Posts Tagged 'Alan Duncan'

Questionable Time #30

questionable time 30 david dimbleby marie antoinette

Good morning Lemmings and rejoice for I have returned from Berlin, a city rife with vexing contradictions. And what may these contradictions be I hear you ask? Well try this one on for size:

      1. Berliners smoke all the time and everywhere.
      2. Berliners drink all the time and everywhere (including when pregnant).
      3. Berliners eat processed meat all the time and everywhere.
      4. Berliners appear to be ridiculously athletic/healthy all the time and everywhere.

Yeah, I know, makes you sick doesn’t it? Anyhoo I could go on about what a great/strange place it is for hours but that’s not why you turn up to this corner of the internet. No, you come here for Questionable Time and Questionable Time is what you’re damn well getting. Here’s what we learned:

We have a n00b on our hands.

If I was a Labour MP who was due to make their debut on QT then I would be praying that it would occur on a week such as this one. I mean c’mon, the news has just been an unrelenting conveyor belt of horrific things for the government (so much so that I could hear the clangs of policies being fumbled and dropped all the way over in Germany) and I’d have to be a right idiot to walk out of the studio with anything other than a crushing victory under my belt, right? Wrong. You see, sometimes you can have too much of a good thing and unfortunately for Red Team QT Virgin Stella Creasy this abundance of seemingly bountiful news combined with a number of other factors actually conspired against her. Here’s why:

      1. When you’re in such a target rich environment it’s easy to lose your focus and simple start grappling madly at anything that happens to cross your line-of-sight. The main way in which this manifested for Creasy was that it (no doubt combined with first time nerves) made her talkreallyreallyfastallthetimeabouteverything. Now I’m knocking her for this as it’s an entirely human and understandable thing to do but it does put the mockers on the whole Crushing Victory thing a little. Why? Because when I was watching her I felt like I was vicariously sitting an exam: You could just see her brain going like the absolute clappers as it desperately tried to recall what her line on this debacle or that fiasco should be, all of which left me with that sweaty feeling that accompanies the sight of desks in a school gym.
      2. Creasy had a payload to deliver. I’m not sure whether she had fashioned it herself or whether the party had a hand in its creation but she had a definite mission last night: A dawn strike on Tory HQ with a cluster bomb of fresh text messages know to be highly pathogenic to Jeremy Hunt. On paper that sounds pretty straight forward: Locate the target (that’s a doddle as they’re sitting right next to you), come in low and steady, release your munitions and then fly off into the breaking dawn whilst cackling maniacally (the cackling’s technically option but that’s the way I’d play it). The problem in this case was the whole ‘dawn raid’ aspect: In an ideal world Creasy would land her big hitter during the first question thus leaving her unencumbered to mop up any survivors not caught in the initial strike. Since it seemed highly probably that the first question would be one on the Leveson Inquiry the plan seemed solid but alas, QT is rarely so straight forward and she had to make numerous runs at the target (all the while dodging flak put up by the steady handed Alan Duncan) only to find it covered in cloud. As anyone who’s read Catch 22 will know the bombing run is the most terrifying aspect of any mission and the fact that she had to conduct the maneuver three times before the conditions were adequate only served to heighten her jitters. You could see it horribly clearly every time a new question was about to be asked: Creasy, clutching at the joystick for dear life whilst noting that her airspeed is dangerously high…Don’tbuggerthisupdon’tbuggerthisupBUGGERI’VEBUGGEREDITUP! Eventually she did get to deploy her ace-in-the-hole but it wasn’t until the fourth question and it scored only a glancing blow that left Duncan intact enough to carry on the fight.
      3. The whole ‘Papa/Nicole’ thing? Had she been a little calmer she might have been able to play it for laughs. Instead she played it for weirds.

So yes, it was all a bit of a pickle but one that I do feel is largely forgivable given the circumstances. My advice, Stella? Maybe spend a little more time in the simulator before your next combat sortie.

The British lose all rationality when doctors are mentioned.

Ask any fellow citizen what their opinions on doctors are and you will doubtlessly hear that they are either a) saintly angelic souls whose hearts pump not blood but liquid compassion or b) venal robber-barons who hypocritically break their Hippocratic Oath. Seriously, can we not countenance a world where there may be doctors from both strains in existence? According to Rugby, clearly not. Still, I was heartened to see that nurses still have the capacity to trounce doctors in the Unconditional Assumption of Goodliness stakes. That’s something that you can always take to the bank: Nurse always beats Doctor in any match of Altruism Top Trumps… Except when Panorama film them shouting at old people. Then it’s a draw.

I have very conflicted feelings about the other panelists.

I’ll keep this brief…


For: Has had a genuinely interesting life, first openly gay Tory, isn’t half as mad as most of his peers, seems vaguely competent, did a good turn in damage limitation last night.

Against: Has an untrustworthy and spivvy haircut that is becoming of some rather untrustworthy and spivvy antics.


For: Has had a genuinely interesting life, looked great in a hoody on Tower Block of Commons and would look even better in a hoody in the actual House of Commons (see Fig. 1).

Against: Seems to be a walking self-destruct button, head’s a funny shape.

mark oaten scally outfit commons

Fig. 1


For: Clearly saner than comparable young right-wing Scots (Douglas Murray, I’m looking at you) and I appear to have grown strangely fond of him.

Against: Editor of The Spectator.


For: Everyone I know seems to think the sun shines out of her bum, can produce something genuinely funny from time-to-time.

Against: Everyone I know seems to think the sun shines out of her bum, voice cuts through me like a jaunty knife.

Let’s just leave it at that…


Creasy: (Was in a bit of a) Rush


Duncan: (Looks) Plush


Oaten: (Has had many a reason to) Blush (in the past)


Nelson: (Is becoming the subject of a faintly disturbing man) Crush


Coren: (Did) Gush (much about doctors)


The Crowd: (Have) Thrush?


So there you go, a show where the Tories got away comparatively lightly thanks to some sterling defensive work from Alan Duncan and understandable over-eagerness on the part of Stella Creasy. Now if you’ll excuse me I must get back to enduring the symptoms of wurst withdrawal. Seriously, I’m having trouble adjusting back to a society where you have to walk more than 10 yards before encountering a vendor of sausage based snacks. This country, I tell you…

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #16

questionable time 16 david dimbleby lasersGood morning Lemmings and oh god oh god oh god, how in the name of all that’s holy am I supposed to write-up last night’s episode of Question Time? You see, I’ve been doing this for a good long while and without wanting to sound like self-satisfied know-all, I’ve usually got a pretty good idea of how any given episode will pan out ahead of time simply by running the following equation through my head for each panelist:

If A = The propensity of a party political panelist to stick their foot in it

at any given moment (on a scale of 1 to 10).

B= The audience’s capacity for forgiveness of anything stupid uttered

by said panelist (on a scale of 1 to 10)

and C = The likelihood of any allied third-party to say something nonsensical/outrageously unpopular in support of said panelists position (on a scale of 1 to 10)

then (A/B) x C = The chance that the panelist will emerge victorious

(the lower this value is, the more likely the outcome).

So let say Tony Benn (a super safe pair of hands when on friendly territory) is set to appear in Liverpool Walton (one of Labour’s safest seats) and his principal ally on the panel is Labour supporting crowd pleaser Eddie Izzard, then the equation would look like this:

1/10 x 1 = 0.1

There you go, a nice low value that bodes well for Benn’s chances. However, let’s say that on the same show we also have well-known Tory wrecking ball Ed Pickles and his principal ally is the ever-unhinged Douglas Murray then we get this:

10/1 X 10 = 100

Woah! That’s a big fat whopper of a number and should this scenario ever actually play out, I doubt that Pickles would be able to leave the studio without being tarred and feathered. So that’s the equation and by-and-large it works. Sure, some random issue may come up that upsets the balance or a panelist may display uncharacteristic brilliance/stupidity but it’s a good rule of thumb that allows me to come up with a narrative well ahead of time. However, all of the above is contingent on a steady supply of good data and I have to admit that last night, my data was off. Waaaaaaaay off. Here’s why:

Bad Dataset #1: ‘Merseyside’ does not automatically equate to ‘Twinned with Moscow’.

Ok, I’ll admit it, I didn’t do my homework last night. Prior to a show I usually take a look at where the venue is and if I don’t feel very clued up about the location I have a trawl through the electoral results for the past twenty years to get a better idea of where it sits. Not this week though… Oh no, Old Clever Clogs here thought he was better than that and made the mistake of simply assuming that because Southport’s a stone’s throw away from Liverpool it must be entirely populated by die-hard Trots. Wrong, wrong, wrong! In fact, Southport is about as Yellow as they come with a strong Tory vote making up the rest of the picture. In fact, it’s so anti-Labour that they failed to even make the 10% mark in 2010. So not only did that mean that my value for ‘B’ was wildly out of kilter, it also throws the ‘A’s out of the window because ‘A’ cannot not be defined in isolation to its context.

Bad Dataset #2: My opinion of the TaxPayers’ Alliance may not be universal.

I like fringe groups. I like them because they provide the much-needed milk to the otherwise dry Alpen of politics and so far as I’m concerned the more bonkers they are, the tastier the breakfast. So it was that I rejoiced when I saw that Emma Boon, Campaigns Director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance would be taking a seat at the table because in my mind the TA are about as fruity as they come – think UKIP with some intensive media training, less flag waving and a copy of Atlas Shrugged stuffed in its back pocket. Nor is this assumption without evidence: Take for example the fact a former director of the group hadn’t actually paid any tax in Britain for years or that they take advice off the Tea Party movement and you get an idea of quite how potty they are.

So that was me all set up: One of our ‘C’s is going to act like she’s just escape from a RAND Corporation experiment that’s gone horribly wrong while the sheer craziness of her position coupled with the group’s cosiness with the Tories will spell trouble for Alan Duncan. As it happens, I was very wrong on the first count and partially wrong on the second. In the first instance it turns out that rather than appearing to be a hairy-palmed moonhowler, she’s actually quite a steely performer who held it all together rather well. Sure she used the word ‘taxpayer’ so many times that I lost count and the TA’s position as a whole is about as plausible as the financial affairs of Harry Redknapp’s dog but the crowd liked her and she didn’t make any major blunders. On the second count, I was right that she did cause Alan Duncan a fair amount of grief but it wasn’t for the reasons I originally envisaged. I thought this would all be about guilt by association: Boon would support most of what Duncan said and then drop a clanger near the end – like proposing the sale of Northern Ireland to the highest bidder or something – and this would lead to audience doubts over the political company that Duncan keeps. But no. In actual fact she was a pain in the neck for Duncan because she kept having a go at him about aid (and if there’s one thing the TA hate, it’s foreign aid).

Damn. There goes a ‘C’.

Bad Dataset #3 – Digby Jones is way more of a wildcard than I thought.

I don’t mean in any political sense as we all knew he would spend the entire show banging on about how great the private sector is but there’s something about his presence that brings with it an element of chaos. Maybe it’s because he spent the entire episode shouting over everyone, maybe because his head always looks like it’s about to explode but the one thing I can tell you is that I spent most of the show worrying that he may actually eat Sadiq Khan. Like physically start noshing on his arm whilst complaining loudly that he doesn’t taste very good. That just threw all my remaining numbers straight out of the window.

So given the fact that I was going off some very dodgy numbers lets look at how my before-and-after equations look for party political bods Sadiq Khan and Alan Duncan.

Sadiq Khan (projected performance)

A = 3 (He’s hardly electrifying but he’s usually pretty measured on

friendly turf)

B= 9 (based entirely on faulty intelligence about Southport)

C = 3 (Assumed because Phillip Redmond is usually

somewhat sympathetic to the Red Team and

despite his overpowering eyebrows – see Fig. 1- he

usually puts on a good turn)

(3/9) x 3 = 1

Sadiq Khan (actual performance)

A = 7 (not so much ‘putting his foot in it’ as

‘looking constantly terrified of Digby Jones’)

 B = 2 (based on reliable intelligence)

 C = 3 (as Phillip Redmond turned out a very

respectable and level-headed performance)

(7/2) x 3 = 10.5

Alan Duncan (projected performance)

A = 7 (because every time I see him on TV I always assume

that the next words out of his mouth will be “…and I can assure

you that it’s all entirely legal…”. He has that look about him)

 B = 3 (again, faulty intel)

 C = 10 (based on the assumption that Boon would go nuclear)

(7/3) x 10 = 23.3

Alan Duncan (actual performance)

A = 4 (he was largely steady)

 B = 7 (good intel)

 C = 5 (thanks to Boon’s unanticipated levity/hostility to aid)

(4/7) x 5 = 2.85

phillip redmond eyebrows

Fig. 1

Well look at that. I couldn’t have been wronger. None more wrong. Thanks for nothing, Southport! And as for the rest of the scores? I’m afraid you’ll just have to come to your own conclusions as four hours of inventing spurious equations has led to something breaking in the numbers department of my brain. Expect a return to a simpler – but no less questionable – time next week.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

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May 2022

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