Posts Tagged 'Alan Johnson'

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 #63


questionable time 63 david dimbleby aliens colonial marine

Good morning Lemmings and welcome to a very hasty Questionable Time – hasty because I’ve got a plane to catch in a couple of hours and I’ll be damned if yammering on about dork stuff is going to derail my carefully laid plans to access the ‘Sun’. Apparently it’s this giant ball of burning hydrogen that appears in the sky and bathes those below with life-giving rays. I’m personally sceptical but you know… In for a penny, in for a pound. Anyway, I’m yammering and we haven’t even got on to the dork stuff yet so let’s get this road on the show.

Once a Labour Home Sec, always a Labour Home Sec…

Remember Patricia Hewitt? She was that very headmistressy Labour Health Secretary who had a rare talent for winding up health professionals and putting front line noses out of joint, something I can attest to because I worked for the NHS during the back-end of her tenure and found my nose to be as out of kilter as everyone else’s. Hewitt’s problem (other than having to aggressively push through some rather unpopular changes) was that she wasn’t good with people and often came across as cold, jagged and brittle – not really the sort of look you’re after when you’re the head of Britain’s caring professions – and when the news came down that she would be replaced by Alan Johnson you could hear a sigh of relief ripple across the nation’s health centres: Finally we were getting someone who actually seemed vaguely human.

And very human he was. Sure, the policies didn’t change much but we could put up with them because the person asking us to get our knickers in a twist about ‘patient choice’ (which was essentially code for ‘creeping privatisation’) had a warmth and normality to him that never made it seem like he was talking down to us. Fast forward a couple of years and Johnson’s getting promoted to Home Secretary. ‘Hmmmm’ I thought. ‘Maybe, just maybe this is the guy who can get the Home Office to chill out and stop acting like a bunch of heavy-handed paranoid yahoos’. Wrong. WRONG!

No, as we saw last night, Johnson was just as susceptible as any other to that strange disease that’s afflicted every Labour Home Secretary since 2001 and in even worse news, it appears that the affliction never entirely leaves its host – it just lies dormant until someone says the word ‘terrorism’. So it was that we opened last night’s show with Johnson displaying all the symptoms of Homesecretitis – a fever for surveillance, cold sweats of intercept evidence, a clammy sheen of national security clinging to his brow – and it wasn’t until mid-show that the spasms finally passed and he finally reverted back to his normal state of being a generally decent, reasonable bloke (decent and reasonable enough to fight Anna Soubry’s corner on the matter of Friday Deaths in hospitals). But still, it was rather jarring because I really do rather admire Johnson and to watch him suddenly become engulfed in this whole Tough Guy/If You Knew What I Knew act is a little heartbreaking. It also looks very odd when those sentiments come from the lips of a man who displays more than a passing resemblance to David Bowie (see Fig. 1)

alan johnson david bowie

Fig. 1

Soubry’s gradually growing me…

…Mainly because there’s something endearingly amateurish about her. Now, by that I’m not saying that she is an amateur as she appears to have a proper job and everything but it’s the way she’s got a very visible feedback loop. For example, when she sticks her foot in it (which is quite often) she can’t disguise that ‘Oh crikey, I’ve really buggered this up!’ look that flashes across her face and I quite like that as it makes her appear relatively normal. As it happens, she managed not to stick her foot in anything last night but the feedback loop was still very visible: It said ‘Golly gosh gal, you’re really doing rather well at this!’ and again, it made her look like an actual person as opposed to a locked down hack who’s playing it by the numbers. So, while I am a little disappointed that she didn’t let her jauntiness run away with itself and get her into all sorts of trouble, I’ll let her off on the grounds of human authenticity. Next time though I’d like to hear at least one ill-considered and inflammatory statement pass her lips… You know, just to keep her grounded.

I’m not sure if I can cope with a sensible Kipper…

Alright, what’s going on here then? A Kipper who spends 80% of the show not being totally harebrained and only gets marginally wound up about the EU in the remaining 20%? Something’s wrong. The plan has gone awry. Farage promised me clowns but has instead sent a vaguely competent individual who is largely in control of their faculties. I want my money back.

Medhi’s back on form…

I had a pop as Hasan last time for being grumpy (to which he kindly responded by declaring Questionable Time to be “mildly amusing if lengthy”… Fair play Medhi, fair play) but he gets a free pass this week because the terrorism question re-kindled all that passion that made him such a good read back when we were up to our necks in the stuff. It wasn’t just me either: The crowd were very taken with him and that made for a virtuous circle where they geed each other up and gave Johnson/Soubry a right good rollicking. So well done Medhi and if you wish to subsequently describe Questionable Time as “blisteringly funny and of entirely appropriate length”, that would be just fine with me.

And Fellowes?

Not a lot to say except that he harvested all the low hanging fruit and his sentences always sound like they’re teetering drunkenly at the top of a staircase, just waiting to topple over. It’s because he taaaaalks like thiiiiiiiiis.

Tl;dr (And no rhymes because I’m the bloody departure lounge)

Johnson: 5/10

Soubry: 6/10

James: 5/10

Hasan: 8/10

Fellowes: 6/10

The Crowd: 7/10

Hmmmmm, not a bad episode all told. Right, I’ve got to skiddadle for the boarding gate so sorry if it’s been a little slap-dash but normal service will resume in a week’s time.

Additional Note of Minor Import:

It recently occurred to me that I’ve been generating an awful lot of non-QT graphics type stuff and that it hasn’t had a proper home. Rather than watching it traipse forlornly around Twitter and Facebook I’ve finally got round to setting up another site in order to provide it with a modicum of dignity. If you’d like to check it out, you can find it here. On top of that, should you wish to buy the rather fetching Nick Cotton themed greetings card I knocked up, you can do so here.

Questionable Time #50


questionable time 50 david dimbleby what the fuck

Good morning Lemmings and I imagine you have some questions about the above Photoshop. Why – for example – is David Dimbleby shirtless? Well let me tell you, I have it on good authority that this is his usual off-screen attire and a common sight around Dimble Towers. What about the burning church? And the kitten in his hand – what’s the deal with that? Ah, that’s because the kitten set the church ablaze and Dimbers is merely conveying the perpetrator to the appropriate authorities. And the shark? Err, the shark’s… Lost?

Alright… I confess. I have absolutely no idea what’s going on in this picture but sometimes a man just needs to fire up his computer and place tenuously related visual elements against an apocalyptic background. If that is a crime then hang me. Anyway, enough of this, here’s your precious Questionable Time.

Delingpole let me down…

Another week, another lingering sense of opportunities lost as a Great On Paper panelist turns out to be Not So Great On My Telly. Now, I’d better qualify ‘Great On Paper’ as I don’t want to give the impression that the things he writes on paper are that great (they’re all just a bit ‘Hey guys, it’s not just my politics that are crazy. I’m ZANY as well’), but in terms of QT potential, this guy is solid gold. Does he have a clutch of suitably outlandish views that could animate some of the audience’s more febrile elements? Why yes he does. An ability and willingness to wind up people just for the sake of it? Roger that. How about an unshakeable belief in the veracity of his own claims and a tendency towards self promotion? That’s a big 10-4, good buddy. This, combined with the fact the fact that he managed to enrage most of Twitter with some very ill-advised comments just hours before the show bade well in my book. There would be blood and I intended to submerge myself in it.

Yet here I am, a scant hour after the event, clean, unsullied and conspicuously undrenched in blood. How the hell did this happen? Well, in all honesty it’s not entirely Delingpole’s fault as his naturally adversary, Zoe Williams, didn’t really clock in until the final question, but the fact of the matter is that he was really nervous. And how do I know this? Because as loath that I am to admit it, Delingpole and I share some similarities: We’re both tall, we’re both skinny and our anxiety is kinetic. This means that if we’re bricking it not only do our eyes start darting but our limbs start fidgeting and because of our gangly frames, this tells get amplified in a cartoonish sort of way. That’s not how I knew he was nervous though. No, the real give away was that he tries to hide anxiety in exactly the same way that I do – by conscientiously attempting to locks his frame and spit out responses as fast as humanly possible in the hope that no-one will notice.

So it was that despite the promise of unrestrained provocation I left last night’s episode feeling a little cheated. Sure, he touched base on some of his more out-there ideas (“Fracking, yah…”) but every time you thought he was going to get properly busy with the crazy, his body seized up while his mouth just wibbled. I don’t know, maybe his earlier Twitter balls-up put the jibblies on him but I must say that I’m a little disappointed. On paper, Delingpole has all the form to be a properly off-his-mash 5th panelist – almost like some sort of Reverso-Galloway – but what we got last night was just an overly twitchy blow-hard who was too distracted by his own jitters to foster any real conflict. And what does that deserve? It deserve a gif of a semi-naked James Delingpole as a wind turbine (see Fig. 1)

james-delingpole-wind-turbine-gif

Fig. 1

I never thought I’d say it but I feel a little sorry for Warsi….

You could say many things about the pre-reshuffle Warsi – overly headstrong, a little rash, prone to overplaying her hand – but at least she paid dividends in the entertainment sector and lent the show an air of unpredictability. The post-reshuffle Warsi though? Meh, I’m not so sure. She just seems a little muted, a little timid, a little too afraid of her own mouth to embark on those wild little hidings-to-nothing that made her so fun to watch in the past. Mind you, I have to admit that despite her rather transparent habit of hiding behind a garbled narrative (‘Rather than actually answer a question on Mali, why don’t I just blurt out a rough chronology of events AT A MILLION MILES AN HOUR?’), she didn’t stick her foot in it once last night and I guess that has to be worth something. I believe five points is the going rate.

A quiet reminder from Alan Johnson…

…I’m still here. I’ve held one of the big offices of state, I’m strangely untainted by New Labour’s less glorious episodes and I’ve still got that potent mix of humble origins and endearing self-deprecation. Just sayin’ Mr Milband, just sayin’…

And of the others?

As I said earlier, Zoe Williams didn’t really hit her stride until the end of the show but I think she can be forgiven in this respect as it was an odd clutch of questions in areas that she doesn’t particularly hold a candle for. However, when it did get on to her turf (Nick Clegg sending his kids to private school in this case) she came up with the goods and lo, the crowd did clap. Talking of clapping, the biggest winner on that front last night was Dom Joly who niftily maneuvered himself into the yawning gap left by a nonplussed Williams and a freaking out Delingpole. While I was disappointed that none of the claps were the direct result of either swan dives or oversized mobile phones, I can’t really argue with the people of Lancaster. Well, I could but bitter experience has shown that picking fights with entire municipalities rarely ends my way.

Tl;dr

Warsi: 5/10

(Appears) Hush (ed)

Johnson: 6/10

(Is the subject of a minor political) Crush (for me)

Delingpole: 4/10

(Was in an awful) Rush

Joly: 6/10

(Got dealt a straight) Flush

Williams: 6/10

Brush(ed off the cobwebs at the end of the show)

The Crowd: 5/10

(Fear) Thrush?


Well, would you look at that… Questionable Time #50… Surely some cause for celebration, no? Alas, owing to a troubled history of naming conventions this is technically Questionable Time #98 so the Cava will just have to stay in its tamper-proof enclosure for now. In two weeks time though we’re talking Cava AND crisps! Don’t stop me now Lemmings…

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #34


questionable time 34 david dimbleby pet shop boys actually

Good morning Lemmings and please try to bear with me as I attempt to rearrange the whirlpool of annoyance, vexation and ill will that’s currently spinning in my head into something comprehensible. You see, I try – Lord knows I try – to keep Questionable Time at least a little bit objective and usually I do an OK-ish job. For instance, remember when I gave Melanie Phillips the highest marks on a show simply because whatever nonsense she was flapping her gums about was more entertaining than the sub-par dross everyone else was coming out with? Well, that was me trying to be ‘objective’: I can’t stand Phillips but at least she managed to keep me vaguely entertained. Alas, I think I’m going to have to check any sense of reasonableness at the door today because I simply can’t abide John Lydon and despite straining every fibre of compassion in my body I just can’t find anything good to say about the man. And why is this? Let us count the ways:

It’s all about bloody John.

Let’s just briefly set aside the standard charge sheet of this self-styled ‘solid working class lad’ (as opposed to a “middle class twat from Tring”) who is beholden to no one yet finds the time to advertise butter and marry wealthy heiresses, to see if we can’t actually figure out what he said last night: Struggling? Me too and that’s because he doesn’t actually say much. Instead he just oozes a sort of malevolent animosity towards anyone and anything that isn’t John Lydon. Ok, so the points that he did make semi-coherently were that he doesn’t much like politicians, is no fan of bankers and apparently likes taking drugs. I don’t have a problem with any of these views but I do have a problem with the way he frames them: These people/things are good/bad because I say they’re good/bad and if you’re in the market for reasons as to why I hate/love them then you are out of luck. Not only that, but in John Lydon’s eyes, John Lydon’s opinion takes primacy over that of anyone else’s. You’ve got something to say that might contradict my world view? Well how about you try saying it as I talk all over you, butt in and disparage your existence with a sneer, buddy! The good news is that he ran out of road on that front pretty quickly and by the end almost everyone was telling him to shut up but still, it’s a horrible way of making a point. What’s even worse is that I somewhat agree with him on the drugs issue but he totally squandered any capital he might have accrued in that department by making it personal between himself and Louise Mensch. And why did he do that? Because it’s all about bloody John.

That drawl… I can’t… Even… Arrrrghhhh!

Seriously, is it just me or is Lydon’s vocal inflection the sonic equivalent of rubbing a cheese grater against your face?

The left and right are both co-neck-tiiiiiiid”

Murdoch…. MUUUUUUUUUUURDER!”

Helloooooooo? HELLOOOOOOOO?”

Gah! Just stop already! It’s too much! Oh, and one other thing… The Bill Grundy Show was 36 years ago and since then calling people “shits” has lost a little of its shock value. Just saying John, just saying…

The Bottom Line: John Lydon is a creature.

Not only that, but he is a creature created by another man (the late Malcolm McLaren) and then foisted on the world in a horribly cynical and successful attempt to enrich the creator. In that respect I do have a little sympathy for Lydon: His destiny was never his own and he’s just playing out a role assigned to him by someone who saw the The Manchurian Candidate as less of a cautionary tale and more of a blueprint for commercial success. However, this does not excuse the not wearing of a shirt. John, if you’re feeling a little too hot, why not take off the cocking bomber jacket?

Enough. If I carry on with this I’m going to do myself a mischief.

Confession time: I think I’m actually growing to quite like Louise Mensch.

In the general scheme of things Louise Mensch should really annoy me: She has a tendency to get very shrill, has a habit of over-playing the righteous indignation card a little too often and her skin looks like it’s been applied by a process not dissimilar to vacuum forming. However I must confess that I was actually quite impressed with her last night, largely because she has a mind of her own. Sure, she’s a backbencher with numerous irons in the fire which gives her an advantage over her ministerial colleagues but I will say this: She didn’t need to bring up her Class-A drug use last night and although I have a slight suspicion that she did it to head off anyone else at the pass it was still quite a gutsy move. I was also impressed by her pouring of cold water on the citizenship test and the fact that she held her own against the very seasoned Alan Johnson is also to her credit. So yes, Mensch’s stock is on the rise in my book, not withstanding the fact that she keeps some very dodgy company.

And the rest of ’em?

Assuming you managed to see beyond the Lydon induced red mist (and God knows that was difficult) you may have noticed the presence of three other people. Their performance can be summed up thusly:

  1. Alan Johnson proved once again that being a Generally Nice Bloke is a potent political weapon that is extremely difficult to counter. Granted, it’s always a little jarring when the Generally Nice Bloke mask slips momentarily (which it always does when anyone brings up the sacking of Prof. David Nutt) but taken as a whole he did very well. Alas, his being on Question Time meant that he wasn’t available for a shirt-off with Portillo on This Week but I’ve done my best to recreate the experience (see Fig. 1… There’s also a Questionable Time sticker in it for anyone who can tell me where the shirts originally came from. Answers in the comments please).
  2. Ed Davey once again proved that trying to portray yourself as a Generally Good Egg is only a partially successful strategy and one that’s liable to be eclipsed by the Generally Nice Bloke. There’s no shame in it, it’s just not that exciting.
  3. Poor old Dominic Lawson gets the lion’s share of my sympathy this week as he had some genuinely interesting stuff to say but was largely drowned out by The John Lydon Show. Hard luck there Dominic… Come back again when the show is less twatty.
  4. And finally The Crowd… They deserve praise for putting Lydon in his place and also for being generally seditious. I love it when people from Derbyshire get all hot under the collar because their accent simply isn’t capable of conveying anger. Comical Annoyance, yes. Furious Wrath, no.
michael portillo alan johnson this week shirts

Fig. 1

Tl;dr:

Mensch: 7/10

(Deserves a) Pat (on the back)

Johnson: 7/10

(Is a full) Fat (politician)

Davey: 5/10

(Was a bit) Flat

Lawson: 6/10

(Was unfortunately) Sat (on the sidelines).

Lydon: 1/10

(Is a total) Twat

The Crowd: 7/10

(Were more gloss than) Matte.

So that’s that: A racy little number marred only by the second 1/10 I’ve ever had to give out (I thought about giving him a zero and then stopped dead in my tracks…. That’s exactly what John Lydon would want me to do!). Alas, it was the last in the series so you guys are just going to have to get through this ‘summer’ without me. Still, many thanks for reading and hopefully Questionable Time should be back in September while John Lydon should be back in California, smoking his duty frees and annoying someone else. We can but hope.

Next September Lemmings, next September…

P.S. Thanks to the kind people at the #BBCQT Watchalong for their help this week. Much appreciated.

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #21


Morning Lemmings. As is usually the case, I’m going to start with my customary threat to keep this week’s post-Question Time report very brief. Yes, yes, yes, I know I’m beginning to sound like an awful lot of mouth with precious little trousers, but I mean it this time and here’s why: Last night I had band practice for the first time in around 8 months and as a result, I can barely feel my fingers, what with all the high tempo melodic hardcore thrashing that form of the basis of what we do. Add in to this the fact that I also picked up Street Fighter IV in the Steam sale and I’m left with not hands, but gnarled claws that seem to creak and groan their way around the keyboard. So yes, I am truly suffering for my ‘art’ today. Enough of my lamentations and on to what turned out to be a truly Bizarro World rendition of Question Time. Say hello to Ipswich, Lemmings.

The Menu:

Q1: With the Treasury saying that there are going to be huge cuts to the public sector, are we on the road to ruin or the road to recovery?

Q2: Who’s right about prison? Ken Clarke or Michael Howard?

Q3: Is the emergency cap on immigration just a Band Aid for a bleeding wound?

Q4: Is the government going back to the old Tory mantra of ‘on your bike’ with regards to benefits?

In The Blue Bit Of The Blue/Yellow Corner: Ian Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, ex-Tory leader and volume turner-upper.

Once upon a time, Iain Duncan Smith was pretty much the personification of the Tory party at its lowest ebb. Cast into the wilderness after the 1997 election, I really enjoyed watching the Conservatives effectively eat themselves for a few years and in this orgy of self destruction, IDS was a key figure. Picking up the reigns from Hague (who was just way too odd to hold the job down), Duncan Smith managed to turn what was already a dire situation into a complete and utter clusterfuck by a) wielding absolutely zero charisma, b) trying to make up for zero charisma by acting all tough (which is pretty hard when you look like a 50 year old toddler) and c) giving Private Eye writers the easiest 2 years of their life by gifting them with a near endless supply of shonky lines/policies/CV embellishments. Needless to say, the Tory party reached breaking point and did what it tends to do best: Wanton regicide.

Following his unceremonious exit, IDS seemed to be destined to live out his fate in much the same way as most failed Tory leaders do (Hague being a notable and incongruous exception to the rule): Wandering the Desert of Ignominy until someone bothers to give you a peerage and/or a column in The Telegraph. However, in Duncan Smith’s case something very odd happened. After a brief stroll through the barren wastelands of obscurity, he suddenly decided to get rather interested in poverty. Coming from a guy who’s time at the Tory helm was marked by some very bombastic Old Right drum beating, this seemed to be a very odd turn of events and people paid him very little attention, convinced that the trauma of rejection had driven him quite, quite mad. But nevertheless, he persisted and by the time Cameron had risen to power, he seemed to actually know a thing or two about the subject. Fast forward a couple of years, and what’s this I see before me? Why, it’s IDS, sitting comfortably on the front benches and not only that but sitting on the front benches, talking what appears to be a some sense.

For a default Tory sceptic like myself, witnessing the conversion of IDS from Hardcore True Blue to Bleeding Heart Red Tory has been an awkward experience that tends to leaving me feeling out of sorts, but I must confess that on the evidence of this episode, the change seems to be the real thing and not just another strain of Hug-A-Hoody posturings. Starting with Q1, he got away quite lightly with some ‘Greece/countries broke/hell in a handcart’ type stuff that for once, played well with the audience but it was Q2 where he really got in his stride. After a preamble full of social worky type terms (like “polysubstance abuser”) he suddenly started looking very serious and cranked that volume right up. “I sound a bit passionate because I really am” said he and for once on Question Time, it worked (people are usually lying their face off when they pull the ‘passionate’ line). Bolted on to the back of this was some ‘system in a crisis!’/’we’ll all suffer!’ cries and the job was a good ‘un. Q3 was a little ropey (especially his rather half hearted footy joke), but he turned it around on Q4. Now this question could have been really tricky, considering that on the face of it, the policy does have some pretty dubious connotations. However, he again slipped into that super-serious ‘I’ve spent the last 5 years knocking about on council estates’ mode and he actually managed to make it sound like it might be something other than a Tory ploy to deport all welfare claimants to the Isle of Man. Ok, so his “We cut NI!” response to an audience member who asked what they’d done about jobs was slightly rubbish, but the way in which he came across for the bulk of the question was as a man who had seriously thought about this stuff and was coming up with policies because he had genuinely thought about them. Kudos, IDS.

So that was him and I must say, I was caught off guard by it. Yes, he was playing to a largely friendly crowd who were receptive to the Tory line, but there’s more to it than that in that he projected a believable image of someone who does actually care about peoples’ welfare. Whether this translates into policies that do actually work has yet to be seen and I wouldn’t go so far as saying that his filled me with hope for the future, but I will venture than I’m less scared than I would usually be of a Conservative Work and Pensions Secretary. And that’s quite the achievement.

A convincing 7/10

In The Red Corner: Alan Johnson, Shadow Home Secretary, ex-postie and Bowie look-nearly-a-like.

Not content with shaking my world view with IDS’s sudden outburst of rationality, this week’s Question Time continues on its Bizarro trajectory with a quite uncharacteristic performance from all round man of the people, Alan Johnson. I’ve said before that since the election, Labour panellists seem to have slotted into the opposition slot quite well. Finally free from having to defend the indefensible week in, week out, most of them have appeared much more relaxed and actually seem to be enjoying the novelty of harrying the coalition without all the hassle of having to do anything about anything. Considering that Johnson is far and away the most human member of the Shadow Cabinet, my gut told me that he would be in his element now and could turn his talent for sounding reasonable into quite the potent weapon. Yet it was not to be and in actual fact, he came across as a bit of dick.

Given a different crowd, Q1 might well have gone a lot better than it did, but as it was, his ‘Road to Ruin’ and ‘just where in hell are all this jobs going to come from’ pitch failed to ring a bell with anyone. However, it was Q2 where things started getting a bit ugly and when presented with the ‘does jail work?’ question, he lashed out at the Tories for being ‘soft on crime’ and suddenly became a dogged defender of New Labour’s penchant for locking everyone up. Now, I expect this sort of thing from the likes of David Blunkett or John Reid, but from Johnson it just sounds wrong and at odds with his otherwise sane temperament. Q3 did contain some valid stuff about the immigration cap being “snake oil”, but again, the audience weren’t biting and stony silence was the order of the day, much to his chagrin. Finally, there was Q4 and here he committed a bit of an error by saying how much he’d love to hear Duncan Smith worm his way out this one. As it happened, IDS not only wormed his way out, but actually sounded genuinely sapient and all Johnson could do was then try and extract himself with a no ‘money argument’. Now I’m not saying that that point isn’t valid, but he had to deliver it whilst off balance and that made it look somewhat desperate.

So yes, this was not the Alan Johnson that used to be able to mop our brows and cure our ills every time that New Labour dropped a clanger. In power, he was a formidable defensive player, able to smooth the harsher edges of  Blairism’s more authoritarian traits and adept at appealing to the common good. What we saw on this episode however, was a man who is still obsessed by Labour’s legacy and hasn’t been able to adjust to his new position as a centre forward. True, he wasn’t exactly on friendly territory last night, but that doesn’t mask the fact that his performance was overly aggressive, overly partisan and slightly twatty. And that, I’m afraid, is a damn shame because underneath it all is a decent guy, but one who is still stuck in a world that no longer exists.

An unexpectedly fumbled 4/10

In The Independent/Brainy One Corner: Prof. Mary Beard, brainy bookworm and Classicist of note.

I know very little about Mary Beard (except that I like her name. I wish my last name was ‘Beard’. It would go well with my beard), but I must say that I was pleasantly surprised. For a start, she does the whole ‘red wine, Moroccan solids, hemp clothing, child of the 60’s’ thing in way that somehow manages to avoid being utterly nauseating (a tough act to pull off) and also seems to harbour some pretty good opinions. Out of all the panellists tonight, she far and away had the most leeway to take whatever line she wanted and by and large, she pulled it off. Q1’s acknowledgement that “All I know is that I know I don’t know” but “I don’t like how it’s shaping up” set the tone well and applause poured forth, much in the same way that her ‘3 months for riding first class’ anecdote did on Q2 (not to mention her scuffle with a smug looking audience member who went down the ‘prison’s a right larf’ line. She got a “have you ever been to a prison?” slapdown for her efforts and ended up looking like a right tit). Q3 was light on substance but contained a well received quip about students needing to get Holy Orders to study that went down well while Q4 turned into some little chunter about some Ruth Kelly report that no one cares about. That was received with some puzzled looks and nothing else, but overall, it was a pretty solid effort in which she came across as pretty clued up, but also quite grounded. And for me to say that about someone who looks so much like a Womad attending dreamcatcher weaver is quite something, so well done Beardy, you’ve acquitted yourself well.

An encouragingly unhippyish 7/10

In The Independent/Brainy One Corner x2 (?????): Camila Batmanghelidjh, Yoof champion and sartorial nutbar.

She’s all about the kids! She dresses like a fruit salad laced with bad acid! I can barely spell, let alone pronounce her name (except for the ‘Batman’ bit)! It must be Camila Batmanghelidjh! Yes, that’s right, the authentic voice of youthly worthiness is upon us and once you get past the sheer madness of her get-up (especially the fingerless/thumbless gloves), she’s actually pretty sound. Virtually all her responses hinged around some sort of ‘think of the kids’ angle, occasionally spiced up with some other ‘right on!’ attitudes, but it wasn’t done in a way that winds me up, so nice work there. However, the really interesting thing to watch was her sizing up IDS. Like Batmanghelidjh, I too work in the voluntary sector and our default position is to be terrified of whatever the Tories are proposing. We’re all feeling the cuts already, there’s more to come and we’re dreading the rolling back of the state as it means that many of the services we rely on to do our jobs simply won’t be there any more. However, I got the sense that she, like myself, couldn’t bring herself to write off Duncan Smith and although she didn’t go so far as to give him an outright endorsement, you could see that he had her interest. Interesting times indeed.

A perfectly acceptable 6/10

In The I’m The Funny One/Just Like You Corner: Simon Heffer, True Blue Telegraph Columnist and puffy looking type.

Name: Simon Heffer

Appearance: Much like a boiled sweet, possibly orange flavoured (see Fig.1).

Likes: Low taxes, using the words ‘wretched’ and ‘poor’ in close proximity of each other, ‘family’ and other ‘bedrock’ type things.

Dislikes: A big state, lefties, druggies, scroungers, Europeans, paedos, rapists, crims, liberals, humanity in general, etc, etc, etc.

Most likely to: Look a little sweaty whilst bemoaning the collapse of civilisation.

Fig.1

‘Nuff said.

Ok, ok, despite my better judgement, I suppose I’d better give him a little more page space… Here we go!

Q1 was your standard Deficit Bollocks, Q2 was a bunch of ‘it’s complicated stuff’ question avoidance, Q3 was all about ‘sorting out’ illegal immigrants and Q4 was a sustained session of wanking over low taxes. Let’s just say I’m not Heffer’s biggest fan. Yes, he’s not as rabid and torrid as Phillips or Littlejohn, but he’s still a pretty one dimensional attack dog who gets on my nerves and I’m going to wrap it here before I say something I regret.

A regrettably predictable 4/10

The Crowd: Ipswich

As I mentioned at the start, this was a really weird show. Not only were some precious assumptions of mine thrown into doubt, but the format was slightly wonky (what with there only being two party political panellists) and the crowd also freaked me out a little by applauding absolutely bloody everything anyone except Johnson said for the first 40 minutes before becoming very subdued in the final leg. By and large, it was the pro-coalition section who won the day and I think it’s pretty safe to say that Labour’s goose is cooked when it comes to Ipswich. There’s only one Audience Member of Note this week and that goes to the Scottish guy with the pony tail who spoke in that slow but forceful ‘I might be drunk and dangerous but you’ll never really know’ manner. He called for all MP’s to be locked up and then managed to short circuit the Tyranny of Dimbers by totally cutting in on a question without even being pointed to! So impressed was I with this one man insurgency that I haven’t got a clue what he said. Well done sir. Carry on being quietly threatening in a Scottish manner.

A bucket of oddness of a 5/10

2500 words! That is relatively short! I can come through on a threat! See you next week, Lemmings.

Loudribs Curmudgeonry Corner Post Question Time Match Report #10


COO! COO!

Pigeon action, yeah?

Morning Lemmings. After last week’s anticlimax I was hankering for a more substantial undertaking and the panel for this episode looked good on paper. However, good paper panels have often let me down so it was with baited breath that I plunged into the behemoth that is Question Time this week. So, to hell with this idle banter and onwards we must go, onwards into the depths that are Stevenage.

In The Red Corner: Alan Johnson, Home Secretary, ex-postie and oft mooted Brown antidote.

I don’t know if it’s just us, but my better half and I have always been aware of something very pigeon-like when it comes to Alan Johnson. Maybe it’s the beady eyes, the raft of grey suits or the way his head wobbles about when he speaks but there’s something there that leads us to believe that he actually lives in a nest atop Nelson’s Column and and survives on a mostly crumb based diet (see Fig. 1). That aside, I’ve got a big soft spot for Johnson, largely down to the fact that he seems very human (well, human/pigeon, like if The Fly starred a dumpy David Bowie impersonator and it was a dove that had got into the teleporter) and he doesn’t entirely fit in with the rest of New Labour. He’s also one of Question Time’s most proficient defensive players and has a gift for sounding sincere when breaking bad news, a rare trait in an age when hard-truths usually end up spun into an sprawling mass of bullshit. Take tonight’s first question, which was about whether the rash of business leaders who came out for Cameron’s NI cut had “sealed the deal” for Cameron. This would present a problem for most New Labour meat puppets who are usually afraid of offending anyone (hence their love of triangulation) and especially the Holy Cows of Enterprise. Not Johnson though, who was pretty blunt about the fact that of course business wouldn’t like this, but tough shit. The money’s got to come from somewhere and at least we have a plan as to where that is (unlike the Tory’s). That’s actually surprisingly refreshing, watching a Labour front bencher basically telling the high and mighty of commerce to go and get bent. Of course, it didn’t entirely go his way and he was harried by both Clarke and the audience for effectively taxing the recovery, but he didn’t yield on this one and managed to land some fairly heavy blows on the Tories for their lack of coherence on the economy.. Nice work. Question 2 was pretty straight forward (did St Vincent of Cable win the Chancellors debate?) as Darling had acquitted himself well that night, but I was a little disappointed to see him resist the urge to stick the knife into George Osborne. I know that a lot of Johnson’s strength lies in his coming across as genuinely nice guy, but it has to be tempered with at least a little killer instinct and to miss an opportunity to really hammer the weakest link in the Tory chain is frankly a little limp. However, he did win back a few points when an audience member got all hard left about things and he countered with a list of Labours achievements (a recurring tactic throughout the night). That got him his first smattering of applause on an evening where Labour should have been entirely on the backfoot so kudos on that one Pigeonface. The next question (is the re-emergence of Blair a help or hindrance to Labour?) had the potential to go horribly sideways, but he managed to defuse the situation with a canny little flurry of nudge-nudge-wink-wink (an unspoken ‘you guys know what I’m thinking but you also know I’ll be in a whole heap of trouble if it slips out’), before flipping the whole issue 180 degrees and laying into Cameron’s ‘heir to Blair’ routine. The brief outburst from Littlejohn that followed was swiftly suppressed by again going through the list of Labour achievements (which again got applause) and he emerged unscathed from what could have been a sticky wicket. The outcome of Question 4 (is Brown a big fat liar?) was less certain and Johnson wisely decided to keep a low profile, venturing out only to defend the immigration statistics as ‘an honest mistake’ before reminding everyone that Chris Grayling has dabbled in similar roguery on the knife crime stats. To the extent that he himself came out relatively unscathed, it was a good move and by the end of it, it was Littlejohn who looked to be the biggest twat. The last question (does Lumley deserve an apology from Kevin Jones?) was a no-win situation for him (as is pretty much any situation involving a scorned Lumley), but he did his best to switch the heat over to the Tories for not having done anything about the Gurkha s on their watch. It wasn’t entirely successful, but yet again, any anger that emerged appeared to be directed at Labour rather than at Johnson himself. And that was pretty much it from him.

O HAI!

Even pigeons can be terrorists... Best keep an eye on them.

All-in-all, it was pretty impressive performance given the circumstances and it highlighted the fact that he excels at fighting proactive and fluid rearguard actions whilst simultaneously appearing to be bracingly normal. It’s like when you turn up to the airport and find that you’re plane’s been cancelled, the hotel’s burnt down and your luggage is on it’s way to Kinshasa. In this situation, the last person you want to talk to is the overly aggressive holiday rep who bungs you some half-hearted platitudes, blames everyone on earth but steadfastly refuses to accept any responsibility themselves (a Ryan Air version of Jack Straw for instance). Instead, you want the guy who calmly takes you off to one side, admits that this is a all horrendous fuck up, seems genuinely sympathetic to your plight and subtly implies that the bigwigs upstairs are way out off their depth. It flies totally in the face of New Labour orthodoxy, but it’s a potent and powerful tactic in the right hands and Johnson gets it very much right. So well done Pigeonface. Although I wouldn’t mind seeing something a little more predatory from you, you can fly back to your Nelson’s Column homestead safe in the knowledge that you did a good job. Go and treat yourself to some discarded chips and to hell with the crumbs.

A proficient and authentic 8/10

In The Blue Corner: Kenneth Clarke, Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, jazz hound and good-times Tory.

I sometimes have this dream where I’ve been caught poaching on George Osborne’s estate. I’m bundled off to some barn by his squires (which in the dream include Hague, Lansley and bizarrely enough, Widdecombe dressed as a man, moustache and all), tied to a chair and then subjected to a very landed-gentry form of roughing up as Osborne looks on with that perma-sneer of his. Just as all appears lost, Ken Clarke walks through the doors, calmly beseeches my antagonist to “Go easy on him, chaps” and then tells them that he just saw local government killjoy sizing up Osborne’s planning permission infringing gazebo down in the meadow. Gripped by this alarming new development, the assembled mob run off with pitchforks and 4-10’s , determined to stop the tentacles of authoritarianism encroaching on their green and pleasant land. Ken then cuts be free, offers me a pull from his hip flask and apologises for their over-exuberance. “They just get a little carried away” he says before giving me a comforting pat on the shoulder , slipping me a tenner for a taxi and showing me the quickest way to town. Thanks Ken! You’ve saved my bacon yet again! Yes, it’s true. I have a slight political crush on Ken Clarke and during the dreary days of the Major government I must confess to developing a textbook case of Stockholm Syndrome around him. At the time, there was little to love about government. Howard was criminalising everything, Widdecombe (this time dressed as a woman…sort of) was all up in my face and Portillo had yet to chill out. Yet despite all this I could take comfort that somewhere, deep inside the Treasury, there was Ken Clarke, listening to Charlie Mingus, puffing on a stogie and getting slightly tipsy. Somehow, that thought got me through. So what of Ken last night? Pretty darn good, as is usually the case. The first question about the NI cut gave him ample room for manoeuvre and he wasted little time into laying into Labour for taxing small business. The crowd were largely (although not wholly) on his side and although he got clobbered by Dimbers on ‘efficiency savings’, he somehow managed to bluster his way out of it. Question 2 (Chancellor’s Debate) was a bit of a landmine (thanks to barely contained tension between himself and Osborne), but he did a good turn in pretending he wasn’t really bothered by it all and gave a slightly less-than-convincing endorsement of Boy George which ticked the party line box but also implied that he wasn’t completely blind to the glaring weakness in the Tory team. It looked like it was played for laughs but there were plenty of between-the-lines messages in there. He also managed to bust out some of his trademark ‘damning with faint praise’ routine where waxed lyrical about how Cable was a good guy, but he never has deal with anything serious because he’s a LibDem. Vintage Clarke. The Tony Blair question time saw him sounding very forthright about how Gordon Brown was the real baddy and also taking the piss out of Blair’s tan , much to the amusement of all, while the immigration stats point had him being pretty fair about the whole deal (‘it’s all a bit naughty, stats are sacred’ type stuff) until he was ambushed by Dimbers on Chris Grayling’s knife crime number mischief. This caught him off balance and he flapped around a little (you can tell when Clarke’s in a flap because he stutters a little) before falling back on a rather desperate ‘it’s all very complicated’ defence.. The final question (Gurkhas) was a hurried affair, but he did manage to make the point that it was the Commons that had defeated the government when it came to their right to stay. So there we have it. A typically robust and impressive performance from a man whose primary virtue is being just so bloody reasonable. I know there are a million issue on which I disagree with Ken Clarke, but I will always give him the time of day because there seems to be a genuinely interesting person underneath it all. That, and he’s a troublemaker. I like troublemakers.

An as-we’ve-come-to-expect 7/10

In The Yellow Corner: Sarah Teather, LibDem Spokesperson for Housing, former Baby of the House.

Who’s this collection of interlocking spheres? Why, it’s Sarah Teather! That may sound cruel, but I don’t mean it from a bitchy angle. I’m simply fascinated that someone can be entirely formed out of such geometrically perfect circles (seriously, I wouldn’t be surprised if she could recite pi to a million intervals, so spherical is she). Anyhoo, I’ve got a lot of time for Teather. She’s by far the most impressive of the younger LibDems, her opposition to the war was eloquent and categorical and she’s proven herself to be a solid Question Time performer. Given the opposition that she was up against tonight, I rather feared that she would be drowned out but happily, this was not the case. The opening question had her socking it largely to the Tories for their parroting of the mythical ‘efficiencies savings’ line and she got a fair bit of support from the crowd for her efforts. Question 2 was an absolute doozy (did Cable win the debates?), especially as Littlejohn was going out of his way to desecrate the shrine of St. Vince and thus incurred a heavy bout of Mail-damning from Teather, much to the delight of the audience. The Tony Blair number had her rightly pointing the ‘war’ finger at him and the crowd response once again highlighted the fact that this is very much an live issue, no matter how much Labour (and the Tories) pretend it isn’t, while a late attack at Cameron for aping him also did some damage. The question on the immigration stats saw her in a less aggressive posture, chiding Littlejohn for being “unfair” to Brown whilst simultaneously castigating Brown for not taking enough care, all of which sounded pretty fair. Finally, she got the last word on the Gurkhas, calling Labour “bad losers” and wisely staying on the right side of Lummers.

Given the company she was keeping that night, this was a pretty impressive performance. Where Sarah succeeds is in coming across as sincere and principled, but not blind to nuance. It’s not entirely perfect and she does display some signs of ‘Goldsworthy Syndrome’ when she tries to barge in on questions, but unlike last week’s LibDem panellist, she does it in a way that doesn’t appear overwrought or needy. So well done Sarah, you took on some very old, skilled hands and lived to fight another day. Kudos.

A resolutely spherical 7/10

In The Independent/Brainy Corner: Richard Littlejohn, Daily Mail Columnist, right wing foghorn.

Sigh… Must I write this guy up? In the interests of fairness, I suppose I must, but there’s little of merit to say about someone who doesn’t appear to have any redeeming features. Littlejohn’s Question Time gameplan is always as thus: Identify the lowest common denominator on any given subject and then relentless plumb the depths until the opposition are too exhausted to contest you. That’s it. Tonight’s particular line of attack more or less amounted to ‘Tax is bad, politicians are shitbags and Brown is the biggest shitbag of them all.’. Most of his answers resided within this rather tired, limited framework and the only point of note was when an audience member baited him about the BNP admiring his column. This bought forth a biblical sounding “WITH DRAW THAT, YOUNG MAN!” to which he obligingly did (“fair enough”), but it was clear who the audience were clapping for. It’s not the fact that I fundamentally disagree with 99% of everything Littlejohn says that winds me up, it’s that his methods are so crude and brutal. Having someone who’s a little ‘out there’ is vital to a good Question Time, but they’ve got to bring at least a little something to the table in terms of style. Littlejohn does not. All he brings to the table is a casserole of contempt with a side order of intolerance. That’s a dish I will always pass on.

A depressingly predictable 3/10

In The ‘I’m the funny One’/’Just Like You Corner’: Victoria Coren, poker champion, columnist, comedian and of-late-omnipresent TV bod.

I really don’t know where I stand on Victoria Coren. On the one hand, she’s a poker champion (which is always cool, doubly so if you’re a woman), can have genuine turns of wit and sometimes writes some OK stuff. On the other hand, the comedy is a little patchy, she seems to try too hard to come across as clever and her ‘jolly hockeysticks’ accent cuts through me like a knife. By the end of this episode of Question Time, I was pretty much of a similar opinion but I reckon that the main element is that I simply can’t get a handle on what she believes in. Most of her responses on the night started out vague as she played for time, thinking of something brainy and witty to say before rambling on a while and then she’d suddenly tack some on-the-hoof joke to the back of them. Sometimes the jokes were OK (the ‘Tony Blair as violent ex’ turn was pretty good) and the audience seemed to like them, but the substance underneath was shaky. Take the first question (NI) for instance. Her response was a round-the-houses ‘they’ve lost our trust’ lament (but dressed up to sound shrewd and canny) that somehow morphed into a call for better accounting in government. I get what she was driving at (as did the crowd, who did clap), but the message was in a grave danger of being lost under this need to make everything sound terribly bloody brainy. Fair enough, she was very reasonable on the ‘is Gordy a liar’ question as well as the Chancellors Debate one, but I always felt she was thinking too hard about what she was saying, as if terrified that she’d be caught out as a fraud. Don’t get me wrong, it was an unpleasant affair, but it did leave me strangely non-plused. A little more heart and a lot less head Victoria, that is what you need.

An oddly perplexing 5/10

The Crowd: Stevenage

After last weeks disappointing Glasgow affair, I was praying that tonight’s rabble would be better but was unconvinced that Stevenage (which resides in the Meh-Belt that orbits London … hardly creativity central) could come up with the goods. How wrong I was. Once again, it seems that my shaky grip on socio-geography has let me down and eaten-hats are the order of the day as the Stevenage crowd turned out to be great. What was interesting about tonight’s show was that that it appeared to be largely good natured affair, but never veered off into cosiness. I suspect that part of this is because Johnson, Clarke and Teather actually seem to like each other but the audience had a role in this as well, mainly in the way that didn’t have any firm favourite and applause seemed to be doled out on merit rather than through any tribal instinct. On top of this, they were by no means a pushover and also managed to resist the temptation to embark on one-dimensional tirades. Notable show-goers that night include the aforementioned Littlejohn baiter (Point Of The Night goes to he) and a church treasurer who displayed the most emphatic clapping I’ve seen to date. Seriously, this guy looked like he was going to clap his hands clean off. So well done Stevenage. Hertfordshire has just gone up a notch in my book.

An even-handed and enlivening 8/10

Right, that’s your lot. Johnson and Stevenage reign supreme, closely followed by able performances from Teather and Clarke. Good show, QT, good show.

Have a Good Friday, y’all .


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