

Grayling: 4/10

(Would laugh long and hard if he saw you) Tumble (down some stairs)

Allsop: 6/10

Bumbles (amiably about in a twee sort of way)

Hamilton: 5/10

(Does the sinister) Mumble (quite well)

Monroe: 6/10

(Reputedly makes good) Crumble

The Crowd: 6/10

(Made for a perfectly serviceable) Fumble (in the dark).

Gah, I can never get my head around these six-for-the-price-of-five episodes but then again, I am 100 so just getting to the end of this piece without major incident is an achievement in itself. Right, that’s me done and next week we return to bog standard, non-celebratory Questionable Time, hopefully with the more traditional compliment of five panelist. Until then, that’s your lot and GET OFF MY LAWN YOU BLOODY WHIPPERSNAPPERS!

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #97


questionable time 97 david dimbleby wolves moon native americanGood morning Lemmings and apologies for the pshop atrocity above – some men just like to watch the world drown in a tidal wave of Outer Glow blending options every now and then. Anyway, what’s it to you? Do you want me to come after you with a piece of “sharpened bone” because that audience member was right – that’s exactly the sort of thing we denizens of Leeds routinely carry around. Ha! Not so brave now, are you? Right, let’s get going…

D-I-V-O-R-C-E

How do you know when a marriage is on the rocks? Well, one of the more reliable methods is to see what happens when one half of the partnership gets in from work. In the case of Tim Farron’s union with the rest of the Yellow Team there has been a marked deterioration in the civility of the 6pm homecoming over the years but last night really did throw into stark relief just how strained things have become at Chez Farron.

Take for example the early years of the coalition: Here you got the sense that Tim – troubled though he was by the way his bride’s outlook and behaviour had recently changed – was at least trying to make it work. There was the obligatory peck on the cheek, the ‘How was your day?’ followed by that state of semi-listening and obligatory ‘uh-huhs’/’mmmphs’ before he’d plant himself in front of Pointless and try to push the awful thought that he may no longer be in love with the rest of the Yellow Team to back of his mind. As time has gone on though this act has self-evidently become harder to sustain and by the back-end of last year you could really see the wheels coming off:

Darling, did you manage to sort that redistribution of wealth out?”

Dammit Tim, I told you before – we’re not teenagers any more! Now for god’s sake put down that bloody SDP manifesto and help me raise these tuition fees!”

Last night though, well that was a different kettle of fish because for the first time he couldn’t even bring himself to step over the threshold, opting instead to stay in his car and listen to Born to Run on an endless loop while the neighbours looked on with a mixture of glee and anxiety (‘Hey, have you seen Tim from Number 3? He looks like he’s proper lost it! That’ll never happen to us, right darling? Right?’). Not once did he mention a coalition policy or even pretend to speak as part of a family unit, preferring instead to pretend that the wedding never took place and that he was still living the pre-2010 social democratic dream.

So what now for this unhappy household? Well, before last night I was happy to chalk Tim’s recent behaviour to a case of simply being on maneuvers (see Fig. 1) – you know, that sort of 7 year-itch posturing where he intentionally stays out late and switches off his phone in an act of measured defiance but now I’m not so sure. No, I think it’s deeper than that: I think he knows that divorce is inevitable and he’s laying the ground work to make sure that he gets his half of the house and access to the kids. What’s even more interesting is just how attractive (justified barbs about hypocrisy aside) this ‘I’ve Still Got It’ Tim was to the audience. They knew he was kind of living out a fantasy but it was a fantasy that they were more happy to indulge. Watch this space Lemmings because if the 2015 election pans out as badly for the LibDems as conventional wisdom would suggest then don’t be surprised when you get an invite to a housewarming at Tim’s new bachelor pad.

tim-farron-on-maneuvers-gif

Fig. 1

Bad news and good news with the Blue Team…

First the bad news: Nick Boles, the wobbly headed junior minister who I suspect will be absolute QT gold has once again stood me up and escaped a damn good Questionable Timing. He’ll keep, I guess. However, it’s not all woe and misery because his replacement – backbencher Conor Burns – has appeared from nowhere and pulled off perhaps the single greatest Response To Tragic Events in recent QT history. Seriously, his answer to the Corpus Christie question was exceptionally good – sincere, without schmultz and pitched perfectly in tone (it was actually like a really well executed sermon). The rest of his performance wasn’t bad either so keep an eye on this guy: If he can keep a lid on calling hecklers “spastics” he could be going places.

The Thwarting…

Last night should have been Yvette’s for the taking – after all she knows the turf around these parts, Leeds is genetically Labour and having a shiny new (and left leaning) policy in the bag never really hurts the cause – but she didn’t quite manage to seal the deal, largely because Tim At Number 3 was stealing a lot of her progressive thunder. That’s not to say it was a bad performance (it wasn’t) but you did get the impression that having to look both left and right threw her a little off-balance. Either that or the Ed Balls Day celebrations were really heavy this year.

Sighs of relief all round at UKIP HQ…

Watching Suzanne Evans last night reminded me of a PE report I got back in school:

Loudribs has done well this year despite himself”

And that’s because she did do ok – she didn’t seem too bonkers and gave the impression of being vaguely clued up by having a statistic for absolutely bloody everything. However, it was a close run thing that could have very easily gone sideways thanks to a) her permanently looking very pleased with herself and b) by claiming ownership of things that aren’t really hers (“my countryside”, “my beautiful rural school”). For a party that’s pitching itself as the bane of vested interests this probably isn’t the best semantic road to go down.

One ticket to Jenkoland please!

What would the world be like if Simon Jenkin’s ran it? Incredibly entertaining, that’s what. We’d all be free to do really stupid things in a land littered with lovingly conserved stately homes and sites of great cultural import. You want to drunkenly do handbrake turns in the grounds of Castle Howard with your hair on fire? Good for you! Go nuts! Just make sure you don’t damage the house. Fancy smoking PCP and racing diggers around Stonehenge? Then go, race diggers for it is your god given right! Just watch the stones ok? It would be like Downton Abbey meets Jackass.

Tl;dr

Cooper: 6/10

Thwarted

Farron: 6/10

Transported (himself back to 2010)

Burns: 7/10

Comported (himself well)

Evans: 5/10

(Would probably like to see a lot of people) Deported

Jenkins: 6/10

Snorted (at airport security in schools)

The Crowd: 6/10

(Were) Assorted

Hmm… pretty solid episode that (and I’m not just saying that out of fear of my sharpened bone wielding neighbours). Right, we’re done here. Go back to whatever it was you were doing and I’ll go back to figuring out just what I’m going to wear to Tim’s housewarming party…

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #93


questionable time 93 no cow

Good morning Lemmings and apologies for the lateness – I had both stuff and things to attend to that have now rendered the line ‘Good morning Lemmings’ somewhat redundant but hey-ho: You’re here, I’m here, let’s do some words.

Ladies and gentlemen, The Andy Burnham Show!

Here he is, caked to the eyeballs in make-up (seriously, his face looked like a you could quarry foundation from it) and fluttering those enormous fronds that double as eyelashes – it’s Andy Burnham! That’s right, local-lad-come-good and all round grandstander Andy B was in the house last night and boy did he know which buttons Warrington wanted pushing. And what buttons might they be? Well, how about the one labelled ‘The Raw Deal The North Gets’? You like that one Warrington? Good, because he’s mashing it like he was about to set some sort of record on Track and Field. How about the one marked ‘It’s Probably All Thatcher’s Fault’? Does that baste your chicken? Well I hope so because he’s spamming away on that one like a man possessed before effortlessly seguing into a sustained hammering of the switch labelled ‘Look Outraged Whenever Danny Alexander Opens His Mouth’. Woooooo! Everyone go nuts!

So yes, as the above suggests the Shadow Health Secretary relentlessly levered his home advantage last night and for the most part (barring an impromptu Paxo-ing from a particularly single-minded audience member) he got away with it – largely because he is quite the accomplished showman who can switch between pit-pony and show-pony with ease but also because you’d have to be the biggest klutz in the land not to romp home in the week when the Tories read the last rites to satire with that bingo poster of theirs. However, it’s not Burnham’s ability that worries me, it’s his ambition: You can just see it written all over him (not to mention the fact he’s already made a run for the Labour leadership) and I suspect that the reason he wears so much make-up is to stop it oozing out of his face and all down his shirt. He’s got to be careful with that because ambition is one of those funny traits that instantly sets off alarm bells in our minds and it also – as our amateur Paxo nearly exposed – leaves one very vulnerable to overplaying your hand in the quest for approval. That, and no-one wants make-up all over their shirt. It’s not a good look.

Dominic Raab may have accidentally solved economic libertarians’ presentation problem…

Economic libertarians have many problems – such as how exactly do you sell an ideology based on enriching the few to the many or just the daily struggle of trying to stay in tenuous contact with reality when you’re all hopped up to the eyeballs on Randian twaddle – but the one you come across most on QT is a presentational problem: They all sound too bloody certain. Take Jill Kirby for example – she’s pretty sure that the North is poor because of those goddamn pinko peaceniks and their tree hugging taxes (not to mention those damn CRB checks singlehandedly destroying the teaching profession) so lets just get rid and everything will be hunky-dory ok? Granted, it doesn’t help that these little nuggets of batshit are served with a side of words like “unremunerative” or a mispronunciation of “rhetoric” (“Reht-oar-ric”) but the main problem here is one of overconfidence combined with oversimplification. This is where Dominic Raab comes in because while he was coming out with a lot stuff that’s lifted straight from the Libertarian Playbook, the delivery wasn’t the usual bish-bash-bosh, here-let-me-amputate-that-for-you tour de certainty you expect from his ilk. No, Raab’s delivery was more cautious and considered – almost halting at times – while there was the occasional acknowledgement that the world isn’t an entirely straight forward place. Now, I’m not familiar enough with Raab to know if he’s always like this or whether the QT nerves cooled his jets a little but the effect was tremendous: I actually bothered to listen. True, I didn’t agree with any of the stuff I listened to but at least he got a foot in the door. So well done Dominic, long may that feeling of nauseous terror continue to serve you well.

The Danny List

Aside from the shocking absence of glasses – and the corresponding abundance of bulging eyes – this was pretty standard Danny Alexander fare… Standard enough to be standardised in the form of a standardised list as it happens. Observe:

  1. Repeated use of the phrase “the mess we were left” – Check
  2. Constant look of nebulous dread – Check
  3. Lacklustre audience response to lacklustre joke (“No deal!”) – Check
  4. Moment of abject horror when it all goes wrong (food banks in Germany) – Check
  5. Endless parade of monotone policy ‘achievements’ to act as filler – Check
  6. Photoshop of him as some raunchy male model (see Fig.1) – Check check check!

All’s well here then…

danny aleaxander fit sailor

Fig. 1

…And Val?

Can’t complain, truth be told. Alright, so there was one sticky moment right at the start when I thought she was going to go down the ‘all politicians are untrustworthy’ road (a road I’m so familiar with that I’m long past contempt) but it actually transpired that she didn’t like politicians blaming each other and that’s alright in my book. Also, a bonus point for saying she quite liked the budget with regards to her own finances whilst simultaneously slating its effect on others. The lack of a faux hair shirt was refreshing to say the least.

Tl;dr

Alexander: 4/10

Same (as always)

Burnham: 6/10

(Had more slap on than a panto) Dame

Raab: 6/10

Overcame (my deafness to libertarians)

Kirby: 4/10

(All a bit) Lame

McDermid: 6/10

(Writes books about people who like to) Maim

The Crowd: 5/10

(Find) Haim (to be somewhat over-hyped by the music press)

Right, all done, that’s your lot, nowt to see here. Elizabeth’s running things next week for Brighton is her turf and she is much better placed to judge the implications of tax breaks for moustache pomade, subsidies for dreamcatchers and the best type of blue nylon rope to make a dog lead out of. Oh Brighton, you are such silly.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

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…


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