Posts Tagged 'Andy Burnham'

Questionable Time #143


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Good morrow lemmings and let us continue our weekly trudge through the fetid wastes of what is known as summer Question Time. What with the election hype and fallout, this has been a right marathon season and I for one am crying quietly in a corner. Still, only two more shows to go! Is it silly season yet? Don’t worry – ’round these parts, it’s always silly season.

Mr Manga-orium’s Wonder Emporium

Our first sick burn of the evening hisses into being: how can the Tories justify calling themselves the ‘real party of werkin’ people’ when they’re set to stamp on tax credits? Andy Burnham is called to the stand first, and is on prime indignant form. As predicted, he’s now the frontrunner in the Labour leadership contest – however, if he wins it would be a real loss for Question Time (which is the truly important issue at hand), as I’ve always held a soft spot for Andy’s performances here or in the Shadow Health brief. He is a man fuelled by pure wibbledom – by which I mean, he does seem 100% committed to being outraged at anything the Tories do. He is possibly one of the most outraged people in politics today. When he smiles it looks like he’s holding back his tears. His big, doelike eyes sparkle with righteous rage. His Scouse accent trembles and wavers and he looks like he’s always just about to deck Jeremy Hunt. He is, on all other occasions, an over-emotional manga character come to life.

But not so much today. Today we are introduced to ‘srs bsnss’ leadership material Andy. He is staid. He is solemn. He is a lot more boring. He sombrely states that the Tories don’t have a man date – I mean, a mandate. They’re “frightening” people because of this lack of man date. They ought to get a man date, before it becomes too late. (Hey, I’m a poet and I didn’t know it!)

Meanwhile Amber Rudd, a generally unknown entity (but then again, David Cameron is probably an unknown entity to the majority of the public five years in to his premiership), scribbles down her notes furiously like an angry exam invigilator. She then makes her own pitch, and appears to be the sternest woman I have ever come across, like a less charismatic Theresa May. We’re making work pay, she says, tunelessly. A lady in the crowd who’s never “had a day off in [her] life” is enraged at this droning! Then again, that’s a bit extreme. You mean you’ve never pulled a sickie? Never? Not even a little cheeky one on a Friday?

Suzanne Evans wastes no time going ‘tf’ in, accusing Amber and the blue team of not being “transparent”. You know what’s not transparent? Whatever the hell is going on with UKIP right now. First you’re fired! Then you’re not fired! There’s a power struggle, then there isn’t! It’s the story that’s gripped the world. However, this never gets brought up once during this episode, so Suzanne comes out of the whole shebang rather well, including shoehorning in an appeal to abolish the bedroom tax. Boy, Nigel must be fumin’!

Fraser Nelson of the Speccie says that the tax credit system needs “urgent reform” and it’s overall confusing and silly. Andy glares at him sassily. Then an even sassier presence arrives on the scene. Giles Fraser (yes, it’s Fraser 2! There’s a sitcom in this, shurely?) intervenes to demolish everyone and everything and talks up tax credit as if it were an adorable kitten. Giles 4 Labour Leader?

Then Amber suggests that we all wait for Ozza to clear this mess up ;) ;) ;) ;). Anime Andy is offended again, and she calls him SAH GRAPES. In return, he tells her she’s a dirty Tory liar who needs to get in the sea. Pru, it’s kicking off! Thank goodness it’s time for a change of question…

You can leave your tie on

What would you do about Greece? Sadly, Yanis Varoufakis was not available for this edition, due to the small distraction of being whacked in the head with a baseball bat by Angela Merkel. Giles is here in his stead, and, as Dimbleby rightly points out, is also not wearing a tie! You’re still “glamourous”, says Dimbles. I’m liking this new direction for Question Time. How to Look Good Nerked.

Giles continues his excellent impression of cool tieless Yanis by calling the Troika utter bastards. The other Fraser says that Greece needs its own currency, then we could all go there on holiday! Glad to see that we haven’t lost sight of the real issue here, the need to stuff our faces with kleftiko. Then Giles and, oddly, Suzanne extol the virtues of Tony Benn. I’m not sure how the Big Bennster would react to this, but it does give me an excuse to post this clip again of him nearly causing Roy Jenkins to explode.

Andy, in contrast, has got a tuff job sticking up for a Yes vote. It’s not a “failed experiment”, he says, but he’s suspicious of a right-wing economic plot. The spirit of Benn continues to smile down upon us, puffing his pipe benignly. Then the crowd go absolutely bananas, one man laying the blame at the feet of “one woman”. Gasp…Nicola Sturgeon?! Sadly, no. Fraser sums up by saying that you can’t turn Greeks into Germans. Not even if you force them into Lederhosen.

I’m not even going to mention the audience lady who goes off on one, blubbering that we must be a beacon of light and love and Christian values (take that, Muslims!) and we should bake a cake full of rainbows and smiles and we could all eat it and be happy. I’m not going to mention that. Except I just have. Oops.

Next: WHAT DO ABOUT MIGRANTZ?

The scenes at Calais are “heartbreaking” says Suzanne, with her own attempt at a wibbly voice, but we have to show “tough love” as well. She’s like a mildly disapproving school nurse. A girl in the crowd who looks like Nicola Sturgeon’s Mini-Me pleads for the panel not to target refugees with their laser eyes, and another wayward youth gets into an shouting match about mosquito nets with Ambuh. Please, Lord, let the summer break come soon.

Giles welcomes the new immigrants with open arms, and to be fair I’d rather take Giles as a revolutionary leader over Russell Brand. Put him up against Farage next, maybe? Meanwhile, Andy just about gets away with appealing to the unwashed masses who don’t know their forrin pollysee by jam-packing his speech with super smart (S-M-R-T!) sounding words. ‘Mechanism’…’Schengen Agreement’…’Gateway Agreement’…he’s on a roll here, folks! And that roll isn’t about to stop rolling any time soon. And(y)omination continues as we hit two novelty questions in a row – looks like it really is silly season.

Sugar, oh honey honey

First novelty question: something about…sugar tax? Giles campaigns for fat rights, Andy gets into a debate about what “children’s food” is with Dimbledore, who doesn’t believe it exists (excuse you Dimbleby, you’ll never take my dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets away from me), and apparently Fraser Nelson once called Mangaman the FROSTIES KILLER. This is incredible. That should be his tagline. AB4LEADER: heart of frickin’ murdering Tony the Tiger to death. Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, and here I am: stuck in the middle with food.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

Second novelty question: is the last Labour manifesto the best they’ve ever had in their history ever or was it the worst they’ve ever had in their history ever? According to Alan Milburn, who is tragically still pretending he’s relevant in the year of our lord 2015, it was the latter. Fraser, Suzanne and Amber proceed to concern-troll like it’s nobody’s business, Fraser from Cheers especially. Andy Burnham grins widely, but you can so clearly see that deep inside his heart he knows that he’s going to go home that night and murder Milburn to death. First Tony, now Alan, Andy? When will the killing end?!

Finally, Giles shrugs and reveals himself a member of the Milifandom. And with that, we’re blessed with sweet relief.

Time for the scores!

Rudd: 6/10

(Failed to) Wow

Burnham: 8/10

(Nice eye)Brows

Evans: 7/10

(Not a fan of) Frau (Merkel)

Nelson: 7/10

Plow(ed ahead)

Fraser: 8/10

(His little red book will replace) Mao’s

The Crowd: 7/10

And how!

Next time: I begin to hallucinate. Also, did you know that our glorious webmaster – and previous QT-er supreme – has set up a cool new YouTube channel for his project Noobminster? Well, you do now. Go visit it and get educated on all matters political, in a thoroughly amusing fashion. Go on. Click the link. Click it, damnit!

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #131


qt 131

Good morrow lemmings and welcome to another irrelevant edition of Questionable Time! Yes, seems like nobody cares about poor lil’ QT shambling on after the big, flashy Leaders’ debates…but that’s what I’m here for, to look after the muck nobody else wants to clean up. The debates themselves were as predictable as predicted: Cameron looked foreheady, no1curr about Clegg, Nigel Farage and Leanne Wood got into a fight, Nicola Sturgeon cried for FREEEEDOM, Natalie Bennett was Australian, and Ed Miliband did okay I guess, unless you’re reading the Sun or Telegraph, in which case he shat himself on stage.

But we’ll show those popular kids and their popular kicks. Let’s have a debate of our own. Let’s Questionable Time.

Are you sitting comfortably? No neither am I

Michael Gove starts off by dissin’ Ed too, although that technically is his job. He declares that because Ed Miliband is still a geeky dork then mean old Nicola ‘n’ Alex would be able to trample all over him with their big Scottish feet. A snarky beardy man in the audience points out that the Tories didn’t even win overall in 2010 so why should we believe that a prospective Tory government would be any more stable? Gove brushes this off in a Govey way while a Scottish lady also goes in for him and Dimbleby makes strange noises.

At this point, Anime Andy Burnham makes his move. The right-wing media are being proved wrong, he says, and Ed Miliband is actually “a man full of warmth and conviction” who he’d like to snuggle and play Manic Miner with. Not for the first time this night, it sounds like he’s about to burst into tears, which he does a lot. Oh, to be a living, eyelash-fluttering manga character!

A man in audience says they’re all fake except for lovely Nigel who is definitely not an ex-banker from a public school and is a MAN OF THE PEOPLE. Apparently. Peter ‘Jeremy Clarkson is a left-wing BBC conspiracy’ Hitchens agrees, aggressively tongueing Farage’s anus. Meanwhile, Danny Alexander/Brian the snail is back (already? Wasn’t he on only a few weeks ago?) and looking increasingly baggy and fleshy. “You need to have Liberal Democrats in the mix!” he says, like they’re a winning toy/stray rusty nail (delete according to political position) in a box of Coco Pops.

Somehow this all, mainly thanks to Peter, devolves into an argument about the break-up of the UK again. I had to deal with months of QTs about this in the run up to the #indyref, please don’t let me go through this hell again.

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, thankfully, interrupts to practically scream UP THE WOMEN! The wimmins in the audience predictably cheer. This is great as I have been eagerly awaiting the feminist takeover of Question Time for some time now. Yasmin continues in this vein, basically shouting G’ARN NIC’LA at every opportunity. I mean, regardless of what you think of her policies, it’s nice to have a woman (Nicola Sturgeon) on the centre political stage who looks so much like a mum on the school run, but could probably punch you out (being Scottish, after all).

I’m not sure what’s going on now. Govey Wovey hates the SNP, Yasmin doesn’t, Andy’s making faces, Peter is making exactly one face for the entire duration of the programme (a mix between constipated/vaguely annoyed/braindead), and Danny is calmly staring into the abyss of the Lib Dems losing all their seats in Scotland and most of them in England. Uh…hooray?

Then something incredible happens. The subject of a Tory-UKIP coalition gets brought up, and Michael, squirming uncomfortably in his seat, can’t rule it out. Andy pounces.

The hysteria comes loud and fast. Can’t rule it out! Can’t rule it out! “We’re listening, Michael!” Andy squeals cutely. Gove panics and says something about rainbow coalitions but by this point it’s too late. Andy Burnham has transmogrified into his unstoppably manic alter ego: ANDY BURN ‘EM. And he is possibly the best source of reaction images ever. Goveing Tree, needless to say, is not amused.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

A man in the audience sums everything up with a question on why everything is breaking apart. The answer, of course, is that YOU ARE TEARING ME APART, LISA!

Danny begins to actually answer this point but out of nowhere is interrupted by BURN ‘EM, who passionately starts to cry about collectivism. He just has a lot of feelings. Then even Gove gets #REKT by Hitchens. This isn’t a great night for the Govester! He sniffs, planning Hitchens’ method of death. Don’t worry Mike, you’ve got the entire second half of the show to make up for it…execution-style.

While Peter explains the difference between debt and deficit because, five years later, nobody still knows what they mean, and threatens to destroy both the Labour and Conservative parties in a bloody civil war (what is wrong with this man), there’s an equally absurd kerfuffle over what the hell a ‘formal’ or ‘informal’ agreement actually means. Andy struggles to make his voice heard while Gove tapdances away gleefully, because even though Labour ruled out a coalition with the scary Scots they might still play tag with them in the playground occasionally. Or whatever. This is getting so confusing that Dimbleby is now making the same face as Peter Hitchens. A worrying sign indeed. Let’s move on.

Fresh baked United Kingdom filled to the brim with jammy goodness

Is the country full? Well, Peter says yes – unless we clone Peter Hitchens, in which case things would be different around here. To summarise, immigrants are BRAVE but the EU is EVIL. Danny looks shocked and appalled. Hitchens adds another emotion to his grand arsenal: smug. However, Gove’s spirited defense of immigration seems to put the damper on a possible UKIP coalition, to the extent that Yasmin wants to hug him. Maybe they could form a coalition. Andy joins in and it’s all a big cuddlepile with Hitchens not invited to the party. Aww, this is nice. Even more coalitions!

But it can’t last forever. Andy breaks out of the cuddlepile by extremely subtly reminding us he’s werking-class with a reference to Auf Wiedersehn, Pet, and gets teary about the NHS as per usual. Dimbles sighs and has to intervene once again.

“We’re not talking about the NHS,” says he.

YES WE ARE, cries Andy, an unrepentant repeat offender of the Getting Emotional Brigade. Dimbleby reassures him that they’ve scheduled the NHS discussion for the last five minutes of the programme, but first they have to spend five minutes talking about ISIS, because both of these issues can surely be comprehensively covered in such a sumptuous amount of time.

Maybe if we didn’t spend so much time talking about debates then this wouldn’t have happened

Saudi Arabia suxxx, says Yasmin out of nowhere. And so do religious schools. Gove fights the urge to reply CALM DOWN DEAR and instead says something about spiritual nourishment. Mmmm…nourishment.

The others waffle some waffling crap but the crowd wants to know what they’ll actually do about these horrid scoundrels. Nobody knows as we only have five minutes and time is already up. Best…scheduling…ever. Next question!

Why not all work together on the NHS? Well, unimpressed audience lady, because people have very different plans for the NHS. Some people want to lovingly caress it, others want to hit it with a hammer.

Andy Burnizzle makes this exact argument to the extent that he is probably about to explode. His beautiful eyes are starting to pop out of his handsome skull as he clutches his trembling fist to his heaving breast, reinstating the main, most important point again and again: that he hates Tories. He frickin’ hates Tories. God damn does he hate them. Wait, what was the question again?

The others cycle through their equally predictable soundbites. Danny is moderately moderate and praises Holy Cleggus. Yasmin hates privatisation. Peter thinks the NHS is the only thing Labour hasn’t ruined and that they and the Tories are being squabbling babies about it. Both Andy and Michael then unite to pull a joint face of disgust. COALITION CONFIRMED?

I don’t think impressed woman was impressed, honestly.

Time for the scores!

Gove: 6/10

(Missed an open) Goal

Burnham: 8/10

Troll(in’)

Alexander: 5/10

(For whom the bell) Toll(s)

Alibhai-Brown: 6/10

(Middle of the) Poll

Hitchens: 6/10

(Had a leisurely) Stroll

The Crowd: 6/10

(On a) Roll

Next time: [inaudible screaming]

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #115


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Good morrow lemmings and today we’re in Boiminghem! But nobody will care by Friday because of the inevitable new UKIP MP tomorrow and the fact that a member of the shadow cabinet has resigned over a freakin’ tweet. We live in interesting times, my friends!

“UKIP more like POOKIP” – Nigel Farage’s liberal comedy conspiracy

We begin with a question about UKIP, I guess, except that it flies all over the place and by the end people are crying. I was crying. In fact I’m crying right now.

Putting Ken Clarke on QT this week was a stroke of genius, I must admit. Well done whatever person from Toryville thought that up. If you had picked some snicker-worthy IDS figure, for example, or Michael Gove (don’t worry! He’s next week!) then the Tories might as well have put their hands up and conceded the match to Yasmin and Andy, or to Douglas Carswell exchanging knowing looks with moustachioed men in the audience. As it happens Ken Clarke has an inherently sensible aura, and most people tend to like him at least a little. He’s Ye Olde Mastre. He’s been around the block a few times. He’s seen young turks come and go, and isn’t the least bit impressed by any of them.

Meanwhile, as slouchy Ken’s polar opposite, Andy Burnham runs on nothing more than unfiltered earnestness. He’s either smiling benignly or pouting at someone (in this case, generally Douglas). Last time he was on the panel he got an extremely easy ride because he was on his home turf, but this time he had to wibble and grin and emote until he practically exploded to get through the programme unscathed. He just about managed it, due to his sheer sincere outrage at anything and everything. He even swore! Andy will not be stopped. It doesn’t even matter what question he’s asked, he’ll answer with WHATEVER HE DAMN WELL LIKES. Which is mainly the NHS. Or Everton football club, but sadly that didn’t come up.

Also, I’m not just saying this because I think he’s cute. Don’t look at me like that! I’m not biased. (I am incredibly biased.) (Seriously.) (My mum heard who was on QT and immediately exclaimed “oh it’s your boyfriend!”. I am just that biased.)

And yes, he still looks like an anime character. Cue the pictorial evidence.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1

Anyway. Douglas Carswell waxes lyrical about the virtues of the Australian immigration system, but Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is baying for his blood. Maybe it’s due to her sitting next to him, but she would just not stop biting his leg like an enraged pitbull throughout the entire programme. When asked about Reckless’ repatriation rumble – no need to worry about it, Douglas, I suspect quite a few of your voters chirpily cheered his comments – he cited tiredness as an excuse, and then said something #sorandomlol about Europe. Ken, even now, slowly shakes his head, like a disappointed owl.

Our last panellist, Dia Chakrathingy, from the Taxpayers’ Alliance, is another UKIP representative apparently. She speaks at approximately 10,000 words per minute and constantly employs a mock-confused little girl voice. In fact, her tone of voice is probably the most annoying thing I’ve ever heard on television. It’s not even her opinions – but the way that she tuts and tilts her head and chatters on and on and fricklin’ fracklin’ ON and oh look my skull just cracked open. Look what you’ve done, Dia. Look at this mess. It’s all over the carpet.

“MASS DEFECTIONS,” interjects Douglas. Dimbleby sighs. It can’t get any worse than this.

Apparently it can

What do failed reality stars have to say about taxation? Well, Yasmin ain’t having any of that, whatever it is, and derides the Klass Kwestion for coming from a “pretty” millionaire. Dia is disgusted! Diasgusted, in fact! How dare you be so patronising, Yasmin, she says, patronisingly.

She’s not done yet. Then she rounds on Man-Candy Andy. I feel sorry for you, she patronises. You’d be a good leader. Better than Miliband. Pity you’re out here, she almost-flirts, answering questions on Ed’s blustery blunders, when you could be back at my place…hot stuff…with those pretty eyes of yours…

Andy looks embarrassed and afraid.

However, things aren’t even halfway done yet and Mangaman wants to talk about the NHS. During his answer about the mansion tax, he gets into a scuffle with the chair himself – something very rarely done! – and it goes a lil somethin’ like this:

I WANT TO TALK ABOUT THE NHS bellows Andy.
But…Andy, stop…that’s not the question…says Dimbles, head in his hands.
YES IT IS says Andy, ripping open his suit to reveal his I LUV NHS t-shirt which he wears at all times.

The audience are getting heated. They round on Dia McMean Girls. YOU KNOW THE PRICE OF EVERYTHING AND THE VALUE OF NUFFINK, they cry. Regina George/Dia is appalled, and tilts her head a little more to the right. It’s going to fall off if you don’t watch out, Dia.

What’s the deal with NHS food

When there’s an actual question about the NHS, Burnham explodes.

“After you,” smirks Carswell, knowing that this means Anime Andy has less time to think.

“Oh boy! The NHS sure is great,” sighs Andy wistfully, or words to that effect, swatting away pesky doctors and people at meetings who allege that he said the exact opposite of what he says every minute of every day, even at home, even while asleep, where he constantly chants “compulsory tendering must die” while his wife no doubt cries herself to sleepybobos every night. He finally understands what that one woman was trying to say later in the programme, and everyone laughs at him, and the Seinfeld bassline plays in the background. Or inside my tortured mind, anyway.

Douglas has got him now! UKIP has the plan. They also have the Man with the Plan, Nigel Farage, who will lead us to a glorious new revolution.

What’s up with that video then, says Dimbles. You know the one I mean. Yasmin is now so baffled that her baffle-ometer has reached 100% and she launches into another pummelfight directed at Douglas’ face. She’s baffled about what he and UKIP have and haven’t changed their minds on! But Douglas remains serene. All he needs to do is lie back, think of England and wait for the MPs to flood in. They can change their minds a hundred times and it wouldn’t matter. He’s surrounded by a circle of members, all throbbing and alert to ejaculate their worthy opinions on to an eager-faced public.

Ken Clarke remembers to wake himself up to verbally slap every panellist round the chops (take that Dougie! Take that Andii-chan!) praising Blair as he does so. Honestly, Ken has more in common with a lot of Labour politicians than most of his own party these days. They should skip off together and form a hot sexy new party. Or join the Lib Dems – haha, only kidding, they do have some sense.

Then it’s the final countdown, or rather question, and everybody joins together in peace and harmony to rightly condemn a nasty, nasty man. Hooray! Even Dia is on-side! Well done everyone, we got there in the end.

“I’m a dad :3,” Andy reminds us with his emoji-like face.

Time for the scores!

Clarke: 7/10

(Speaks) Sense

Burnham: 7/10

(Was) Incensed (About Every Conceivable Subject)

Carswell: 6/10

(Wants to fix up the) Fence (the fence meaning ARE BORDERS)

Alibhai-Brown: 8/10

(Get thee) Hence(, Carswell!)

Chakravarty: 5/10

(Did not want to spend her) Pence

The Crowd: 6/10

Tense

GOVE NEXT WEEK and smooth buttery Chuka and weird Norman and…Jo Brand? I leak enthusiasm.

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #93


questionable time 93 no cow

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

Ladies and gentlemen, The Andy Burnham Show!

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

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

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

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

The Danny List

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

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

All’s well here then…

danny aleaxander fit sailor

Fig. 1

…And Val?

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

Tl;dr

Alexander: 4/10

Same (as always)

Burnham: 6/10

(Had more slap on than a panto) Dame

Raab: 6/10

Overcame (my deafness to libertarians)

Kirby: 4/10

(All a bit) Lame

McDermid: 6/10

(Writes books about people who like to) Maim

The Crowd: 5/10

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

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

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #45


questionable time 45 david dimbley spectrum loading screen

Good morning Lemmings and rejoice, for we have a good episode on our hands – so good in fact that I’ll accept it as a partially apology for Liverpool’s behaviour of late. And what behaviour would that be? Well, a) they foisted The X-Factor’s Christopher Maloney upon us and b) if my suspicions are correct they then engineered a rolling-foist by voting to keep him in the show every week hence. Seriously Liverpool, you’ve made your point. You’ve had your pound of flesh. Now please, can we stop this madness? Anyway, enough of this and let’s do some Question Timing…

Burnham and Maude were a great pairing…

I was a bit nonplussed when I heard that Francis Maude was going to be on as he’s one of those figures who, despite being around forever, just seems to flit in and out of the picture, never staying still long enough for me to really pin him down. Similarly, Burnham drew a vague ‘meh’ from me as while he’s a very proficient QT-er who does a good line in the whole ‘local lad come good’ trade, he’s so constantly on-message that I can never really see past the bluster (or – for that matter – those shimmering, dazzling eyelashes of his). ‘Fair to middling’ was the best I hoped for. As it happens, these two turned out to be an inspired choice and what we got was a battle of wits that to’d and fro’d satisfyingly throughout the evening.

The key to it is that both protagonists are very ambitious but in different ways. Maude, with his hawk-like features and buzzard-esque stoop has the look of a man who Knows Too Much (although not, it should be remembered, about the safe storage of fuel) while Burnham is a classic Set Piecer, the sort who really hammers rhetorical points mercilessly whilst always making sure he ends with a crescendo. Both men can smell the other’s ambition and both men can’t help but be vexed by it.

To start with, the Set Piecer strategy seemed to be a nose ahead and despite putting up a pretty decent fight, Maude spent both the health and economy questions fighting a rearguard action with only limited success. However, he regained his balance in the Leveson question and did so just at the point that Burnham began to falter. It went like this: Maude got the first shot and did a pretty reasonable Next Stop Zimbabwe take on press freedom that garnered a fair few claps. Burnham though, well he fluffed his opening and had to resort to stealing Tim Farron’s answer almost word-for-word. As it turns out, the Set Piecer in him managed to blag it and parity was restored although not for very long. What happened next though was genius. Out of nowhere, Maude suddenly turned to Burnham and sincerely thanked him for his part in uncovering the truth about the Hillsborough tragedy. Well, that move was nothing short of inspired and not only did it earn him a metric tonne of applause, it also left Burnham with nowhere to go. The Well Timed Compliment: It’s the napalm of QT.

So then Mr. Farron, we meet again…

Following some extensive skullduggery, I was lucky enough to find myself in the crowd for the Leeds edition of Question Time that ran earlier this year. It was a pretty good show – one in which I thought that George Galloway was actually going to lamp David Aaronovitch – but the real revelation was Tim Farron. It boiled down to this: I automatically assume that politicians are up to something sketchy until they can prove otherwise yet the moment that Farron caught my eye, I remember thinking ‘Oh my god, I implicitly trust this guy’. True, I was high as a kite on adrenaline after asking a question and the self-inflicted dehydration didn’t help (I was terrified of needing a wee) but there was just something about Farron that overruled my default cynicism. I rapidly developed an alarming political crush, a crush that’s now so out of control that I find myself making gifs of an idealised chance encounter between myself and Mr. Farron (see. Fig. 1). It is also a crush that remains undimmed by last night’s episode.

tim-farron-loudribs-gif

Fig. 1

Tim Farron’s secret – other than his projectile trustworthiness – is that he appears to live in a world where 2010 never happened. That whole coalition business? Nah, you dreamed it. Never happened. The Lib Dems are still in opposition, the Tories are still caddish yahoos and Social Democracy is still very much on the Yellow Team’s agenda. Sure, he made the odd token defence of Blue Team/Yellow Team collaboration but they were never more than routine patrols conducted without vigour and by the end of the show I was happily set adrift on memory bliss. Ah, the pre-2010 world… A place where the Lib Dems stopped short of breaking their knuckles when wringing their hands…

The Welsh appear to have quietly annexed Liverpool…

Alright, I’m a little confused here. Why exactly was Leanne Wood on last night? Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a dig at Wood herself as I happen to rate her quite highly, partly because I like her viewpoint but mainly on account of her delivery: It’s just so nonchalant. Honestly, there could be someone running at her full-tilt, whilst brandishing an axe and she’d just quietly reel off a list of reasons why they shouldn’t until they eventually stopped dead in their tracks, perplexed by this barrage of dry reason. No, the reason I ask is that we were in Swansea last week and if you ask me, that sounds like a pretty appropriate venue for the leader of the Welsh nationalists. Liverpool though? Not so much… Unless of course we’ve somehow hoodwinked the Welsh into taking Maloney off our hands in which case I whole heartedly endorse this impromptu rearranging of borders.

Lionel Barber is an odd fish…

Hmm… Don’t know what to make of this one. On the one hand, he didn’t say anything massively stupid but the way his speech halts in the middle of every sentence is a little disconcerting as was his bungled joke at the start of the Leveson question (it was memorable only for the uncomfortable parade of tumbleweed that followed). No, there’s something about this guy that doesn’t add up and I found watching him to be like using an elderly relative’s computer: On paper, it should be a great machine but a combination of rashly installed toolbars, screaming demands from paid-for anti-virus software and the fact that the toolbar is now inexplicably at the top of the desktop just make it all a little fraught. I reckon we start with defragging but progress to a full format if that doesn’t get us anywhere.

Tl;dr

Maude: 6.5/10

Just (about beat Burnham)

Burnham: 6/ 10

(Needs a slight) Adjust(ment)

Farron: 7/10

(Is a picture of) Trust(worthiness)

Wood: 6/10

(Is very) Robust

Barber: 5/10

Must (stop for a few seconds on the middle of every sentence)

The Crowd: 6/10

(Displayed much) Gust(o)

Next week Lemmings, next week…

Questionable Time #32


questionable time 32 david dimbleby michael jackson bad

Good morning Lemmings and many thanks for your patience… As predicted, last week never happened as I was far too busy watching NOFX on the Thursday night and then subsequently far too busy trying to stop the room from spinning wildly out of control on the Friday, hence no Questionable Time. Still, here we are now (minus a certain amount of dignity) so let’s see what we can make out of last night’s choppy little number. Go!

We need to talk about Andy Burnham…

Seriously, we do because while he always seems to do quite well I tend to come away from his appearances feeling like I’ve somehow been hoodwinked. This isn’t a new thing – I’ve always had some lingering suspicions about Burnham – but I think last night was the first time that I caught a glimpse of what it is about him that makes me have to check that my wallet hasn’t been pinched: It’s because he’s a Strong Finisher.

Strong Finishing in Question Time works like this: Upon receipt of a question you do not hesitate and immediately start to answer in a robust manner with the first thing that pops into your head. Now, that thing in your head might very well be wrong so constantly monitor the audience for signs of approval/disapproval and if things start to look dicey quickly segue into the next thing that pops into your head and see if that does any better. The key here is speed and vigour: If you pause or falter for even a nanosecond people will then know you’re up to something so it’s vital that you just plough on through and shimmy so quickly that your flip-flopping doesn’t have time to register in the minds of the audience. Eventually, you will stumble on a line that works and at that point you simply open up the throttle and romp to victory safe in the knowledge that if the finish is strong enough, no-one will remember the bit at the start where you were talking twaddle.

Sounds pretty simple, right? Well maybe on paper but in practice it’s a good deal trickier and not everyone gets it right. Warsi’s a good example: There are times when she uses the above tactics to great effect but all too often she’s stymied by a tin ear for the audience. This can result in her picking entirely the wrong point to hammer and her Strong Finish becomes a Cataclysmic Finish, much to her detriment and the wider world’s amusement. Burnham though? Well he’s bloody good at it, good to the point where it makes me a little queasy. Take for example the question about the BMA strike. Labour are in a right pickle over this and can end up contorting themselves into all manner of uncomfortable stances, just as Burnham did in his initial response (it was one of those ‘I totally condemn you for striking but well done for striking’ type answers). However, what sets him apart is how he then seamlessly reframed the entire question into one about NHS cuts and did so without breaking his stride. That bit at the start when he sounded like he was arguing with an imagined doppelgänger? Forgotten. The overwhelming impression one’s left with? Here’s a man who knows what he’s talking about.

So yes, it’s all very much too-clever-by-half and I’d like to take this opportunity to declare that I’m officially ‘On To’ Andy Burnham but there’s also one last thing I’d like to bring up about the Shadow Health Secretary: His eyelashes. My mum noticed a while back that Burnham is rather well endowed in the eyelash department and upon closer inspection I can confirm that he has both majestic and lustrous ocular trimmings. In fact, they’re so impressive that I think he’s missing a trick by not trying to accentuate them further and I’ve even gone so far as to put together a mock-up of what a little tarting up could do for him (see Fig. 1). Seriously Andy, go for it.

andyburnham-eyelashes-gif

Fig. 1

I find the West Midlands strangely endearing…

If you watch enough QT you start becoming very familiar with the way different audiences react under the studio lights. For example, shows in Liverpool always leave me feeling like I’ve just watched the inhabitants of a belligerent city-state convene a protest march against its geopolitical patron while episodes in Yorkshire are largely dominated by people telling us how bloody wonderful everything about Yorkshire is. The point is that there’s usually a sense of otherness (except in the case of London which simply refuses to acknowledge that anything exists beyond the M25), a sense that this particular locale’s problems are unique or that their virtues are unusually conspicuous. You don’t see that in the West Midlands as the audiences tend to look comfortable in their own skin yet also seem to be completely without guile. Yup, we’re from the Black Country. Yup, it’s not the most glamorous corner of the earth and yup, we may look a little hard done by but that’s perfectly ok with us. You know what? I really quite like that.

Oh, and before we move away from the audience, kudos to the angry young man who told Gove that he “worked damn hard for his GCSE’s” and that Education Secretary can “sit them for [him]”. I spoke to The Man this morning and he said that he got it totally stuck to him last night. Well done there Angry Young Man.

And the rest of ’em?

Well Ken Clarke certainly looked little more awake and alert than last time and didn’t do a bad job of soaking up the ire while Len McClusky cemented himself as Most Palatable Union leader simply by not looking as smug as Mark Serwotka or as violent as Bob Crowe. Disappointing to see Ruth Lea being largely calm and level-headed last night as I do love it when she gets a bit scatty on the free market catnip. Alas, she kept things largely within the realms of the reasonable last night so there’s no fun to be had there I’m afraid. And finally there’s Julie White, a lady of unknown providence who tends to say “you know?” when she clearly doesn’t know. Having said that, she was the least annoying entrepreneur we’ve had on for years and should I ever need to bore through large quantities of concrete with a diamond headed drill, she’ll be the first to know.

Tl;dr

Burnham: Sneaky

6/10

Clarke: (Doesn’t seem bothered by who got) Leaky (with the GCSE thing)

6/10

McCluskey: (Is less) Creepy (than some of his colleagues)

5/10

Lea: (Disappointingly un-)Freaky

5/10

White: (Looked a little) Peeky (at the start)

5/10

The Crowd: (Like to wear) Dashiki(s)?

6/10

Hmmm… Adequate marks for an adequate show, no more, no less. To be honest, I’m rather hoping that the news straightens itself out in the coming weeks as it’s been a little disjointed of late and that hasn’t made for great QT-ing. Still, we’re off to sunny Luton next week and who can tell what delights await us other than a hard-to-get-to airport and simmering racial tensions? Come back next week to find out.

Next week Lemmings, next week….

Questionable Time #5


questionable time 5 david dimbleby top hatGood morning Lemmings and welcome to what is likely to be a highly problematic instalment of Questionable Time, problematic because the show itself didn’t really turn out the way I envisaged. You see, I usually get a day or so’s warning as to who is going to be on the panel and that is usually just enough time to throw a few thoughts together before watching the show but not enough to have any real idea of how the cards the will fall. This week however, I had the luxury/curse of knowing exactly who was going to be on for an entire week and as the panel was full of repeat offenders I had more than enough time to elaborately wargame the entire scenario in my head at length. In theory, this should be quite helpful as it gives me time to rustle up a few set pieces prior to the show being broadcast, but this week I went too far: I’d pretty much written the entire report before the show had even gone on air. Thanks to this rather rash move on my part I am now faced with a glaring mismatch between the expectation and the reality, something that has led me to go about this write-up in a slightly different manner from the norm. Regardez vous…

Baroness Warsi

The Expectation

Say what you will about Warsi (for there is much to say) but at least you’ve got a pretty good idea of what she’s going to do and this usually involves cutting the most aggressive of stances before completely overplaying her hand and somehow trapping herself in a self-inflicted headlock (I’m not entirely sure how you perform a headlock on yourself but if anyone were able to perform such a physics defying feat it would be Warsi). In a standard outing, this tends to involve a trademarked rendition of her ‘pulled up by the bootstraps’ autobiography and a frantic assault on anyone who happens to be in the immediate vicinity followed by a complete mangling of the facts and a hasty retreat in the face of an audience who’ve suddenly turned hostile. Now, in the context of this week’s news, this seemed like an invitation to tragedy as the message emanating from the Tory party conference (aside from entirely avoidable blunders) has been largely one of ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’, but Warsi doesn’t really do ‘calm’ and in the pre-arranged version of events that I had in my head I could see her outdoing Theresa May on the gaffe front, possibly by claiming that the courts allow immigrants to stay if they have a Tesco Club Card. Heckles would follow, Warsi would carry on digging and by the end of it, I’d be sitting pretty and rather pleased with my new-found powers of precognition.

The Reality

Ok, so I wasn’t a million miles from the truth on this one but still, it was more muted than my pre-show machinations would have led me to believe. For example, she did start pretty aggressively on the Catgate question and went through her usual Immi-Crims motions before retreating under a hail of boos following an ill-timed Blame Labour play, but she wasn’t quite as frothy as she has been in the past. Granted, she did managed to get herself entangled in a trap of her own design when she strenuously tried to blag her way out of the Fat Tax question (which went something like this: Tax isn’t the solution > Got to change behaviour > Don’t know if we can do that > I had a burger once! > Big up Dewsbury Market! > Two full bags of shopping! > Costs less than a burger! > ??????) but I’ve seen her flail about in far more entertaining ways and I felt a little cheated when she wasn’t chased out of the studio by pitchfork wielding audience members. In short, the version in my head was way more fun.

Andy Burnham

The Expectation

I must confess that I didn’t have the clearest idea of what Burnham was going to get up to tonight as I find him to be a very difficult man to pin down. On the one hand he’s a slick operator who’s good on telly, can summon up some semi-convincing righteous indignation and generally has a knack for not putting his foot in it. However, there is also something about him that I find a little unsettling in that I have real problems in figuring out his intentions. Some of this is down to the fact that he’s quite deft at seguing between bosses without breaking much of a sweat but I think the real problem is that Burnham’s got his foot in quite a few ideological camps (in that he can sound very Old Labour on some issues while also being incredibly New Labour on others) and that makes it very hard to ascertain exactly what it is he believes in. Consequently, I reckoned that we were on for a polished display, but one that left you not quite fully satisfied that you had actually seen the real Andy Burnham.

The Reality

And lo, so it came to pass… Yes, this was pretty straight forward, off-the-shelf Burnham with some fairly impressive offensive play on the economy question, some nice Dear Sir, Imagine My Surprise indignation on Catgate and a dollop of fairly successful hedge betting when it came to Europe. But still, it niggled me. It niggled me because I wasn’t sure if I was being spun a line or if he really meant all of this stuff and that just leaves me feeling a little out-of-sorts, even if I can’t quite pin down what sorts-I’m-out-of. Still, top marks to clever old me for seeing into the future with such skill and deftness. Loudribs: 10/10

Charles Kennedy

The Expectation

How hard can it be to figure out what Charles Kennedy is going to do? After all, he’s been about for ages and during that time he’s taken on (in my head at least) all the virtues of a kindly uncle who your mother doesn’t entirely trust but you adore, largely on account of all the sly tenners he slips you with a knowing wink. Given the above, I was pretty sure that this would be a by-the-numbers exercise in Kennedyism: An overt display of believable humanity (nothing makes you appear more human than the knowledge of a life coloured by vice) that would probably feel akin to being tucked into bed with a glass of warm milk (that may or may not contain a thimble’s worth of whisky). Job’s a good ‘un right?

The Reality

Well, the job’s partially a good ‘un in that everything was delivered in that gentle way that makes his voice seem like auditory Calpol but what I wasn’t prepared for was just how mutinous Kennedy has become. Sure, he’s been muttering about how he’s really not taken with the coalition for some time now but watching him last night was like rewinding the clock by a good two years. The Tory stance on the Human Rights Act? “Nonsense”. Who’s right on the economy? “Ed Balls”. Who would he have preferred to go in coalition with? “Labour”. Sedition I say! So yes, that caught me slightly unawares but I also found it to be quite comforting as it took me back to a time when there were certain constants in politics and just keeping up with the news wasn’t the nausea inducing white-knuckle ride that it’s become of late. So Mr Kennedy, continue to be a “dispassionate voice from the backbenches” because I rather like it. And keep slipping me those tenners. I like that as well.

Billy Bragg

The Expectation

I hate Billy Bragg. I hate him in many ways but mainly because people assume that I should love him. I’m a bit of a lefty, right? I play guitar, right? So I should love Billy Bragg, right? Wrong, wrong, wrong! No, I have problems with Bragg, some of which are philosophical, others of which are more visceral. On the political/philosophical front I just find him to be like some sort of ideological Maginot Line that Thatcherism’s panzers’ outflanked 30 years ago. Since then they’ve been living it up in Paris while Bragg continues to grimly face east, pouring fire into an empty field that the enemy has long since vacated, seemingly unaware the Third Republic is now but a footnote in history. In a way I should admire such stubbornness but the futility of it all renders that impossible. The miners’ strike is over Billy and no amount of Woody Guthrie covers will ever bring it back. So there’s that but I suspect the biggest problem is that there’s something about the man himself I can’t abide and that’s his mirthlessness. Now I know he’s highly devoted to his cause and feels a certain weight of responsibility upon his shoulders but for Christ sake man, lighten up now and then, ok?

So yes, that’s how I was approaching Mr Bragg’s appearance and in my head I had it all figured out (to the point where I’d put together a photoshop of him duetting with Donald Rumsfeld in the hope it may annoy him. See Fig. 1). However….

bill bragg donald rumsfeld duet

Fig.1

The Reality

He really wasn’t bad. His arguments were pretty well-reasoned, there was even the odd attempt at humour and the crowd genuinely seemed to like him (as well as the bizarre spectacle of Warsi claiming that she had a “huge amount of time for [his] campaigns’”. Pull the other one, m’lady). So there we go, Eggs Benedict all over my face. However, instead of taking back all my spiteful words I am instead going to chalk this up as an aberration as to do otherwise would be to imply that I am somehow wrong. And that’s just plain old not going to happen.

Jane Moore

The Expectation

Here’s another one that I totally thought I had pegged and well I may as the last time she was on she was absolutely abhorrent. With this in mind I was utterly convinced that last night’s show would turn into a flat-out hecklefest as she plumbed the depths of knee jerk tabloidism and dragged the already tarnished name of The Sun into an even deeper circle of hell. But…

The Reality

She wasn’t that bad either! Ok, so her grasp on economics isn’t exactly the firmest (Quantitative Easing is something to do with a “computer button” dontchaknow?) and of course there was the familiar mashing of the terms of ‘immigrant’ and ‘criminal’ into a stick to beat people with but it was quite restrained by her standards and I don’t think I was ever driven to physically shout at the telly as I usually do when she’s on. This is not to say that I’m the newest member of the Jane Moore Fan Club but as potential train wrecks go, it could have been much, much worse.

The Crowd:

The Expectation

That they would be… crowdy?

The Reality

Yes, they were crowdy so hooray for me. Apart from that, they weren’t the most electrifying bunch but I’m inclined to forgive them this as it’s been such a weird conference season that it’s hard to know what to think about politics at the moment. Still, a mention is deserved for the lady who described herself to be a “scarlet woman” whilst looking about as scarlety womany as Anne Widdecombe and also for the girl who suggested that the government should get the hell out of lives and not impose fat taxes whilst simultaneously demanding that the nation be subjected to a “compulsory exercise regime”. That’s an… interesting…. position you’ve got right there.

Tl:dr

Everybody gets 5. Except Kennedy who gets 6 on account of my fondness for him and Moore who gets a 4 on account of my lack of fondness for her.

So there we have it: An odd and less than thrilling show that never managed to live up the expectations I had created for it. Still, at least I won’t have that problem next week as it’s pretty hard to engineer a mental scenario that only contains Andrew Lansley (who at this point is the only confirmed panelist). I suppose I could have him in solitary confinement. Actually, that’s not a bad idea… At least the NHS would thank me.

Next week Lemmings, next week…


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