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Questionable Time #82


questionable time 82 david dimbleby nativity

Good Morning Lemmings and let me assure you, things were not supposed to turn out this way. No, things were supposed to be very different right now and rather than just sitting here blankly staring into space, desperately trying to work out just what in the hell I’m supposed to do with last night’s episode I was supposed to be kicking back and closing the book on 2013’s final QT with a real milk run of an episode. They promised me Swansea. They promised me Erik Pickles. They promised me a pulled punch of a season closer where the final question would involve something along the lines of “Does the panel agree that [insert political development of minor political import here] is akin to turkeys voting for Christmas” and the crowd would chortle approvingly. Sure, there’d be the inevitable Mandela question where everyone would solemnly agree that he was the best person in the whole entire world before moving swiftly on to matters of greater contention but I could deal with that. I even made a lovely nativity themed title pic and rejoiced at the opportunity of finally getting to use the Erik Pickles pshop that I’ve been sitting on for over a year. But no. It was all for nowt and here I am, feeling like I’ve accidentally turned up at the wrong office Christmas party and wondering where it all went wrong.

In fact, I know where it went wrong. It went wrong about midweek when the Question Time website informed me that Swansea had been kyboshed and the new venue was to be Johannesburg.

Hmmm…” I thought to myself, “Johannesburg. Is that a Tory town or a Labour town? It’s not ringing any bells. It must be a new constituency because even taking into account the media’s collective loss of reason and proportionality over the passing of Nelson Mandela, they’re surely not talking about Johannesburg in South Africa are they?”. But they were. They were deadly serious.

Still, at least there was one glimmer of sunshine in this otherwise foreboding scene as the provisional panel included a man named Tokyo Sexwale – more or less an open invitation to waste around 300 words on cheap gags about sexy whales – but they wouldn’t even let me have that. They took away my Sexwale at the last-minute and replaced him with someone who has a boring name that I know just as little about. If I had known at the time just how difficult those 300 words would be to fill without sexy whales I would have probably just called it a day and sloped off to bed after the news. But I didn’t.

I didn’t because of some weird and unhealthy sense of duty, and that’s exactly how I’m feeling right now – weird and unhealthy – but what do you expect me to do with this? I know I bang on all the time about how Questionable Time is about the spectacle and not the politics (particularly when someone’s having a pop at me because I didn’t shower their pet panelist with unconditional praise) but you know what? The politics really help. They help because without that vital bit of context I’m just left with a bunch of strangers who may as well be talking about their favourite Pokemon. I mean seriously, I find it hard enough to cover the Northern Ireland episodes and those guys are just across the water. South Africa? Leaving aside Oscar Pistorius, I haven’t got the faintest idea of what’s been going on over there for – now, let me see – 23 bloody years.

With this in mind, please forgive me for a rather brief and superficial summary of the show.

1. Central Casting did a bang up job in providing both a Senile Colonel Kurtz (Botha) and a Cocksure Revolutionary Brother (Mngxitama) for the show. I would also like to thank Andile Mngxitama for providing me with the means to become Christmas Scrabble Champion 2013.

2. No one much likes the ANC. This may or may not be related to Lindiwe Zulu’s ‘I’m going to lamp you if you say anything bad about the ANC’ look.

3. I can’t quite work out if Lindiwe Mazibuko is South Africa’s equivalent of Jo Swinson or Baroness Warsi but she’s definitely one of the two.

4. South African audiences do a marginally better line in the Discontented Muttering stakes than their UK counterparts. It has slightly more of an edge to it.

5.They also care not for energy prices, MP’s pay or David Cameron coming out for Team Nigella.

6. The BBC are clearly held in some affection by the people of South Africa as one man came dressed in a suit that was made out of a BBC test card (see Fig. 1).

test card bloke

7. Peter Hain got tutted at one point but I have no idea why because I’d basically given up at that point and spanked about on Twitter instead.
8. And that’s seriously it.

You might gather from my tone that I’m a little vexed by all this and if I’m being honest then yes, I’m pretty ticked off. I’m ticked off because like Michael Portillo pointed out on This Week, this is not good journalism. It’s a circlejerk where each broadcasting company tries to outdo each other in their capacity to fawn over an idealised vision of what was essentially just a man. And that is what he was. Just a man. Granted, he was an inspirational man who was instrumental in righting a great wrong but he was nevertheless a man who – like every human on earth – was flawed and imperfect (rather than go into the nitty-gritty of this it’s probably just best that I point you in the direction of Simon Jenkin’s take on the matter). Now, I’m not accusing QT of being cheerleaders in this ongoing work of unquestioning hagiography and to a certain extent it was interesting to see QT transplanted to a different culture (not to mention the logistical difficulties in getting Dimbleby back to the UK after the funeral) but the very fact that they felt compelled to hold it in South Africa speaks of a collective act of folly by the media. The writing of history is serious business. It’s our feedback form, our debrief, the thing that shows us where we done goofed so we don’t done goof again but it doesn’t work if we haven’t got the guts to be honest and QT haven’t helped matters any by joining in this unquestioning cavalcade.

And that, dear Lemmings, is why everyone is getting coal for Christmas.

Right, I’m done. No scores this week but here’s what happens when you cut John Major’s brain in half and also a rather interesting photo from the archives (see Fig. 2). It’s of a young Peter Hain being lovingly carried to bed by his loyal team of police manservants. Lazy sod.

peter haine carried by policemen

Fig. 2

Next year Lemmings, next year…

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Questionable Time #74


questionable time 74 david dimbleby passed out

Good morning Lemmings and welcome to Energy Prices Time, a live debate show where members of the audience spend at least half an hour getting animated about oldsters swapping heating for eating while the Blue Team keep repeating the word ‘tariff’, the Red Team keep repeating the word ‘freeze’ and the Yellow Team don’t bother to show up (what happened to Charles Kennedy this week? Must have ‘missed his plane’ again). This brave new broadcasting venture started three weeks ago with a rather promising pilot but has subsequently gone to seed and left me yearning for the good all days of Euro Crisis Time – a similar show that ran for at least two years before finally being put out of its misery by Phone Hacking Time. Those were the days…

 

I’ve been Reverse Afriyied!

So last week I ended up in a bit of a bind by a) not doing my homework on QT virgin Adam Afriyie, b) jumping to conclusions based on a Wikipedia article/Google Image search and c) having all those conclusions rubbished by a rather good QT performance. Clearly there’s a lesson in all of this and had you been dealing with a diligent blogger you may have expected me to learn it. But you’re not dealing with a diligent blogger – you’re dealing with a slipshod Internet Goon who takes a perverse delight in never, ever learning anything the first (or second… or third) time around. As a consequence I’ve done exactly the same thing to QT virgin Mark Harper although this time the results were somewhat different. Observe the process.

 

Step 1- Homework: A brief glance at his Wikipedia article...

Ok, so what have we got here… Comprehensive kid turned Oxbridge grad, grown-up job upon leaving… Blah blah blah… On the Tory front bench since 2005 – wait, 8 years? Where’s he been hiding all this time? Whatevs – blah, blah, blah – hates Europe, loves Israel – blah blah blah – oh hang on, what’s this? Ended up in hot water for some borderline insinuations about disabled benefit claimants? Central protagonist on the wrong side of the ill-fated forest sell off? And the brains behind the So Tory That Parody Has Turned In On Itself ‘Go Home’ vans? This could be interesting…

 

Step 2 – A Google Image search for ‘Mark Harper MP’…

Alright, so in goes his name… *Click* – WOAH! CHECK OUT THAT SMILE! It’s… It’s… Well I’m not quite sure whether it’s ‘winning’ or ‘shit eating’ but it’s certainly ‘something’. This changes everything.

 

Step 3 – Make rash assumption based on adding Step 1 to Step 2…

This guy must be a live wire, a maverick – maybe even a bounder! I mean c’mon, the combination of way-too-close-to-the-bone-remarks/policy initiatives and that Something Smile (see Fig. 1)? He’s going to be a riot!

 

mark harper go home teeth

Fig. 1

The result: Being wrong. Again.

There was no live-wirery, negative mavericknessnous, inverse bounding and a complete absence of the Something Smile. Instead we got a Should Work On Paper performance where he tried to do all the right things (e.g. someone says ‘you’re not doing enough’ and you then list all the things you’re doing) while neglecting the fact that we don’t really care about what you’re going to do – that’s what the news is for. No, this is QT and QT cares not for matters of the head. It does however care very much for matters of the gut – you know, the knot in the stomach, the smell of fear, the twitching of the eyes – and that’s the bit that Harper completely bypassed by doggy paddling his way through the show, trying very hard not to get into trouble. Did he make it to shore alive? Mostly. Do I feel like I have a better sense of who Mark Harper really is? Not in the slightest.

 

He’s a Doctor don’t you know?

Every time I’ve seen Tristram Hunt on QT I’ve always been left with the sense of a man who’s deeply uncomfortable at after work drinks. Everyone else – all half cut by half six – are living it up but Tristram can’t settle: The music’s too loud, Wetherpsoon’s always sets him on edge and while he’s fond of his co-workers they simply don’t know enough about 19th century social history to make him feel at ease – that, and he’s fretting about whether or not he set The Culture Show to record. The result of this has always been a slightly jerky, overly self-aware QT style which always makes him seem a little off kilter. However it now appears that if you make this man Shadow Education Secretary and then ask him questions about education you get a very different outcome: Suddenly he becomes fluid, assured and – dare I say it – impassioned – all of which is a marked improvement over the usual spectacle of him queezily nursing a pint of Fosters and explaining to his colleagues that he doesn’t watch football. True, we may have to leave aside the fact that he sounded scarily like Michael Gove when it came to content but apart from that it was nice to see him look so comfortable. So go on Tristram, The Macarena’s on and the last bus has already gone… Don’t fight it, feel it…

 

Someone in UKIP is wasting their time…

I bring this up because there was a little giveaway at the beginning of her first two responses: She started both answers with a very stilted ‘Thank you [audience member name] for bringing this up’ as if she’d been told to do so. Now, why UKIP are bothering giving her press training I don’t know because she’s a) pretty capable of handling herself and b) is probably the only member of the party you can put in front of a camera and have a better than evens shot of it not being a complete train wreck. Anyway, she dropped the PR act about midway through and did a half-decent job of appearing to be a functioning human being. Not bad given the company she keeps.

 

Stated Intentions vs Actual Outcome:

 

Bonnie ‘Germaine’ Greer:

Stated Intention – “I don’t have a strong, long, comprehensive answer”

Actual Outcome – Didn’t have a strong, long comprehensive answer.

 

Peter ‘Grumpy Pants’ Oborne

 

Stated Intention – ‘All these guys will lie to you and talk codswallop for the next hour’

Actual Outcome – Aggressively nuzzled Tristram Hunt with tender

affection for the duration.

 

I guess one out of two ain’t bad…

 

Tl;dr

 

Harper: 4/10

Flighty

 

Hunt: 6/10

Brighty

 

James: 5/10

Blighty

 

Greer: 5/10

Fighty

 

Oborne: 6/10

Alrighty

 

The Crowd: 5/10

Good nighty

 

Well, that’s that then… Oh wait, I almost forgot about announcing the winner of this year’s Most Applause For A Meaningless Platitude competition. Ladies and gentlemen, I give to you the bloke who said “I feel for the kids” and was rewarded with a torrent of approval. Well done sir, you must be very proud. Right, that’s me done but if you’re suffering from a bad case of idle thumbs then please feel free to check out what happened when I cut Paul Dacre’s brain in half.

 

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #72


questionable time 72 david dimbleby kiss make up

Good morning Lemmings and let’s not tarry too long on this first paragraph because we have much to get through. Much, much, muchness. Right, let’s go…

Let’s twist again. And again. And again. And again…

Imagine you’re playing pontoon: You peek at your first two cards (in this case a pretty borderline article on the assumed sentiments of a politician’s dead father) and find that you’re in a bit of a bind as their combined scores tally up to 15. Dammit! “Oh well,” you say to yourself, “might as well go for it. Twist!”. The dealer peels another card off the deck in the form of a supremely ill-judged headline and throws it on the table for all to see. It’s a Jack and you’re bust – time to pony up and hope that your next hand’s not quite as dire… At least that’s what you’d do if you had even the slightest concept of sportsmanship/rules/general standards of human behaviour.

But you don’t play by the rules. You’re a maverick, a loose cannon who’s standing up for what you believe in and right now you believe that a five-card trick will magically negate the fact that you’ve cocked this hand right up to the point where you’re out of the game. The banker reaches forward to collect his winnings but you’re having none of it: “Twist!” you scream as the other players exchange bemused looks and an uncomfortable silence envelopes the table. A friend of yours, an ex-editor of The Daily Telegraph, leans in towards you in an effort to set you straight:

Now come along Daily Mail I think you’ve had enough to -”

I SAID TWIST!”

Not knowing what to do the banker produces another card – a Queen this time. Your current score is 36 and bemusement is turning to concern. But you’re not done, not by a long shot.

AGAIN!”

The banker lays out a King. 46 and counting.

AGAIN!”

Another King and by this point even your brother, the Mail on Sunday is looking worried.

AGAIN! TWIST!”

You get the picture.

So that was a very long way of explaining the circumstances that bought Quentin Letts into the QT studio but how did he do on a personal level? Not good. Not good at all. In fairness to him he didn’t quite end up being the screaming lunatic of the above passage – the difference being that rather than shouting everyone down he just woozily dragged them around the houses whilst calling for yet more cards – but the fact that he still insisted on playing the game just gave his performance this very surreal air. And the result? Mockery – and not just an odd titter from certain sections of the crowd but full-blown, out-and-out derision like the part where he foolishly asked the crowd if the Mail was “completely out of order?”. “Yes!” came the near-unanimous response. Still, at least he can take comfort in the fact that he had at least one ally in the audience – a Kipper with a fairly tenuous grasp of exactly how the political spectrum works.

TWIST!

Mehdi Hasan: My new favourite person in the whole world.

You will not be hearing my traditional pleas for Mehdi Hasan to lighten up today. Instead I’m going to let the man speak for himself by quoting what I consider to be probably the best QT set piece I have ever seen – a beautiful chunk of rhetoric that served as wish fulfillment for a sizable chunk of the population. Behold:

…when you talk about who hates Britain or who has an evil legacy, who do you think has an evil legacy? The man who sucked up to the Nazi’s, who made friends with Joseph Goebbels and praised Hitler in the run up to World War Two – the owner and founder of the Daily Mail Lord Rothermere – or the man who served in the Royal Navy, risked his life for his adopted homeland – Ralph Miliband? Who do you think hated Britain more? And this isn’t just about Ralph Miliband actually because it’s opened up a whole debate about the Daily Mail. You want to talk about who hates Britain… [minor chuntering from Letts]… This is a paper that in recent years said there was nothing natural about the death of the gay pop star Stephen Gately, who said that the French people should vote for Marine Le Pen and the National Front, who attacked Danny Boyle for having a mixed raced couple in the Olympic Ceremony, who called Mo Farah a ‘plastic Brit’. So let’s have the debate about who hates Britain more because it isn’t a dead Jewish refugee from Belgium who served in the Royal Navy, it’s the immigrant-bashing, woman-hating, muslim-smearing, NHS-undermining, gay-baiting Daily Mail.”

Be still my beating heart.

And the – oh who cares…

So there were some party political types on last night but let’s not pretend that they weren’t completely overshadowed by the slow motion train wreck that was Mailgate. Anyway, a few choice points:

  1. I’ve finally figured out who Grant Shapps (see Fig. 1) reminds me of: He’s that kid at school – and every school has one – who thrives on goading others into wayward acts before legging it when the consequences of those acts become apparent (that’s if he hasn’t dobbed them in already). He also has a tin ear for nuance. Remember when that woman in the audience made a very eloquent point about how she’s fed up with all the ‘Hard Working People’ schtick? Well what better way to follow that up than by starting your next sentence with the phrase ‘Hard Working People’.
  2. I’ve now concluded that Yvette Cooper is the Bic Biro of politics: Dependable, functional, readily available (I don’t mean it like that…) and something you never really think about until you need one. True, she’s no Staedlter ball point (in my opinion the Rambo of Biro’s) but she’s dependable in a humdrum sort of way and there’s much to be said for that. However I can’t let her get away with quite how searingly dull she was last night. Yeah, yeah, yeah we know about the “lost three years” but can’t we just get back to the far more entertaining pursuit of Mail-baiting?
  3. Poor old Kirsty Williams looks like she could be a dab hand at this QT game if she could just get more than 20 seconds of camera time and not be quite so obsessed with the pupil premium. Better luck next time Kirsty.
eau de grant shapps

Fig. 1

Tl;dr

Shapps: 5/10

(As slippery and slap-) Dash (as ever)

Cooper: 4/10

(Gave it a mediocre) Bash

Williams: 6/10

(Made a decent) Hash (of it)

Letts: 2/10

(Sounded like he’d been on the) Lash

Hasan: 9/10

Smash(ed that ball right out of the park)

The Crowd: 8/10

(Displayed a high percentage of mous)Tache (owners)?

Well, what can I say? Two great episodes in as many weeks… Are we heading into some sort of QT Golden Age? I sincerely hope so. Anyway, that’s enough from me and should you still happen to be at a loose end you can check what happened when I cut Boris Johnson’s brain in two earlier this week.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #71


questionable time 71 david dimbleby agatha christie

Good morning Lemmings and boy am I in a good mood today. Why? Because an old friend who I feared had disappeared from the face of the earth came crashing back into my life on Tuesday, a friend that I last recall seeing sometime around May 2010. That’s right Lemmings, Politics is back! Now, that may sound odd as many of the things we associate with Politics – you know, grown men and women jeering at each other, all the ‘he said/she said/you’re not playing with my toys’ sort of thing – have remained but that wasn’t actually Politics: That was just the political classes going through the motions while Politics quietly switched off its mobile and left a voicemail greeting along the lines of ‘Sorry I’m not available to provide you with distinct and tangible alternatives to the current state of affairs at the moment but you never know, give it a few years and I might be able to sort something out on the front.’. All of that changed on Tuesday when the Red Team finally snapped out of its torpor and actually started talking about those long forgotten things known as ‘policies’. Lemmings, I could have wept with joy.

Anyway, what does this sudden return of my missing companion mean for Question Time? It means a right belter of an episode. Observe.

Finally, the Red Team has a tune to make the Blue Team dance to…

…And oh how Gove danced, pressing Wee Dougie to his chest in a passionate embrace as they whirled and pirouetted across the floor. This came as somewhat of a surprise as I initially thought Gove was going for a ‘damning with faint praise’ line of attack (the chief means a politician has of appearing unrattled when they are in fact very much rattled) but the praise wasn’t that faint at all and extended way beyond energy policy. Miliband? Nice bloke, heart’s in the right place, just a shame that his party is still a well of Brownian Bile. McBride? Terrible business but Wee Dougie’s clean as a whistle. Kenya? We’re on the same page. Granted, he did land some forceful punches here and there (the holding of the blank sheet of paper and claiming it was Labour’s education policy was a nice touch) but the tone was very much one of ‘call off the dogs’.

So what’s going on here? It’s tempting to explain this away with the obvious answer that the Tories, concerned by how much Labour’s new-found backbone in the face of corporate interests is resonating with the public, are preparing the ground to steal (or at least knock off a passable replica) of the Red Team’s energy policy while they still can but this is Gove we’re dealing with: Like him or loath him, there’s no getting away from the fact that he’s a very canny and ambitious operator. No, I suspect this runs deeper than a single policy and relates to the Blue Team’s longer term strategy of boxing Labour into the centre ground with the threat of painting Miliband as ‘Red Ed’. So far this has worked a treat as it’s kept the debate squarely on terms that the Tories dictate and hampered Labour’s freedom of movement but Miliband’s speech on Tuesday represented a huge bluff call on Labour’s part and one that appears to have paid off: ‘Red Ed’ – it seems – is surprisingly popular with the public. Now Gove’s cluey enough to spot a busted flush when he sees one and I’d venture that his performance last night was an attempt to cushion the blow until they can come up with an effective counter and on that front he did rather well. After all, it’s very difficult to look like a genuine alternative to the status quo when Michael Gove is agreeing with the bulk of what you’re saying.

(A Minor Aside: Ever notice how much a young Michael Gove looks like Velma from Scooby Doo? No? Then see Fig .1)

yound michael gove velma scooby doo

Fig. 1

And what did Wee Dougie make of all this unexpected romancing? Well it’s very hard to tell as he only has three facial expressions – Slightly Ticked Off when he’s really fuming, Mildly Tickled when he’s exploding with joy and Vaguely Dahhhhhhh for every other occasion – so we’ll just have to chalk this up as another mystery in the vast unknowable that is the Inside of Douglas Alexander’s Head.

Something sarky this way comes…

Transfixed as I was by Gove whisking Dougie off his feet I couldn’t help but notice another presence in the dance hall – a sneering, menacing presence that should really have been wearing a black leather jacket and playing with a flick-knife. Yup, that’s right, Will Self was on again and as is usually the case he managed to make some of the best points of the show in absolutely the worst way possible. That to my mind is a great shame because it’s rare you get someone who’s so clearly intelligent and outspoken on QT, yet every damn time he’s on he just throws it away by crossing the invisible boundary between Satisfyingly Sarcastic and Oozing Moral Superiority before he’s even finished his first sentence. It breaks my heart Lemmings, it really does. Having said that though, the little panto tiff between him and Gove was pretty entertaining and lead me to spend most of the night thinking about who’d win if they did actually “take it outside”. My money’s on Self… By a whisker.

And what of the rest?

It’s nice to see that The Daily Express has finally stopped pretending that there’s even an iota of impartiality left to fight its way through the wall-to-wall coverage of Diana/Maddy/Seemingly Innocuous Things That Will Kill You by having a Chief Political Correspondent who’s going to run as a UKIP candidate… We’re through the looking-glass here Lemmings. Anyway, how did he do? Well, on the plus side he managed – unlike his recently de-whipped colleague – to not to call any female audience members slags, beat Michael Crick around the head or to write off an entire continent as ‘Bongo-Bongo Land’ . That just left him with the usual Kipper message of a plague on all your houses (a win-win for an Express writer as he could then knock out at least a hundred front pages about the threat to house prices from plagues) but he hasn’t quite got that cartoony aspect to him that make UKIP so fun on QT. Maybe that’ll come through when he packs in the day job. As for Louise Cooper, well she seems game for a laugh, engaging enough and her bit on the price freeze was good. It’s just a shame that she slipped into caps-lock mode with that MY FAMILY ARE VERY IMPORTANT TO ME blather at the end. Oh well, hey-ho…

Tl;dr

Gove: 6/10

(Is clearly up to some)Thing

Alexander: 6/10

(Had a lovely little) Fling (with Gove)

O’Flynn: 5/10

(Employed the standard array of UKIP) Sling(s and arrows)

Self: 5/10

(Is long and thin… Much like) String

Cooper: 5/10

(Did seem to) Wing (it a bit at the end)

The Crowd: 5/10

(Are all fans of seminal early-90’s novelty act The Sultan’s of) Ping (FC)

Now, don’t be fooled by those lacklustre scores because this was a great a show: Meaty, dense and pacey (not to mention the fact that my two favourite stereotypes – a man in an elaborate bow tie and an angry vicar – were also represented). So yes, it appears that not only is my old friend Politics is back, but so too is Question Time. God I’ve missed you guys…

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #69


questionable time 69 david dimbleby getting married

Good morning Lemmings and welcome back from the 2nd Silly Season That Never Was. That’s right, much like last years kyboshing of the pleasingly trivial under a wave of riots we have yet again had to forgo our annual dose of sharks off Cornwall/pets with bus passes/octogenarians skateboarding as August’s news went from ‘Becalmed’ to ‘Totally Mental’ courtesy of one Mr. Assad. So anyway, what better way to pick through the fallout like abandoned newborns, fumbling our way through the thinning light of Autumn than with a spot of Questionable Time? Actually, there’s probably plenty of better ways but since I’ve been off for a couple of months and have forgotten how to write you’ll just have to figure that one out yourselves. Right, let’s get back into the swing of this.

 

Chuka really has to stop thinking…

Regular readers will know that there are two things about Umunna that I bang on about relentlessly: The first is how ridiculously good-looking he is while the second is just a general perplexion as to how this otherwise seemingly perfect package never manages to add up to the sum of its parts. We’ll get back to the first point later but right now I want to focus on what it is that keeps me from getting giddy over Chuka.

 

As things go last night was a particularly choice moment to be the Red Team’s meat puppet as the two big issues of the day – Syria and Royal Mail – both saw them on the right side of public opinion and by quite hefty margins. Add in to this that the whole Royal Mail deal is in his remit then this starts to look like a milk run: Just get as much canvas up the mast as possible and then sit back as the crowd sweep you on to glorious victory. What could be easier? Technically speaking this is exactly what Umunna did and barring a few bothersome squalls thrown up by Greening and Aaranovitch it was mostly plain sailing. However, it didn’t feel like a victory and I suspect there are two reasons for this: Latency and authenticity, both of which are related.

 

Let’s start with the latency: This refers to that near-imperceptible pause that Chuka always does before launching into a set piece. It’s so short as to be barely noticeable but once you’ve clocked it it’s impossible to ignore and it ended up really bothering me last night. Why? Because it was particularly prevalent when he was trying to play the Indignant Card. Take for example Greening’s rather low blow about his house and family. Now, if you really wanted to be properly indignant about that you’d probably just tell her to shut up but Chuka went for the high ground instead and why not? After all, that’s where the big claps are. The problem is with that nano-pause: It’s like a little click that tells you that his mental filter is going like the clappers, desperately trying to prune out anything that may sound off message and that pretty much sinks the whole indignation play because to be indignant is to be so angry that you simply aren’t capable of keeping a lid on it.

 

All of which leads us to the second problem: Authenticity. You can look the part, have the right back story and say the right words but unless those words truly feel like they’re coming from the gut people simply won’t believe it. Umunna has all the above but he’s still so utterly ruled by his head that what should be a three-piece suite is little more than a very good-looking sofa and a couple of armchairs.

 

And what of his good looks? Well, I ran a little pshop experiment earlier this week to see if I could make him ugly. Annoyingly, he remains vaguely beautiful throughout (see Fig. 1).

chuka-umunna-ugly-gif

Fig. 1

 

One of these days Greening is going to snap…

If it wasn’t hard enough being a fairly ordinary person who went to an ordinary school and had an ordinary job before joining a party that abhors ordinary people Justine Greening also has to contend with being somewhat accident prone (see Dimbers’ malevolent jibe about missing the vote) and this combined pressure is beginning to tell. You can see it in the way she sits – rigid and not too far away from the brace-for-impact position – as well as that hint of annoyance that she only just manages to keep in check. Give it time Lemmings. It may not be tomorrow, it may not be next week but at some point in the not too distant future I can see Greening just totally losing it and flipping out. Hopefully Chuka will be around to pick up some pointers on how to be authentically indignant.

 

Two out of three remaining panelists couldn’t give less of a toss…

In further contrast to Umunna’s overly-stroked chin we now come to a couple of people who seem to have crossed some mid-life Rubicon and are now revelling in their off-the-hookness. The first is Caroline Lucas who since jacking in the role as Green Party leader has been having a gay old time getting arrested and breaking parliamentary dress code while the second is David Aaranovitch – a man seemingly hellbent on refuting everything his younger self stood for in a fug of grumpy crotchetiness. Anyway, this whole devil-may-care outlook works for the pair of them and what we ended up with was a lively and well argued debate on the Syrian question that reminded me that QT does occasionally do what it says it says on the tin. No such luck though for Colleen Graffy– an important sounding person who sounds like she’s got important sounding things to do – as I’m pretty sure that everyone mentally tuned her out as the words “former so-and-so for the Bush administration” were uttered. There are some things you just don’t want on your CV.

 

Tl;dr

 

Umunna: 5/10

Thinky

 

Greening: 5/10

Blinky

 

Lucas: 8/10

Pinky

 

Aaronovitch: 7/10

Brinky

 

LondGraffy: 4/10

Sinky

 

The Crowd: 5/10

Stinky?

 

Well, that’s that: A passable warm-up momentarily enhanced by a man with a gothic mansion of a hairdo bellowing “A RECOVERY FOR WHOM?!?!”. For whom indeed sir… Anyway, it’s nice to be back and should you fancy a go yourself Questionable Time is currently on the lookout for guest writers. However, if thankless toil is not your cup of tea then feel free to busy yourself by looking at pretty pictures of misheard lyrics or buying one of these magnificent creations. Hey, a boy’s got to eat ok?

 

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Time For You To Get Questionable


questionable time now hiring

Good morning Lemmings and don’t panic: The sudden return of Questionable Time does not herald a sudden return of Question Time itself so your Thursday nights are still safe and unmolested from current affairs strife. No, the reason why I’m breaking the summer truce is because I have a modest proposition for you all – I’m looking for guest writers.

As many of you are no doubt aware, there are some week’s when I can’t – for whatever reason – do Questionable Time and considering I’ve got another very time and labour intensive iron in the fire I don’t see that situation magically resolving itself any time soon. However, rather than just leave yawning gaps in this site’s QT coverage I thought it might be worth exploring the possibility of having other people’s take on the show from time to time. Fancy a crack at it? Here’s what I’m looking for in a guest writer:

Essential Criteria:

Must rite gud

Yeah, it’s a bit of a no-brainer but it’s a point worth making: You sort of need to be good at writing to do this. Now, I’m not overly bothered with the style of writing just providing that it’s a) funny b) insightful and c) not nasty.

Hold on a second!” I hear you cry, “You’ve been thoroughly awful to some of the panelists in the past!” and to a certain extent that’s true but only when they’ve acted like proper divs on the show and I do draw the line at ‘nasty’. ‘Petty’, ‘cantankerous’ and ‘cranky’ are all fine in my book but ‘nasty’ is not.

I’m also not overly concerned by people’s ability in the spelling/grammar department (otherwise I would have had to fire myself years ago) but the ability to be able to write engagingly and pick up on the non-obvious is really important.

Ability to leave your politics at the door

The one thing I really take pride in when it comes to Questionable Time is that I try very hard to make it fair. I do this because Questionable Time is not really about the politics of QT – it’s about the spectacle and that means that you can’t just go to town on people because they’re on the ‘wrong’ team. Instead, I’m looking for people who can set aside their own beliefs and focus on what’s presented in front of them. That’s not to say that you can’t drag up things about panelists’ past or add a tint of where you’re coming from but it must be within the context of the actual episode.

Fleet of foot

Thanks to the internet’s terrifying ability to shrink our collective attention spans each instalment of Questionable Time has a very short half-life and getting a post out of the door in good time is half the battle. Essentially I’m look for people who can knock around 1000 words together within 24 hours of transmission (ideally I’m looking more at 12-18 hours but 24 is the hard ceiling). Any longer than that and no-one’s going to read it.

Desirable Criteria

A willingness to think about stupid pshop ideas…

…or even better, the ability to create stupid pshops. In fact, should you not fancy writing but are into doing something dumb with David Dimbleby’s face then please feel free to submit ideas or finished works to me. Anyway, not being awash with pixel twisting abilities is far from a deal breaker but a few ideas wouldn’t go amiss.

A knowledge of non-English politics

As some of you are no doubt aware I have a very tenuous grasp on the politics of Scotland/NI/Wales and as a result these tend to be the shows that I don’t cover. Should you know a thing or to about political shenanigans in the devolved assemblies then you’re already ahead of the game.

A certain goofiness

Questionable Time tends to work on two levels: One is to try to make sense of the episode while the other is to get weird with it. The second is the harder of the two and it requires a certain wonkiness of mind for it to be done right. Don’t worry though, I’m not looking for medical evidence to prove just how unhinged you are but a lack of fear when it comes to running with oddness will stand you in good stead.

What’s in it for you?

An audience

Questionable Time is by no means massive but it does have a loyal following who come back week in, week out. That means you’ll instantly have access to a few hundred people who will definitely read your work. It doesn’t sound like much but if you ever tried shouting into the gaping maw of the internet you’ll know just how hard it is to build a reliable following. Questionable Time already has that, thus saving you several years of tireless XP-grinding.

The ‘benefit’ of my ‘wisdom’

I’ve done this for a long time so I’ve got a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn’t, which corners can be cut and where all the bodies are buried. Being the kindly soul that I am I will do my very best to impart as much useful knowledge as I can. I also promise to be gentle.

Absolutely no financial compensation

Questionable Time has never made a penny and in fact, it costs me a modest sum each year just to keep everything running. As a result I can’t pay anyone anything but don’t worry – just see this as an instructive lesson in the Brave New World of Online Journalism where no-one get’s paid and everything’s free.

Questionable Time stickers!

If I’ve still got any left.

So that’s what I have to offer. Nothing but blood, sweat and a vague promise of stickers. However, should you (or someone you know) feel that your life would be enhanced immeasurably by giving this ‘satire’ lark a go, please drop me a line either by email or Twitter.

Right, that’s me done truce breaking. Enjoy the rest of your summer.

In a month-ish Lemmings… In a month-ish…

Questionable Time #60


questionable time 60 david dimbleby crop circle

Good morning Lemmings and let us not beat about the bush: I really wasn’t feeling last night’s show. The primary cause for this is that the news which – through a combination of sustained Thatchering and high drama on the other side of the Pond – has gone and knackered itself out, leaving precious little of interest for our weekly political cage fight. Should you require some hard evidence of this then look no further than the inclusion of an Abu Qatada question (the QT equivalent of a blinking fuel light) and the now regular ritual of trying to get fired up by sub-percentage movements in the GDP figures. Still, at least there wasn’t a question on the legalisation of cannabis. That’s when you know the tank’s completely dry.

Right, let’s see what we can salvage from these charred remains.

Sajid Javid is not fannying about.

I like a good n00b on QT. I like watching those little beads of sweat and hearing those garbled words as they struggle to get their bearings so I was delighted to see that we had two last night, Sajid Javid and Luciana Berger. As far as the sweaty-garbling stakes go, I’m pleased to say that despite a strong opening, Berger soon got rattled and managed to mangle all manner of straightforward sentences into semantically impossible contortions (Qatada is “Europe’s right hand man in Al Qaeda”, a ‘construction centre’ became a “contruction centre” and something-or-other was “appropriately fine”), all of which is entirely forgivable considering that this was the first time she’d been exposed to the horrors of Question Time, but that’s her Get Out Of Jail Free card gone. Next time it’s Big School Rules.

The same cannot be said for Javid however. No, instead of running on pure adrenaline like most first-timers he just sat there like an angry brick and stared all danger into submission with those terrifying eyes of his. Fancy having a go about the economy? How about I have a go at you instead. Think you can trap me in a Qatada bind? Please Nigel, feel free to bleat on about how absurd the situation is but don’t for a second think that I’m copping the flak for some rather irksome circumstances. Reckon that my background might make me a soft touch on immigration? Let me categorically disabuse you of such folly with my uncompromising stance on… well… everything really.

Ok, so the content (helping after helping of Tory red meat) was a little protein heavy and flavour light but the delivery was so utterly unshakable that he made for some pretty compelling viewing. So keep an eye on this guy. He may well be a n00b on paper but an hour of trying to duck his laser beam stare tells me that he’s a pre-baked QT hardnut who we’ll be seeing a lot more of.

I wish we got the Farage I saw earlier in the week…

If you didn’t see Channel 4 News’ wonderful ‘Farage in Bulgaria’ piece then stop reading this and watch it right the hell now for it was a thing of much loveliness. For the uninitiated the premise was very simple: Channel 4 sent Farage to Bulgaria with a camera crew, hopefully to discover that the whole nation is hellbent on upping sticks and bringing our welfare state to its knees, except that they aren’t. Nope, despite the cockeyed wailings of unhinged Kippers it appears that the Bulgarians have got this country’s number (damp and grumpy) and would much rather send Nigel on a series of back-to-back drinking sessions instead. For the terminally lazy or those at work, I’ve handily condensed the whole affair into .gif form (see. Fig. 1) but please, do check it out.

farage-bulgaria-gif

Fig. 1

Anyway, it was telly gold (not least because it achieves that impossible comedic dream: The unholy fusion of Partridge and Borat) and in many ways Farage came out of it looking rather good. Ok, so on paper the entire thing was a failure as it rendered UKIP’s latest stick to beat public opinion with rather twig-like but on a personal level it was a triumph because it illustrated the rather more endearing side of Farage: The goofiness, the ‘I can’t believe I’m getting away with this!’ look in his eyes and the fact that he’s probably very entertaining company to keep.

Alas, the Nigel we saw in that film was nowhere to be seen last night and instead it was business as usual for Question Time’s perennial squatter-turned-resident: Shrill on rhetoric (Crime Epidemic!), shifty on policy (Flat tax! Maybe!) and very, very much blissed out on nostalgia (GRAMMAR SCHOOOOOOOOOOOLS!). Still, should his political ambitions come to nowt, at least he’s got a decent shot at the BAFTA for Best Male Comedy Performance.

Fair do’s to Bennett…

So this is Bennett’s second outing in a little more than a month but I can’t find much to gripe about. Naturally, there’re a few tweaks to be made here and there and a little enthusiasm that needs curbing but considering how well she stood up to Sajid’s Terminator act, I’d say she’s got the basics down pat.

*Tenuously related note of unsubstantiated gossip.*

I was speaking with someone who walks in Green circles and was informed of growing consternation in the party’s ranks about the following: Natalie Bennett has a habit of wearing green all the time and it’s starting to look a little… odd. You heard it here first.

Handwringing or angry? HANDWRINGING OR ANGRY?!

That’s the question that Simon Hughes asks himself upon awaking each morning and yesterday he plumped for ANGRY. Luciana’s having a pop about the economy? “Don’t you lecture me!” Javid reckons the ECHR is negotiable? FROM MY COLD DEAD HANDS! You get the picture.

Anyway, that was Hughes and I do find his ‘angry’ act rather charming because you can tell he’s trying so hard to pull it off…. Like straining every fibre in his body to let you know that he’s really, really ticked off. Does it work? Sort of. Is it better than the handwringing? Infinitely.

Tl;dr

Javid: 6/10

(Man of) Steel

Hughes: 5/10

(Made a) Meal (of his angriness)

Berger: 5/10

We’ll (see)…

Farage: 5/10

(Sur)Real

Bennett: 6/10

(Likes to wear shades close to) Teal

The Crowd: 5/10

(Idolise Ian) Beale?

Hmmm… Not QT’s finest hour but I guess it will do. In a brief aside, I’m playing a gig next Thursday night so apologies in advance but you’ll just have to get thoroughly Starkied without me. Ooh, you lucky little buggers!

In a fortnight Lemmings, in a fortnight…

Shameless Plug Time #1


LEEDS SIGN

Good morning and ha! I’ve totally blagged you! There’s no Questionable Time or vaguely topical photoshops to be had here– no, all you’re going to get is the joyous prospect of a hard sell. Lucky, lucky you.

 

Anyway, this all started a week back when I made a minorly chuckleworthy comment on a reddit thread and then thought “Hmmm…. There’s a wonky pshop in that”. Half an hour later (a half hour in which I was simultaneously frying sausages, hence the rather slap-dash text alignment) the above was born and off it went to Twitter where it received some minor lulz before quietly petering out… Or so I thought. As it turns out, Radio Aire had picked it up and a few days later, a friend of mine tells me to check their Facebook page. Lo-and-behold, it had gone totally bonkers.

 

Being one who never looks a weird gift horse in the mouth I then boiled down the pshop into a T-shirt design, made contact with the magnificent people at Leeds’ Culture Vulture and a satanic bargain was struck. Behold Lemmings, the unholy product of our diabolical union (see Fig. 1).

 

Welcome to Leeds T-Shirt

Fig. 1

 

So yes, it’s now a t-shirt and should you be a fervent Yorkshire Nationalist who wears their politics on their chest, feel more than free to purchase one here. Alternatively, if you are an Anti-Yorkshire zealot with an axe to grind, I hear that they will smolder satisfyingly if thrown on a pyre of Alan Bennett and Emily Brontë books. Either way, you’d make me a very happy boy.

 

Right, that’s the wallet-lifting over with. Go back to being-bummed-out/feeling-weirdly-conflicted/whooping-maniacally about the passing of the late-PM…

 

Thursday Lemmings, Thursday…

UPDATE: Culture Vulture’s t-shirt printer is currently on the blink so if you would like a t-shirt, you can get one here.

Questionable Time #49


questionable time 49 david dimbleby toastGood morning Lemmings and yes, it’s that time again. Those on the right, prepare to howl in anguish at perceived left-wing bias. Those on the left, prepare to gnash your teeth angrily at perceived right-wing bias. And those in the centre? I don’t know… Just carry doing what you’re doing and try not to make a mess. That’s right Lemmings, it’s Questionable Time.

Anna Soubry’s slow decline was rather good fun…

If I’m having a really bad day and feel a little down in the mouth, I often like to cheer myself up by imagining what it’s like to be a Spad for Anne Soubry. Think about it for a second: As tasks go, ensuring that Anna Soubry makes it through a working day without alienating a large section of the population must like defusing a bomb that’s strapped to a greased cat with a taste for methamphetamine. Want proof? Then look no further than the past week. Wednesday: Manages to wind up half the country by implying that the poor are disproportionately prone to tubbiness. Thursday: Succeeds in vexing the remaining half of the country by castigating them for eating lunch at their desk. Thursday night: Goes on Question Time and reaps a rich harvest of boos. Should you happen to be travelling a between Dorset and London today, keep an eye out. You may just see a broken, weeping figure by the roadside begging for a lift to anywhere that isn’t Westminster. That person will be Anna Soubry’s Spad.

Tragically for the aforementioned Spad, last night was especially cruel as she didn’t have a bad start and emerged from the Europe question reasonably unscathed. I could feel the Spad’s relief: “Thank god for that. Maybe for once, just for once, I won’t end up calling the Samaritans tonight”. Oh silly Spad. Stop lying to yourself. You know as well as I do that the rest of the show is merely a build up to the inevitable question about portly poverty and that you’ve got to weather a good 40 minutes of gradual attrition before we reach that final, fatal juncture.

So it was that things slowly unravelled. Reports of Nick Clegg’s latest economic policy naysaying were met with a wonderful display of playing for time whilst joyous tidings about employment figures were quickly pooh-poohed as part-time codswallop. “Oh god, just end it now” murmured the Spad, but no, there was to be no reprieve as she tangled with an audience member on public sector cuts and was rewarded handsomely with opprobrium. And then it dropped. “Are poor people fat?” (see Fig. 1).

anna-soubry-fat-gif

Fig. 1

To be fair to Soubry, there was a moment when it looked like she might just get away with this and if I’m completely honest, I do have a little sympathy with her position. She’s right to raise the questions about the food industry’s role in the Great Plumpening but it’s just a shame that she did so in the most hamfisted way possible. Anyway, despite an ok-ish attempt at a Took Me Out of Context defence Soubry managed to throw away any chance of a clean getaway by accusing Ben Bradshaw of not acting like a former Health Minister should when the crowd was clearly behind him. It was at that moment I heard that distinctive crunch: Another delicate Spad broken on the Soubry wheel. If you happen to pass them on the A35, have a heart. Spads are people too.

Corollary note of dubious importance:

I encountered numerous problems when creating the above Anna Sourbry .gif. It appears that this jacket of hers somehow confers immunity to the Liquify filter, Photoshop’s mailed fist in the fight to make thin people fat. So, should you live in fear that someone is going to photograph you and then doctor that photo to make you look fatter than you are then fear no longer. Simply buy one of these jackets and never take it off.

1997 seems like a very long time ago…

I have a bit of a personal problem with Ben Bradshaw and it’s to do with symbolism. Allow me to get misty eyed for a second: It was 1997. I was doing my A-levels and like much of the nation, I was pretty sick of 18 years of Tory rule. A couple of days before the election, Bradshaw happened to cycle past me in Exeter and I was transfixed: Here he was, this fresh-faced, handsome, openly gay Shape of Things to Come and you know what? I liked that shape because it felt like a breath of fresh air from the stifling greyness of the Major era. Labour duly won that election and for a time, Ben Bradshaw came good on his promise – Things Can Only Get Better and all that – but it didn’t last long. The wars kicked off, the filthy rich were relaxed with (intensely) and Ben changed too: He seemed crotchety and impatient. He moved up a couple of notches. Bikes eventually became ministerial cars and The Shape Of Things To Come looked increasingly like The Shape Of Things We’d Rather Forget. Fast forward to last night and what do we find? A man who looks like he’s just a little above it all, a man who’s in a hurry and a man who just can’t quite be bothered to reason with you any more. Sorry Ben, it just personal…

Has Ming just seen his own fate?

There was a telling moment last night: Ming mentioned that despite the fact he was but a lowly backbencher, he still gets invited on the show because he has influence with the Chancellor. The silence that followed was horrible, but not quite as horrible as the look of realisation that finally dawned on his face. The look said ‘Oh bugger. The jig is up’. Personally, I hope it isn’t because Ming’s been quite good fun this week – what him him pouring cold water all over Cameron’s referendum speech – but maybe that’s just me. Weymouth, it appears, remains unconvinced.

Angela Epsein says a lot…

Not much of which makes any sense. It’s forgiveable I guess, I’m sure I’d wibble all sorts of nonsense if I was on the panel but I’m fairly confident I’d draw the line at claiming that ‘steal the iPad’ was the number one game in UK playgrounds.

Ian Hislop is hereby excluded from the scoring system…

…Because it’s just not fair. He appears on a panel show every week, he knows where all the bodies are buried, and he’s just too bloody good at what he does. It’s just not cricket and I for one will have nothing to do with it.

Tl;dr

Soubry: 4/10

Combust(ible)

Bradshaw: 4/10

(Not entirely) Trust(able)

Campbell: 5/10

(Is looking increasingly) Disgust(ed with everything)

Epstein: 4/10

(Left me a little non)Plus(sed)

Hislop: N/A

(Is no longer entitled to rhymes)

The Crowd: 8/10

(Were all high as kites on angel) Dust?

So low and N/A scores for the panel, but big points for the Weymouth crowd who made last night quite the hoot. Right, it’s 4.30am. I’m off to dream about spelling mistakes as I weirdly yet invariably do on Thursday nights.

Next week Lemmings, next week..


Questionable Time #48


questionable time 48 davidi dimbleby camoflage

Good morning Lemmings and come, let us huddle for warmth in this most spiteful of winters. I know, I know, everything sucks right now – we’re knee-deep in the January Blues, everyone’s skint and it’s snowing hippos – but at least we can take solace in the fact no matter how apocalyptic the weather is, the Thursday night spectacle of ire, bile and absurdity remains resolutely unaffected. So come Lemmings, let us gather the survivors, let us construct a makeshift shelter from the charred remains of this week’s episode and let us hope for the best.

I’m a little gutted that Nigel Farage is finally growing up…

Oh Nigel, how far we have come, you and I… When I first laid eyes on you I have to admit that I wasn’t impressed. I don’t remember the exact circumstances but the chances are that you had been conjuring up wild stories of how the EU had made spherical bricks mandatory or maybe laying out some vision of a perfect society based entirely on gammon and Rotarians. Whatever. All I knew was that most of the things you said were vaguely populist and definitely bonkers, neither of which particularly buttered my parsnips. However, all that was before I started writing Questionable Time and once I was actually forced to watch you week in, week out, I began to see things differently. That’s when I discovered The Magic of Nigel Farage.

It hinges on this: For three solid years, you could predict with unerring accuracy how Nigel Farage would fare on QT. Initially, he would look nervous and shifty – like he knew he was gate crashing the party and it was only a matter of time before the host cottoned on – but this state of affairs would only last so long. By midway you’d see this look coming over his face, a look that said ‘You know what? Bollocks to this. I’m going for it’ and then suddenly, the game would change. Caution? To the wind! Reason? To hell with it! I’m going to make some faintly ludicrous statements and there’s nothing you can do about it! That wasn’t the magic though. The magic was that wonderful moment where the crowd would start clapping and you could hear his brain scream ‘OMG! I’M ACTUALLY GETTING AWAY WITH THIS!’.

However, that’s still not quite the full story as there was a third component to any given Farage outing and that was The Tragic Coda. It’s pretty simple really: After getting all hopped up on the dizzying scent of approval, he’d always overplay his hand and that rush of applause that had sustained him would trickle off to one solitary and quite, quite mad member of the audience clapping very, very loudly. This is the moment when you could see it kick in, the fatal realisation that ‘Oh god, I’ve totally buggered this up!’. To me, that was the icing on the cake as every episode had this wonderfully self-contained story arc that played out with the regularity of clockwork: Nigel the Underdog followed by Nigel the Victorious followed by Nigel the Defeated.

These days though? I dunno, something’s changed. For one, UKIP are actually making hay so there is the faint worry in the back of my head that he might come good on his gammon based society but more importantly, he seems aware of when he’s over-egging the pudding now. Ok, so that bit when he and an audience member got over excited about the French not taking part on the Falklands War could have qualified as a ‘Bollocks to it’ moment, but it occurred right at the end of the show and left no space left for the full Tragic Coda. Well dammit Nigel, I need that Tragic Coda. That was the bond that kept us together but it appears that you have turned your back on our arrangement and become infatuated with the grubby trappings of electoral viability. My heart? It is broken.

On any given night Flint vs. Shapps should be a good draw…

…Except that it wasn’t and to be honest, this was a pretty shonky episode that even Dimbers’ rather fetching frog tie couldn’t save. Alright, so the news is in the New Year’s doldrums and the only real going concern – Cameron’s Europe speech – got spiked by hostages in Algeria but I was expecting a little more from Shapps and Flint, a pair who positively ooze that Step-Siblings Who Don’t Get On vibe. Alas, on this occasion it was wet playtimes all round as Flint defaulted to her ‘MUST. DEFEND. EVERYTHING. NEW. LABOUR. EVER. DID.’ position whilst Shapps gave us the usual runaround of having an answer for everything whilst somehow addressing nothing (‘Hey guys… This is all really important and stuff, but stuff I’ve stuffed should stuff it right back into stuff). Shapps by a nose, but without honours.

At least Mary Beard gave it a fair crack…

So she’s all a bit ‘Who’s got the keys to the Volvo!?’/’I don’t suppose you could you tape me the latest Ladysmith Black Mambazo LP?’/’No, I’m sure the farmer’s market is this way!’ but in the final reckoning, Mary Beard was last night’s saving grace. Someone needed to keep the new and worryingly stable Farage in check, someone needed to respond to questions with a modicum of thought and someone needed to tell us whether horse meat is actually up to snuff. That person was Mary Beard. Well done. Have some points.

I have no idea who Roland Rudd is…

The funny thing about PR people is how little you can find out about them. So far as I can gather, Roland Rudd’s one of those figures who repeatedly crops up in the background (he’s reputedly one of the ‘Four Wise Men’ who Tony Blair consulted on his way out), apparently pulls loads of strings and then disappears to do whatever shadowy PR people do. Am I any the wiser after watching last night’s episode? Am I hell. All I can really tell you is that he has very good posture and that his attempt to crack a joke about the purity of burgers got him nowhere. Oh well… You can lead a horse to water…

TL;DR

Shapps: (Likes to talk about) Stuff

5/10

Flint: (Was a little) Duff

5/10

Farage: (Managed to rein in the excess) Guff

6/10

Beard: (Took the evening by the) Scruff (of the neck)

7/10

Rudd: (Doesn’t do off the) Cuff (jokes very well)

5/10

The Crowd: (Were in the) Buff?

4/10

So bah! A stinker of an episode! Truly, January is the cruelest of months. Anyway, to take the edge off it, here’s a something I prepared for the old Nigel, the Nigel I knew and loved (see Fig. 1).

nigel farage needs you kitchener poster

Fig. 1

Next week Lemmings, next week…


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